THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “STANDARD MEDICAL PRACTICE” AND
I think the major difference between the more traditional medical point of view and those of us who employ biomedical treatments for children with autism is hope, coupled with our acceptance of the belief that we do not know if a child can be helped until we learn more about that particular child.
There are clues in every developmental and family history that guide the most important decision for your child, and that is, “Where do we start?” Once we know where to start, the process is one of growth and learning. We learn what the next step is, based on your child’s response to diagnostic trials and results of laboratory tests. In the case of regressive autism, because the diagnosis does not usually happen overnight, it is unrealistic to expect that the child you recognized previously will magically reappear as a result of a single intervention. It often takes considerable time and numerous steps to reverse the process that has resulted in the child who is presented to us at the initial appointment.
With regard to the diagnosis of autism, what this statement means to me is that if an “expert” tells you there is nothing that can be done for your child, before anything is even tried, you need to question where the “expert” came up with this information. In my opinion and experience, just because something has always been accepted as true does not necessarily mean it is true. Certain previously accepted “truths” come to mind, including those who “knew” the world was flat.
Within the world of medicine, for most of the 20th century it was “known” that ulcers were caused by stress and a hectic executive lifestyle. The medical mantra was, “No acid, No Ulcer.” In 1982, Australian gastroenterologist Barry Marshall, M.D., and pathologist Robin Warren, M.D., refuted the accepted “truth” when they showed that gastritis and ulcers were the result of a bacterial infection (Helicobacter pylori). The idea that a bacterial infection could be responsible for ulcers was heretical!
“Truth” changes very slowly; in the case of ulcers, it took 13 years before antibiotic treatment was accepted by the medical community as standard treatment for H. Pylori induced ulcers, something that was finally accomplished in 1995. (Drs. Marshall and Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005 for their discovery). I wonder how many people suffered needlessly from the pain caused by bacterial infection and inflammation during those 13 years while waiting for mainstream medicine to catch up to the science.
Dr. Sid Baker has also developed what he calls “The Second Tacks Law,” which states, “If you are sitting on two tacks, removing one does not produce a fifty-percent improvement. Chronic illness is, or becomes, multi-factorial.”
Before I see your child for the first time, I will ask you to answer a LOT of questions. I want to know about the pregnancy. I want to know about your previous pregnancies and miscarriages. I want to know your blood type and if you have the Rh-factor. I want to know if you had the flu or took antibiotics during the pregnancy. Did you have dental work done? Did you crave particular foods, or crushed ice? Were you nauseous in the first three months, or did you throw-up every day from conception to delivery? I want to know about your family, particularly with regard to family medical history and previous history of exposures to environmental toxins. Did you grow up on a farm? Did your father own a gas station? Did you have recurrent bouts of strep or bronchitis as a child? Is there a high prevalence of thyroid disease, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or diabetes in your family? All of these questions are my way of fishing for clues about where to start when looking for the underlying issues that may need to be addressed with YOUR PARTICULAR CHILD.
I will ask you to tell me about your child – not just his or her current behavior and functioning, but EVERYTHING you can tell me about your child. I want to know if your child had reactions to vaccinations, and if so, what kind of reactions and to which vaccines. (NOTE: thimerosal (ethyl-mercury) is not the only issue with vaccines, and vaccines are not the only issue in autism. The information about vaccinations is important as ONE component of a VERY thorough investigation of your child’s lifetime experiences and medical history.)
As you can probably tell, I like to be thorough. My greatest concern is not whether you will tire of answering questions; it’s whether I will miss something important because I failed to ask.
While the overall number of possible factors to consider is vast, there are several issues that tend to be common among children with autism, regardless of the particular triggers involved. Among these commonalities, Gut Dysfunction (gastrointestinal problems or problems related to eating and pooping) are probably the most significant. The great majority of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder have significant histories of diarrhea, constipation, or other “poop-related” anomalies such as grainy stools, undigested food in stools, extremely stinky stools, floaters, or a combination of some or all of the above.
Another common finding in the histories of children with ASDs is previous administration of multiple rounds of antibiotics (and steroids), which are prescribed to treat their frequent bacterial infections (ears, strep, bronchitis, tonsillitis, pneumonia, etc.). In children with a history of antibiotic treatment we frequently find clues suggesting we should check for Yeast Overgrowth (candidiasis) that may need to be addressed with antifungal medications. Some indications that yeast may be an issue include: frequent rashes, peeling feet, ridged, discolored nails, inflamed cheeks, red ring around the anus, and history of thrush, ringworm, and cradle cap.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders frequently exhibit physical symptoms indicating Immune System Dysregulation, including eczema, allergic rhinitis, asthma, warts, viral skin infections, herpes, chicken pox, (and as noted previously) strep, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and recurrent ear infections. However, the opposite may also be true, where the child with autism seems to “never get sick.” Researchers are finding that in some cases, the child does not respond to viral or bacterial invaders appropriately because of underlying immune system dysfunction. Parental response to questions about the child’s health and medical history provides us with clues as to which laboratory tests may provide further information about what’s going on inside the child’s body.
In addition to common findings in the child’s medical history, there are a number of common Nutritional Deficiencies that are often present in children with ASDs. Among the most common are deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and B-vitamins. It is important to note that when you think about treating a child (or adult) with chronic medical conditions, you need to be careful about vitamin therapy. This is why we use specific laboratory tests to gather the hard data before recommending high doses of a handful of supplements. Each vitamin, nutrient, mineral, amino acid, enzyme, and co-factor has a particular set of purposes it serves within the body and they are all inter-related. If one is not careful with supplementation, it is easy to induce a deficiency where one may not have previously existed. Given the complexity of issues involved in these children, it is my opinion that supplementation should be based on clinical impressions and in many cases, based on the results of laboratory analysis of the individual child. This is one example of the rationale behind the statement that There is no single Biomedical or DAN! Protocol for the treatment of autism (or any other neurodevelopmental disorder). The treatment is guided by the child and the information the practitioner learns from the child, the parents, and the data from labs.
The kinds of Laboratory Tests we order will depend on the information gathered from investigation into the child’s history and from the family history. That said, there are some labs that are almost always warranted, and these include urinalysis, CBC, liver and kidney function tests, tests to measure thyroid function, and assessment of minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium). We will also often want to check levels of B-12 and Vitamin A (retinol) and to assess viral titers and look for markers of autoimmunity and inflammation.
Additional laboratory analysis very often includes tests to evaluate for Heavy Metal Exposure (urine, hair, & fecal tests), elemental nutrient analysis, plasma amino acids and fatty acids, and genetic testing.
Think back to Dr. Baker’s “First Tacks Law,” which can be restated with the following question, “Is there something within this child or to which this child is being exposed, that if removed, would result in improvement in functioning?”
Dietary Changes are often one of the most important first steps to improving a child’s overall physical status. We begin by “cleaning up the diet” – removing sugars, junk foods, preservatives and dyes. By the way, there is no such thing as “junk food” – it’s either junk or it’s food. When I talk to parents about cleaning up the diet, I ask them to remember a couple of basic things. First, when you go to the grocery store, stick to the outer aisles. Stay away from things in cans and boxes. Second, read labels: The fewer ingredients something has, the easier it is for the body to break down and utilize (generally). Third, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t put it in your body (or in your child’s body).
While we are removing things, we want to think about environmental exposures and ongoing sources of toxic exposure. If you are investing all this time, money, effort, and emotional resources, you want to simultaneously eliminate toxins from the environment wherever possible. This might mean installing water and air filters, or it might mean tearing up carpet and ripping out moldy building materials in the basement. Again, the steps you take will be based on your own situation and information about your child.
The second of the Three R’s is “Replenish.” This issue can be assessed by asking the question, “Is there something this child is missing, that if provided, would result in an improvement in function?” The answer to this question often comes from the results of laboratory testing. The most frequent recommendations involve supplementation with probiotics (to replace the “good” bacteria in the GI tract), digestive enzymes (to help break down certain foods and assist in supplying essential nutrients), supplemental nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and essential fatty acids.
The last of the Three R’s is “Repair.” This aspect of treatment is also based largely on the results of laboratory testing. Depending on the data gathered for a particular child, the reparation process may involve the administration of antimicrobials, antifungals, antivirals, antibacterials, Immunotherapy, and detoxification (naturally or with prescription medications).