I've received a few notes from readers asking if there are any nutrients that can help children with autism. The answer, as you might imagine, is as complicated as the condition. The good news, though, is that researchers have discovered a potential cause of autism that would make nutrients a viable treatment.
Before I tell you about those nutrients, there are a couple of things that you need to know about autism. Autism, as you may know, is a complex disorder of brain development. It usually involves, in varying degrees, difficulties in social interaction, including verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.
While many people believe vaccines are the cause of autism, I think they are one possible cause. But not the only cause. The reason is because autism is a very complicated condition. There are cases of autism that came on right after a vaccine. It's easy to say the vaccine caused the autism. But why don't vaccines cause autism in everyone who receives the vaccine?
I believe one possible answer (remember, this is a complicated situation, so there may be more than one "answer") is that there is something going on in these children prior to the vaccine that makes them more susceptible. This susceptibility has the potential to be set off by a varying number of catalysts. There are children with autism who developed the condition months, even years, after having a vaccine. And there are children with autism who never had a vaccine.
Some researchers believe this susceptibility is a genetic trait. But I've said in the past that I'm not a huge believer in genes being the cause of all that ails us. Yes, they play a role. But I'm far more interested in the cells. I believe children become susceptible to autism when something damages their cells. And a recent study confirms this.
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In this study, researchers from the University of California, Davis found that almost all children with autism have brain cells that don't have the ability to produce energy. The reason is largely due to damage to the mitochondria. And this damage was the result of oxidative stress. Oxidation, as I've mentioned in the past, is the same chemical reaction that causes metal to rust and fat to become rancid. This is a natural process that occurs in nature, including our body. And we take antioxidants to fight this process.
What's more, the researchers said lack of energy production was not due to genetic mutations, which researchers often see in mitochondrial problems. Instead, the cell damage occurred while the child was still in the womb or after birth.
Here's what that means. First, vaccines could be the initial assault on the cells that cause the damage to the cell. Or they may be the straw that broke the camel's back, if you will. They simply add insult to injury, quite literally. The cells of children who become autistic may have already sustained an injury prior to the vaccine. So when they received the vaccine, the added injury could have made the problem more pronounced. This could be why it's been so hard to directly connect vaccines to autism.
Second, it means that there may be other causes of the initial injury to the cells. These include antibiotics (babies often receive antibiotics right after birth) and other drugs (either from the mom or those given directly to the baby after birth), food allergies, environmental toxins, or GMO. I suspect the bulk of the problem comes from a chemical assault from drugs, GMO, and other toxins. Real food allergies (allergies to the actual real food, not GMO) rarely, if ever, produce brain-cell damage.
Third, because the damage comes from oxidative stress, there is some hope that you can reverse or at least improve the cell damage by taking antioxidants and minerals. This starts with vitamins A, B6, and C. But also includes magnesium, zinc, and other nutrients. One study from the late 1970s, found that 12 of 16 children taking vitamin B6, C and magnesium supplements significantly improved. When the researchers swapped the vitamins for a placebo, the children's symptoms regressed. Since every case of autism is different, and you're dealing with children, I suggest you to talk to your integrative physician to come up with a plan and dosages for your child.
I do believe many, if not all, cases of autism can at least improve. Many can be reversed. But it may take more than high-dose vitamins to make this happen. I'll have more information on what you can do in upcoming issues of Nutrient Insider.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
Giulivi, C., Zhang, Y.F., Omanska-Klusek, A., et al. 2010. Mitochondrial dysfunction in autism. JAMA. 304(21):2389–96.
B. Rimland et al., 'The effect of high doses of vitamin B6 on autistic children: A double-blind crossover study,' Am J Psychiatry, Vol 135(4), 1978, pp. 472-5