Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Jul

Autism: A Brain or Whole-Body Disorder?

LoRes 2You could say this post is a long time coming. In the last few years, I’ve lost count of the huge number of emails I get from parents with kids who have special needs either asking for advice or explaining how The Primal Blueprint has made a significant difference for their children. These are parents who love their kids for all their abilities and differences and who want to explore every reasonable lifestyle intervention they can to make their kids’ lives everything they can and should be.

I’ll state the obvious here. I’m not a disability expert, but I’ve been moved and motivated by these parents’ emails. From a general health perspective, I’ve wondered how our modern lives could be contributing to the epidemic. Likewise, I’m curious how research can illuminate potential benefits of lifestyle interventions. What is the biological picture behind the dysfunction in these conditions, and how can biology be harnessed to restore functioning? A recent approach focused on the whole brain and whole body is asking those exact questions – and finding answers.

Like most people, I have friends and acquaintances who are raising children with developmental or behavioral disabilities. Some of us here are raising children with these conditions. Some of us have nieces or nephews, family friends, or neighbors with these disabilities. Others in the PB community have these disabilities themselves. Regardless of our personal connection, we’ve all heard about the skyrocketing rates of developmental and behavioral disabilities like autism and ADHD. Recent studies show one in six kids in the U.S. has been diagnosed with a developmental disability – mostly resulting from the spike in autism and ADHD. There’s general agreement now it’s not solely a matter of improved diagnosis, and few anymore argue that it’s purely a genetic phenomenon. Simple math negates the possibility that a “genetic” condition would spike in the span of less than half a generation. Since 1995, autism alone has gone from a rate of 1/3300 children to 1/88 children. Prevailing opinion now connects the rising prevalence of these conditions with a confluence of some kind of genetic vulnerability with pivotal environmental factors that somehow set off this genetic potential.

Enter the growing focus on not just “whole brain” but even “whole body” research and intervention for these kinds of disabilities. Our bodies are incredibly complex systems operating with an intricacy conventional medicine is just beginning to grasp. Experts are increasingly applying these principle to the study of autism, ADHD, and other developmental and behavioral disabilities. They’re looking at elements as diverse as gut profiles, neurological connectivity, and gene expression. A picture is emerging as researchers study the surge of these conditions. The “genetic” root is relatively seldom the traditional, identifiable pattern in family lines. Rather, it appears many of these children have inherited a genetic risk factor characterized by a heightened sensitivity to “assaults” on the system from toxins, infections, and other environmental influences. As Nancy Minshew, a University of Pittsburgh professor of psychiatry and neurology explains, “Genes do not code for diagnoses. They code for proteins, which then go about creating an effect.” In other words, a cycle is set in motion. Is it possible to stop the cascade that unfolds and even reverse it – at least in part?

A New Focus for Autism Research

Dr. Martha Herbert, a Harvard pediatric neurologist who has studied autism for seventeen years, believes it can be done. She began research into autism with the same genetics-focused approach common to the field. In her words, she quickly found the picture to be much more complex. In her recently published book The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be, Dr. Herbert explains how addressing basic coexisting medical issues and optimizing overall health can positively and sometimes dramatically impact the symptoms associated with autism. I’d definitely recommend Dr. Herbert’s book to anyone interested in learning more about a biological treatment approach to autism.

Initially interested in comparing MRIs of her patients, Dr. Herbert began to see an interaction of neurological functioning with other physical issues like poor digestion, low muscle tone, fatigue, frequent infections, nutritional deficiencies, and food allergies. She found that “treating health” ended up treating autism. Herbert describes the series of “vicious cycles” that often plague those with autism as one of “genetic glitches, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and weakened repair systems.” Biologically based treatment, she asserts, can support basic cellular health, aid neurological balance and connectivity, and promote healthier gene expression. It’s a systems biology approach that appreciates the interactions – both big and subtle.

In the meantime, experts were finding – and confirming – that seemingly unrelated factors like fevers or the use of certain steroids or blood pressure medications could almost instantaneously dial back autistic symptoms. These instances – as well as the basic progress of many individuals on the spectrum – suggested autism was perhaps more of a flexible “state” than a fixed “trait.” If this was possible, what could be done safely and systemically to take advantage of this potential fluidity?

Dr. Herbert outlines a whole host of lifestyle based suggestions surrounding diet, toxin free living, supplementation, sleep, sensory exposure, stress, and other daily factors. There’s too much to explain here, but let me summarize a few of her central points and put it in context for those who live Primally.

Nutrition Is Key

However it shakes out in the chicken versus the egg picture, individuals on the autism spectrum are prime targets for nutritional deficiencies, yet they’re more in need of nutrients than their typically functioning counterparts. As Dr. Herbert and others have found, individuals on the spectrum show signs of oxidative stress and impaired cellular dysfunction. Dr. Herbert explains, for example, that mitochondria dysfunction is much more common in those with autism than it is in the population as a whole. Research suggests a third of those with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction. As I’ve noted before and as Herbert explains, mitochondria are the energy centers or “furnaces” for cells. If your mitochondria are choking through their day, so are you. Fueling these furnaces means feeding them well. B-vitamins are critical as are minerals like magnesium and zinc. Not surprisingly, these are common deficiencies in many people on the autism spectrum.

Likewise, research shows basic toxin and cellular waste removal may not be as efficient in individuals with autism. Antioxidants are essential here, particularly the heavy hitters like vitamins C and E as well that powerhouse glutathione. Nutritional deficiencies mean the building blocks for glutathione (which the body produces itself) are in short supply. When glutathione levels are inadequate, a whole host of vital processes feel the impact. For one, the body can’t effectively dispose of cellular waste, a condition that then further feeds oxidative stress. Among other impaired activities is methylation, which is involved in producing neurotransmitters, managing gene expression, and creating functional cell membranes.

Dr. Herbert advises getting a full nutritional panel, eating a nutrient rich and clean (e.g. organic, grass-fed, “caveman” – yes, she really says this) diet, supplementing with oversight from a qualified physician with experience in autism disorders, and using Epsom salt baths to help the body detoxify in a safe and convenient way. Her dietary and supplementation recommendations are too complex to fully describe here, but some key nutrients she notes include B-vitamins, zinc, vitamin D, selenium, EPA, and DHA. The irony is, of course, that these children’s diets are often more likely to be deficient because of sometimes extreme sensory aversions to the taste, smell, texture, or even appearance of certain foods. In yet another example of vicious cycle, nutritional deficiencies (e.g. zinc) can contribute to these sensory aversions. She suggests correcting deficiencies and taking advantage of feeding clinics and sensory therapies to expand food tolerance.

Neurologically speaking, the connections between parts of the brain in people with autism, she found, are weaker than they are in typically functioning individuals. Other research suggests people with autism show hyperlocal connections, a concentration of connections within the brain – generally in the frontal cortex, and weaker “distant” connections throughout the whole brain. It began to make sense, Dr. Herbert suggests, that people with autism often exhibit lower functioning in complex, neurologically integrated tasks like language and socialization as well as a heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli.

Options like music and certain play therapies cultivate connectivity because they use multiple sites in the brain simultaneously, but Dr. Herbert also stresses the importance of nutrition for neural health. She homes in on the role of astrocytes (glial cells), which act as the “interface between body, brain, and environment.” If they’re unable to perform their duties, here comes the cascade of neurochemical imbalance (including a dearth of relaxation-promoting GABA), oxidative stress, drained mitochondrial health, and cellular dysfunction. Again, it’s another downward spiral. Feeding the glial cells means incorporating copious essential fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, as well as B vitamins, and magnesium. In the cases of those with autism, upper limits on nutrients like B6 may not apply the same way. Nonetheless, Dr. Herbert suggests working with a doctor who can find a therapeutic dose that doesn’t impose unwanted and risky side effects.

Immune Function (Especially Gut Health) Is Key

Remember those glial cells? Most of your glial cells are found in the digestive system rather than the brain. As Dr. Herbert explains, research is just beginning to understand the implications of this for autism disorders. Overall, she explains that gut bacteria has a huge impact on the brain. Abnormal gut bacteria can deplete nutrients and produce unhealthy chemicals Herbert calls “toxic trash.” Research has found, for example that the more p-cresol (a chemical produced by abnormal gut bugs) that was present in subjects’ urine, the more severe their autistic symptoms were.

Dr. Herbert stresses that we don’t know when the abnormal gut profile takes root, but everyone’s gut immune system is established early on. She suggests incorporating fermented and cultured foods, using a probiotic supplement, avoiding over-sanitation, eliminating artificial additives, and limiting carb intake. While some experts poo-poo diet elimination techniques, Dr. Herbert says she’s seen more than enough evidence in research and in her patients to suggest that these elimination diets (e.g. gluten, casein) can make a critical difference. The key is to give it time – some three to six months – to judge real change and to work with a physician who can differentiate between “die off” (e.g. yeast) transitions and other health responses when looking at any coinciding setbacks.

Some Final Primal Words

Our lives – and our children’s lives – are so vastly different today than they were just a couple of generations ago. These differences are embedding themselves faster than we sometimes appreciate. I wonder if it’s just simple coincidence that many new treatments for autism spectrum, ADHD, and other developmental and behavioral disabilities are homing in on maximizing what I’d call the basics of healthy development itself – enhanced nutrient density, increased time outdoors, more exercise and movement, rich play opportunities. To be sure, many of these are often adapted for particular therapeutic purposes like specialized social play therapies, music therapy, or Anat Baniel’s movement methods. Nonetheless, these approaches prioritize the building blocks of physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development.

It’s true there are plenty of children with autism or ADHD who grew up eating real, organic, even Primal food, who played outside nonstop, and lived with fewer household toxins. Likewise, there are millions of kids walking around without a disability who have been fed a steady diet of fast food, candy, and junk food. As Herbert and others suggest, it’s a complicated, confounding picture we’re dealing with. It can seem random and unjust.

I can’t say I know this from personal experience with special needs in particular, but I’ve seen friends wade their way through the tangle of emotion and services as well as the confusion of expert opinions. (It’s a pattern that also obviously holds in other “expert” based arenas as well like health care.) Just because the bulk of research goes down a certain path doesn’t mean you have to. Often the best, most sensical and personally effective means for bettering one’s health and life are to be found in the margins, the up and coming or as-yet little understood approaches.

Make no mistake. I’m all for the importance of good research. I look for confirmation. I know, however, that effective options don’t always get studied or published with the same frequency as conventional choices. As the folks at Brain Parenting put it, “the ‘good science’ metric is often wielded like a stick against parents or teachers who try new and novel techniques to help kids with unusual brains. Parenting doesn’t just rely on ‘good science.’ It also relies on observation, and derives great power from the narrative.”

The research on whole brain, whole body intervention doesn’t negate the importance of traditional interventions like speech and occupational therapy, social therapies, etc. It doesn’t nullify the call for medications that can actually make a positive difference in the lives of those with autism, ADHD, or other similar conditions. It doesn’t undercut the significance of parental love and acceptance. And, inevitably, it doesn’t offer a simple or universal resolution to the difficulties imposed by autism or other developmental and behavioral disabilities. As Dr. Herbert explains, it’s not about promising a cure but revolutionizing the way we think about and address these developmental and behavioral conditions. The whole brain, whole body approach seeks to harness the basics of biology – cultivating the power of cells, the fitness of whole systems, and the potential of brain plasticity – to foster the healthiest and richest life possible for every individual whether he/she is disabled or not.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. I hope you’ll offer your own thoughts and perspectives. I’ll look forward to reading your feedback.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. It’s so crazy to me that the medical community just won’t even entertain the idea that nutrition is the basis for health (and disease).

    Also, this idea of specializing into “endocrinology” or “nephrology” or “neurology” as if you can separate one from all the other parts of the body is ludicrous.

    Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Especially when doctors take the Hippocratic Oath. Hippocrates had the correct idea:

      Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick, is to feed your sickness.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • They should change it to the Pharmocratic oath – due to the corporatism and all, AMIRITE?

        Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • +1

          rabbit_trail wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • I suggested the Hypocritic Oath once in my speech class in college, because they all seem like hypocrites to me!

          On another note: I’ve been seeing the same things being tried for Alzheimer’s–modern medicine seems to have slammed up against a brick wall with this one, yet nutritional approaches seem to have the best effect of slowing or reversing it yet.

          Wenchypoo wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • +1

          Jenn wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • I completely agree that “our medicine should be our food.” However, I do agree with Mark’s parting words stating that we should not discount some current treatments which are successful in certain cases of autism. Also, “the significance of parental love and acceptance” when discussing Autism is arguably the most important thing to look at. Without familial support for the disabled individual, ANY sort of treatment will undoubtably be proven futile.

        Josh Singer wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • Parental EDUCATION, love, and support! Yes, we need to support our children through confusion and dysregulation, at the same time we consider biochemical supports! But … I DO think there is a place for biochemical support. I do not care for the approaches of several orgs that push supplement use(any morethan big pharma), their suggested therapies verge on superstition at times, but when there is a plausible explanation for a problem, it is worth trying (See my comment below).

          Linda wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • For certain cases of autism, like ADHD, I recommend the South Park “Sit Down and Study!” method. Lets not forget our pets, they may have ADHD and may not listen. I recommend “Dissing You Dog”.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • As the parent of a daughter on the Autism Spectrum, I am in whole-hearted agreement with the opinion of Mark & you. We tried gluten/casein-free when she was first diagnosed 4 years ago. We did not notice a difference in her at the time and finally decided to d/c the diet, feeling her greatest improvements were due to increased attention and acceptance from me and the rest of the family (hard to admit–). From the time forward, we slowly changed our diets to a more clean, organic one and have noticed vast improvement in her behavior. I think this is due to the more organic diet and that her hormones began to regulate as she went through puberty. Our whole family is slowly becoming Primal and I imagine we will continue to see more improvement with the health of all of us. Fortunately, her refusal to eat certain foods is improving as she gets older. Yet, kefir is something she still refuses to drink (there are several parents who swear by young coconut kefir helping their children) so I use Animal Parade’s Tummy Zyme (she will eat those) in the meantime and I continue to prod her and try to find ways to hide the coconut kefir. Whew! This post went on much longer than I expected. This is obviously something that I’ve done a lot of looking into… :)

          Jessica (@fringies) wrote on July 14th, 2012
    • Totally agree. When will they start to acknowledge this? and how can we attempt to push them in the right direction? Can it be done?

      Max Ungar wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • This is really the main reason I decided NOT to become an MD. They get almost no nutrition training, and what they do get is generally a 2-3 addon to a medical biochem course.

        If I break my leg or need surgery, I’ll go see a doctor. For just about ANYTHING else, I’m going to someone else.

        Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • *2-3 week*

          Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • Agreed.

          I have found much greater resonance with Chinese medicine which looks at the whole organism and that includes energy, emotion and nutrition.

          It shouldn’t be rocket science should it!

          Kelda wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • I don’t think it’s a true statement that the medical community “won’t even entertain the idea that nutrition is the basis for health (and disease).”

      Danni wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • There are individual doctors that will, the amorphous “medical community” will not. They can’t, their owners won’t let them :)

        Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • +1

      Ma Flintstone wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Let me just say you probably don’t realize how complex the diseases/diagnoses are for the different type of specialists you described. I mean, I agree in general that a total-body approach should be taken. But unless people are going to live for 500 years and have the mental capacity of like 400% of the normal human, they’re not going to be able to have as detailed knowledge of the different organs/systems as they have now. It would be nice, but it’s unrealistic.

      For GPs, your approach is perfect, but for specialists…yeah, it’s not really possible.

      Adam wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • I have the oportunity to work off and on with a renouned neurologist (I am a medical interpreter/Spanish) and was so happy to hear how this community of MD’s is promoting the carb free/ low carb diet in a controled hospital setting. Especially with children that have epilepsy or convulsions.
      It must be very difficult to trust the parents once they get home and the child starts asking for cereals, cookies etc.! But needless to say, this is a non medication breakthrough! It seems to have an incredible reversal of symptoms and they last a lifetime from what I understand!
      Lets speak up!

      Annie wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • Awesome to hear!

        Stephanie wrote on July 15th, 2012
  2. The genetic component seems to be from several factors. One that seems required is an MTHFR mutation. 98% of autistic children have this mutation while ~30% of the general population has it. So it is not enough to cause autism. But there is some good reason to believe it is one prerequisite.

    http://www.jpands.org/vol9no4/boris.pdf

    The vaccine link was nonsense to me until I learned about MTHFR and its effect on methylation and toxin management. Now I am not so sure it is total bunk.

    Ben V wrote on July 12th, 2012
  3. I am extremely dubious that there has been an actual explosion of these conditions, as opposed to an explosion of diagnoses.

    Particularly in the case of autism spectrum disorders, we’ve broadened categorisation [and created categories for less severe manifestations] so more people qualify, and our general awareness has vastly increased, meaning many more people are getting their kids tested.

    As my grandmother, who taught grade school decades ago, has said, it’s not that kids back then didn’t have ADHD, it’s that no one thought kids being hyper was a medical condition.

    Alex wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I would agree with that.

      ezestreets wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • +1

        Joe wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Agreed. However, the acceleration of poor nutrition combined with the unnatural environment in which we live could be leading to an acceleration of epigenetic changes which can be passed from mother to child which is increasing with each generation. The poor food/environment may also be leading to changes in the womb that we don’t yet understand. I believe it is a combination of both, medicalizing “normal” and true changes for the worse.

      Colleen wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Yes, I agree with you Colleen. I do believe that there has been a larger diagnostic “net” but I also think there are dietary and environmental issues at hand that are affecting our human genome in ways we won’t fathom for decades.

        Pure Hapa wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I would vastly disagree with this.

      I’m 43 years old, so I was in early elementary school in the 1970’s. I went to a fairly large public school, with multiple classes for each grade level. When I think back to my classes, there were always some kids who didn’t fit in, or were even a bit quirky / eccentric. Maybe, just MAYBE, one or two of them might have been high-functioning on the ASD scale.

      Today, take a look at my son’s classroom. You’ll find a whole group of kids who, while great kids & working with great staff to make educational and life improvements, were nowhere to be seen when I was a kid.

      There’s no way this is just a change in the diagnosis criteria..

      Chris Butterworth wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Since I’m not a parent, I haven’t been near lots of children lately. But I do know that the children “on the street” are incredibly overweight – and that’s something we definitely did not see when I was going to school. I think there has got to be a connection. Not that overweight=autistic or vice-versa. Just that we are doing harm to ourselves our children and that it starts in the womb, and that the results of the harm are different.

        God, did I make any sense at all?

        Pure Hapa wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • +1

          It definitely starts in the womb–both diet, Vitamin D status and toxin exposure.

          Not to mention birth trauma from our highly medicalized maternity services.

          Sondra Rose wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • i’m with simon on this one too – sure the “net” is egregiously being expanded to get more pharmaceuticals into more circulation – but i too went to school in the 60’s and have little recall of such widespread behavioural extremes.
        and certainly one cannot even begin to argue that autism has not exponentially increased – whether you believe 1/88 or 1/500 – it is still astronomically higher than a generation ago.

        ravi wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Chris is right. It is not a matter of better diagnosis or parenting that is not up to par, the kids today are damaged in ways that we were not. I see it in my children and in my friends’ children. I see it when I go to a birthday party and two children are slapping at their heads from over-stimulation.
        For more information, check out the book and website, “A Compromised Generation” and you will see that what we are dealing with is not normal, and if people don’t stop sweeping it under the rug with stupid excuses, it is only going to get worse.

        momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • I’m 49 and you’re right, that “whole group of kids . . . were nowhere to be seen. . .” back in the day. However, there was quite a bit of legislation in the later 70’s that served to increase public school access to disabled students. At the school where I teach, we have numerous children who would have been institutionalized back then.

        jacsuza wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Keep in mind, too, that children with severe disabilities were not mainstreamed until pretty recently. Your mom likely didn’t see them because they were in institutions or specialized schools.

      Dtnmommy wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I would be very careful with this statement. I have a child with autism and I also know many other families who have children with autism, more than I care to count. We are not talking about hyperactive children who are just having a hard time sitting in class, we are talking about children who are non-verbal, who do not look you in the eye, who flap their hands and spin in circles. I am 47 years old and we never heard about autism when I was younger, because there were not the numbers of children with these characteristics, plain and simple. Parents know their children, and are often the first to justify their child’s ‘quirky’ behavior, but they understand when something is seriously wrong. What we are talking about is something far more severe. It’s very easy to write all of this autism thing off as ‘increased awareness and diagnoses’ rather than look at this phenomenon with the seriousness it deserves. Think of the thousands of severely life-impaired individuals who will have to find their way, together with their families, in this world and the challenge that this entails for all of them.
      More than a year ago, we started the Gaps diet, which is basically primal for learning disabilities, and it incorporates everything that Dr. Herbert talks about. We have seen so many changes in our son’s behavior and health, just like so many people have found answers with primal. Believe me, this is no small miracle for families who once were told that the only option was medication.

      tracyinbarcelona wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • I agree with you. I have a sister who is severely autistic I would not describe her as quirky or eccentric. She ran in circles, can’t communicate, is fixated with movies and constantly verbalizes movie scenes over and over. She used to be violent and she still hits herself and is extremely emotionally unstable. People don’t really understand what autism actually is and just start to lump together any mental disability as one. I think the kids he is referencing do not have these characteristics.

        For the record, if you look up the history of autism, it states that in the 60’s and 70’s most children who were considered autistic underwent electric shock therapy and took “medications” such as LSD. This is obviously very cruel and the medical community had no approach to help these kids.

        Stating that there were no autistic children a few decades ago is an ignorant statement.

        Melissa wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • Just a point I’ve read not too long ago – The Amish have no vaccines and no cases of autism…

          Mikey UK wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • @Mikey,

          Yet the Japanese had their rate of Autism go down while they were using vaccines with thimerosal. I.e. it’s not so simple as vaccination. (meanwhile non vaccination has real consequences) Correlation is not causation, the Amish also don’t have cellphones, maybe that’s why they don’t have autism.

          Everyone wants a smoking gun for Autism they want that one clear reason for why. Maybe there isn’t one. I’d imagine it’s much more likely a combination of things, things that we’ve introduced over the last 30 years or so, mixed with genes we’ve had for much longer than that.

          Tim wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • The Amish DO vaccinate. Just lower numbers than the general population and they do have cases of autism too. Something they have that the general population don’t though, is a culture of acceptance of people as they are, like people with autism. They don’t seem to be hell bent on “fixing” those with autism as we are.
          We have to stop linking vaccination with autism, it has been proven time and time again to be a false connection – why can’t we let this go?

          Hazel wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • Mikey, the Amish and other Plain People do vaccinate, some at rates of 90%, and they do have autism – some nonvaccinated kids are autistic, some vaccinated kids are not. There is a commentary by a Mennonite woman named Martha Binckley, who has one autistic child. He was vaccinated at 4 and 7 months old, the parents saw that he was apparently having a bad reaction, and stopped having him vaccinated. The boy is autistic. Hard evidence? No. The boy has a twin sister, vaccinated on the same schedule as her brother, who is not autistic.

          Lower rates of autism do not equate to zero autism. The Amish have many differences in lifestyle – no television, no electricity unless they generate it themselves, different eating habits, make their own clothes so they’re not exposed to the high levels of formaldehyde in factory-packed garments, different school environments…why pick out vaccination?

          My sister (not Amish!) has a severely autistic son, so this is more than an academic question for me. The child was vaccinated, yes, as were his two normal older sibs. Genetic testing revealed that my brother-in-law carries the defective MTHFR gene.

          Ultrasound is now revealing that autism may well develop during the early stages of gestation.

          http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/03/26/294446735/brain-changes-suggest-au..
          http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/03/boys-with-autism-likely-expose..
          http://www.webmd.com/…/ultrasounds-autism

          SuzU wrote on November 9th, 2014
      • I too have a son with autism. I have been using the gluten free casein free diet for 2 years and while my son still has a long way to go he is not in a “fog” anymore. Once in a while he will get into my daughter Cheerios or gold fish and go to town. The next day is foggy and disoriented. So obviously he can’t handle gluten so the diet must be helping. I also want to thank Mark for discussing this topic because eventually the truth will come out that autism is linked ( not caused by) to the growing number of vaccines and other toxins we are exposing our children to and the government doesn’t care

        Mike friedlander wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • Hazel-
          You have no clue what you are talking about. This approach isn’t about being hell-bent on “fixing” autism. It is about treating the co-morbid conditions that make life miserable for children on the spectrum. For example, my son had so much pain in his digestive system, that he was unable to sleep the first three years of his life. Perhaps I should have just accepted him as he was, exhausted, miserable, bloated, and throwing himself around on furniture and leaning on hard corners all the time to get some relief? Hell no. I worked my ass off getting his diet right and getting him supplements to help rebuild his microflora, and finally he is not in pain all the time anymore. And guess what, treating the co-morbid conditions often lessens or eliminates the neurological and behavioral issues. His bloated tummy did not make him who he was, it kept him from being the best version of himself.
          Also, you cannot disprove something that has not been accurately studied. There are studies out there which point to a link:

          http://www.regardingcaroline.com/pubmed

          Don’t even bring up the Dr. Wakefield strawman, or I will have to go postal on you.

          momof2groks wrote on July 14th, 2012
        • Vaccines have been known to trigger autoimmune diseases – my neighbor was in a wheelchair from Guillain-Barre for THREE years following the Swine Flu vaccine back in ’76. (She’s lucky – 30 people died from the vaccine)
          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/09/health/09vaccine.html

          Just recently in Finland (and Sweden, and now Ireland) a version of the swine flu vaccine manufactured by Pandemrix caused an especially virulent form of narcolepsy, an autoiommune disorder, in children. Now, many Finns received the shot and were just fine. But the victims all shared a genetic type and were aged aged 6 – 14. What’s interesting is that 1/3 of all Finns have this genetic type, but 1/3 of Finns aren’t falling asleep on the road and at the Nokia factory. But something about the combination of the shot given at a certain stage of development of their immune system in a genetically predisposed population triggered an autoimmune disease.

          http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-05/finnish-government-to-compensate-pandemrix-narcolepsy-victims.html

          Vaccines are not the sole cause of autism, because there are unvaccinated children with autism. I have seen them myself. But if this new epidemic of autism is a neuro/autoimmune condition then it would certainly not be outside the realm of possibility that a vaccine could trigger it in a genetically susceptible child whose immune system is already been revved up and assaulted by all the other immune insults in this crazily immune reactive world we’ve created. (Toxins, GMOs, pollution, wheat, etc.)

          My advice to parents is if they have a family history of autoimmune disorders, if their baby begins to show signs of a troubled immune system like constant ear infections, eczema (eczema – also autoimmune!) then they should seek medical exemptions for vaccinations until their child’s immmune system develops.

          These children are a wake-up call. By creating this immune reactive world we have ALL done this to these children. I don’t know what the numbers will have to be (1 in 2 children?) before people acknowledge this catastrophe.

          CRMS wrote on July 14th, 2012
        • in japan, they reduced SIDS dramatically b/c they delayed vaccination until babies were older and stronger. Still, why inject toxic metals? No thanks.

          Lisa wrote on July 14th, 2012
      • Tracy, we have done GAPS too for our children (one is NT but with a terribly damaged immune system and early signs of asthma, and one who was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, though he has since lost his diagnosis and qualification for special services). This epidemic does deserve serious consideration. With the exception of DAN! doctors, the medical community is only writing scripts and telling us, “Your child needs behavioral therapy and Ritalin.” We, the parents of these kids, are finding our own path to recovering our kids’ fragile heath through forums, communities, and lots and lots of research. Keep up the hard work that you are putting in for your family.

        momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Disagree. Walk through any elementary school and see if you can’t tell which kids have IEPs! I CAN.

      Linda wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Love this! It is so true. We just got sent to the time-out desk in the cloak room.

      cheryl wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • The above comment is what I would’ve added as well… There is also an “explosion” of diagnoses being made (especially here in California where the early intervention services are provided readily) because the doctors want the child to receive the benefits of early intervention, even if they later test off the “autism spectrum”.

      I appreciate Mark’s article, though, and agree with the nutritional component playing a role in overall behavior.

      Grete wrote on July 17th, 2012
  4. Hi. I have Asperger’s syndrome. For me, eliminating certain foods makes a HUGE difference in how I function overall. Nutrition is the best medicine, and it’s good to hear that more people on the autistic spectrum are discovering The Primal Blueprint.

    Just Me wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I have Asperger’s too and would amend the above to say Nutrition plus Exercise. Of course that’s the Primal Blueprint too.

      Craig wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • YES a good exercise regimen, including aerobic and Lifting Heavy Things ;-), definitely has been shown to help in any mito dysfunction.

        Linda wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Asperger’s Syndrome: a label given to a group of people who are lacking in social skills/ability/capability, are on the high-functioning and mild end of the Autism spectrum, and who have far more than their share of geniuses and far less than their share of IQs below 100.
      I find it much easier to explain that I am a non-social nerd. (non-, not anti-)

      Bill C wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • All of you with Asperger’s… How do your symptoms improve?

        em wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • Increased sociability, and emotional regulation. Improved muscle tone. Improved willingness to eat something other than carbs. Better grades learning ability … more self-care skills … more initiative and independence.

          Linda wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • Better executive function, clearer head, easier to find words, less anxiety, more initiative and independence.

          Also more muscles, strength and happiness (so awesome – often I’ll feel completely happy for no reason at all).

          Sofie wrote on July 18th, 2012
    • Do any of you with Aspergers find that you need to do less stimming when you follow a Primal lifestyle – or GAPS?

      Lesley wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • Yes. It’s more noticeable the other way around – if I eat certain foods, I start stimming a lot afterwards.

        Sofie wrote on July 18th, 2012
  5. This has become a huge issue. My friend, works as a special needs teacher, and she is concerned with all the medications that her students are put on, and whatever else the parents think will “help” outside of diet.
    Don’t read this wrong, I’m sure 99% of parents are trying to do the right thing by their children, but sometimes you get scared and they begin to look at the problem from the wrong angle.

    Rob wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Agreed. We as a population need to start to think from the basics, rather than trying to go overboard with medications, fancy techniques, so on. Look at what we are doing to our bodies first. Once we see that we are giving ourselves these disease’s because of our lifestyles, then we can start to improve.

      Max Ungar wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Yeah, I don’t think any of the parents are actively trying to harm their children, but they sure as hell are taking their cues from the wrong people!

      Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • A few more chemicals here and there. To fix your wound, your wang, your hair and mend your child’s vacant stare. Who can it hurt? Why should we care?

      You’ll smile and laugh and eat and play, just the same as any day. Forget those side effects they make us say. They never really happen anyway.

      With no guilt, remorse, or shame, we know we can achieve our aim. When consumers look and act and think the same. It makes marketing to them easy game.

      -Tim (aka @dystopicthinker)

      Tim wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • A lot of this has to do with educating yourself. Our ADHD / Asperger son has definitely improved on medication. However, we didn’t just jump to medication. We had a great deal of dialogue with the pediatrician, established beahavior plans and educated ourselves before trialing meds. To this day we attend conferences and seminars – it is a full time job advocating for these kids. But giving them the foundation now, even if that means using effective meds – and I stress effective, because not all medical professionals are knowledgeable in establishing an effective med regimen – will set the path for future success. It takes a “whole-person” approach to helping these individuals learn to navigate life. So, I do also believe that nutrition is a key player. But as Mark points out, these individuals can be rigid thinkers with sensory issues that create poor food choices. It’s a challenge, but one, throughout which a parent and the affected individual must persevere.

      Jim wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Amen!!!

        Linda wrote on July 13th, 2012
  6. As a music therapist who worked in a special education facility with these wonderful kids, I can really attest to the power of music.

    I must also add that sadly, most of the school meals follow the usual government advice of low-fat, low-cholesterol, no red meat, plenty of juice. I believe the kids would really benefit from a primal meal makeover!

    Nikhil Hogan wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Nikhil – music therapy has been a god-send for my son & our family. We’re thankful for Suzanne Oliver and the rest of the great people at http://www.nmtsa.org and ACT School (Assuming Competence Today).

      Chris Butterworth wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • … and “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” – anyone with non-disabled kids will understand the link to kids and savage beasts – i grew up in the 60s when there was still music education, band, and more –

        just try to find a school with a music program now – our owners found that it was totally unnecessary to create good mindless soldiers or consumers – in fact, being trained in “good” music was a drawback to getting kids to buy every crappy, inane excuse for music the industry pours out (and yes, i like classical AND good rap…)

        ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
  7. The mind may be the toughest nut to crack.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on July 12th, 2012
  8. My oldest son turns 13 next month, and our life has been turned completely inside-out, over and over again, since he was diagnosed at 18 months.

    We’ve been very proactive in trying to help – diligent with research and open minds.

    And while prescription medicine and certain therapies have helped, the three pieces which have had the biggest impact for him are: GFCF diet (gluten free, casein free), Vitamin supplements (including several of those mentioned in your article), and Homeopathic remedies (which I really don’t like admitting to because I don’t understand how they work, but they definitely have a positive effect.)

    I love my son as much as any father loves his son, and I’m very proud of how smart he is and what he’s been able to accomplish.

    But there’s no denying how much of an impact autism has on a family’s life. Jobs, Housing, School districts, Money, Social activities – EVERYTHING is impacted. (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.)

    Everything I’ve read-seen-heard-learned has pointed towards this being a case of genetic pre-disposition with environmental triggers. Science has come so far in the last few decades, and created things which were unfathomable not too long ago. Unfortunately, I don’t think the human body was meant to ingest/absorb this much of it.

    I’m hopeful that with more research, more public awareness, and more articles like this, there will be a public shift towards simplicity – more simple foods, more simple living. And hopefully that can reverse the environmental triggers..

    Thanks for writing this.

    -Chris

    Chris Butterworth wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • i read your story with so much empathy, Chris, and i am blessed to have had more of this lifestyle/nutrition information and a deep ambivalent about conventional medicine available to me before i had a kid (had my daughter at 53) – when i think how much she has impacted our lives (both good and with challenges) while not being affected by any of these problems, i know i am blessed.

      i find myself livid and expressive about vegan diets for kids, vaccines, poisons in the environment and am amazed at the utter complacency of 99% of the population about their being herded like cows. maybe via my small blog and my talks i can impact just a few people–

      mark is doing a fantastic job and i refer people here as much as i can.

      best of luck to you, your kids and your partner on this intense path–

      ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • “Science has come so far in the last few decades, and created things which were unfathomable not too long ago.”

      actually, i believe you have grossly understated this – the number of chemicals unknown to the human body (and to the planet) that now regularly enter the environment/food chain/household/building materials etc is in the 100’s of thousands–

      creepy

      ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • I feel like you are describing my exact life I completely know how you feel. My wife and I just spent over $7000 to get my son into a full day kindergarten because the my school district wanted to dump him in an autism support classroom. This disorder will drain you of everything

      Mike friedlander wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Chris- Again, I have to agree with you whole-heartedly. My son had troubling behaviors, some that I cannot bear to even think about now that we are through those terrible days. I kept bringing him to his pediatrician and begging for help, crying for help. Her response, “You have just spoiled him. He is very smart and he is manipulating you. You need better discipline strategies.”
      Then I saw mr. Mark Hyman on TV talking about the links between food, especially gluten, and behavior in ASD and ADHD kids. I read up on it and tried it, and it worked immediately. And then I told the doctor, who told me, “That is not real science. That is a waste of time and money unless he has celiac, which his blood tests show he does not, you should not follow a gluten free diet. He needs to see a shrink, he might need medication.”
      But I knew the diet was a cornerstone of his health, and I read, read, read. It is now three years later and we are doing well with FODMAPS+ GAPS/Primal dieting for him, primal for the rest of us.
      So I called around and found a doctor who does diet and supplements for behavior, and he ran some tests, and told me, “You need to stop vaccinating your kids. Your kids are not getting rid of toxins for some reason, and until we can figure out why, you need to STOP.” So I read, read, read, and was very upset at what I found.
      Turns out, my kids have a genetic pre-disposition to have issues with methylation pathways, which means that CDC schedule of vaccine was NOT a good idea for them. Nor was the fact that his ped was inflexible with the schedule, so even when he was coming off antibiotics from his chronic ear infections, he got all his shots. And she instructed me to dose him with tylenol prior to vaccines in order to reduce pains and swelling at the site. I did, and that was a horrible idea as well, as tylenol requires tons of glutathione to process, leaving little to get rid of the toxins in the vaccines. That was two years ago, and I have two more doctors on board for my son’s care. We are looking at and testing for mitochondrial issues now, and metabolic issues as well. I have notes from both of them exempting us from vaccines, and the advice from both of them to NOT vaccinate the baby I am currently carrying.
      It is not as simple as vaccine = autism (or other disorders). Genetics + environmental toxins (this is where vaccines factor in)+ poisoned food supply/GMOs+ overuse of anti-biotics + OTC meds like tylenol + gut dysfunction (microflora imbalance) = a path to ASD and other conditions for many kids. It is high time to start looking at the whole picture, and start listening to the parents about what actually works instead of making them feel like it is all just “junk science and woo.”
      Good for you Chris, for following your heart and following what works. The more parents who share their stories, the more kids who will be helped by all this unproven dietary woo!

      momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • Can you provide a source about the tylonol allegation? I actually give that to my kids and would love to know where you heard that so I can stop if I need to!!

        Christina208 wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • Here’s a blog with some links.

          http://babyfoodsteps.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/mitoxic-why-acetaminophen-may-not-be-good-for-any-of-us-especially-mitochondrial-disease-patients/

          Very early stages of research on this, but it has been repeated over and over again in the forum I belong to for moms who use Bio-Medical treatments…Older child with full CDC vax schedule + tylenol + overuse of antibiotics = some kind of ASD or related issue. For the younger sibs, they avoided antibiotics, avoided tylenol, and either opted out or selected and delayed the vaccines, and ended up with NT kids. Can’t forget that we don’t vaccinate in a vacuum, there are many other confounding factors that could come into play there.

          Also, there is this, which royally pisses me off:
          http://children.webmd.com/vaccines/news/20091015/tylenol-may-weaken-infant-vaccines

          So my son got all of the risk and is still probably not immune because his ped’s standard procedure was to dose Tylenol on all vaccine visits.

          momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • allegation or no, STOP giving that crap to your kids – willow bark and other herbal SAFE remedies are out there (yes – in nature not in the drug store) -

          ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
  9. In short, being primal can help prevent or even cure ADHD or autism.

    Wonder how exercise effects these diseases? If it is truly “whole body” then exercise should play a key role in treatment shouldn’t it?

    Max Ungar wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • my, now 22 y.o., daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 3rd grade, I’m very much against prescription meds in 99.9% situations. So I did some research and changed her diet to low carb. This didn’t “cure” her but it allowed her to control some of her negative behaviors while retaining her abilities. When she joined the varsity cheerleading team in HS that pretty much took care of it. I wish I’d known about the primal lifestyle then

      bbuddha wrote on July 12th, 2012
  10. From the article:

    “A picture is emerging as researchers study the surge of these conditions. The “genetic” root is relatively seldom the traditional, identifiable pattern in family lines. Rather, it appears many of these children have inherited a genetic risk factor characterized by a heightened sensitivity to “assaults” on the system from toxins, infections, and other environmental influences.”

    Yup. “Surge” is about right. Autism used to be about 1 in 10,000. It’s now down to around 1 in 80 — worse in some countries in cities.

    It hardly needs saying, but this can’t be down to changing fashions in diagnosis: you can hardly miss a condition like autism.

    Something’s badly wrong. I think “assaults” is about right. A similar picture emerges from Dr. Campbel-McBride’s “GAPS” book. Dr. McBride thinks a lot of the problem may be down to damaged gut flora — a problem which is only getting worse over time.

    Lewis wrote on July 12th, 2012
  11. My 5 year old nephew was diagnosed with Autism at age 2, which was about the time I found out about the Primal Blueprint. I keep begging my family to try a nutritional intervention, but they are unwilling because he is a “picky eater.” He likes lots of fruits and veggies, eats very little protein and fat, and of course lots of treats when being good. I can see the changes that come with crappy food choices (it only takes about 10 minutes for him to spin out of control), but they are unwilling to change his diet because he won’t eat it. I explain that all kids are like that and he’ll eventually eat what is in front of him if he gets hungry enough. He is making HUGE progress in his verbal and social skills, but I wonder what it would be like if they would actually stick to a nutrition plan.

    Rachel wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • That’s what we did with my kids – eventually the snacks and treats run out and what’s left is eggs, bananas, salads, apples, bacon, chicken thighs, and other real food.

      All my friends are like “OMG you’re so lucky that your kids will eat that.”

      and I’m all “they would eat like your kids if I fed them like I was trying to kill them.”

      Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • One of our two sons is a very picky eater (he’s 8 now). We removed all the crud and give him the option to not eat if he doesn’t want the food but we always have lots of other options available (fruit, greens, meats). He’s found things he likes and we do still cater to him sometimes (i.e. with home made paleo ground chicken or turkey nuggets), but not nearly as much as we used to. He calls the burgers I make on Fridays “Angel Meat.” because he loves them so much which I find pretty funny. (No offense to Christians intended)

        -Tim

        Tim wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • Angel Meat! that’s so awesome!

          There are times when my 4 year old still decided not to have dinner…some people would say I’m starving my child. I say intermittent fasting has proven health benefits!

          Graham wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • - kids like choices – and it often distracts them from an analysis of what the choices are – if i offer a chocolate rice waffle against anything else – guess what she picks – but if i offer her an apple or a handful of nuts – she happily choose one or the other – (out of sight out of mind?)

          we are funny creatures, us humans.

          ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Good luck with your family. I hope they start listening. If it helps, here’s our short story:

      We went from being vegetarians to doing Primal/PHD/GAPS. The hardest transition was for my 2 year old who had eaten vegetarian his whole life. Thanks to advice from those on this forum, I learned that to acquire a taste for something, you just have to be exposed to a tiny bit of it the first time. Your brain will quickly determine that it is something good for you and make it palatable to you next time.

      My son loves soup, so we started with bone broth based soups and now he eats pretty much everything we put in front of him. It only took about 2 weeks for the total transition.

      Note, I’m an aspie and ate nothing but hot dogs, cereal, fried chicken and mac n’ cheese growing up. He also shows sensory sensitivities and lot’s of pickiness, but we’ve gotten him past that with food at least.

      Don’t have the fight – just try to sneak in one bite and serve the item often. Don’t give them unhealthy alternatives. They’ll eat it soon enough. Oh – and it helps to cook everything in butter or bacon grease. Fat makes things taste good. mmmmmmm …. bacon grease….

      Bel wrote on July 12th, 2012
  12. “Nonetheless, these approaches prioritize”

    Mark, you left of the rest of that sentence.

    Howard wrote on July 12th, 2012
  13. This is a topic of extreme personal interest to me – I have three first cousins (all male) and one godbrother on the spectrum. The two cousins I see most often (the other lives in Brazil) have made enormous improvement following intensive music and play therapy from another cousin, a music therapist, but as far as I know they haven’t tried any diet-centered treatments. My godbrother’s family has adopted a super-clean grain-free WAPF-style diet (lots of raw milk and fermented veggies), and my godmother and I talked about how very clear the difference in his behavior is when he’s had grains, or really any carbs, even without any current official therapy.

    Nelly wrote on July 12th, 2012
  14. Thank you so much for the information and the links, Mark. I’m sending them on to the doctors in my family, in the hope that they can do some good in the future.

    Susan Kelly wrote on July 12th, 2012
  15. Looks like there’s part of this sentence missing:

    Nonetheless, these approaches prioritize

    Ilana wrote on July 12th, 2012
  16. As a parent of two small boys, I really appreciate this article. I was already giving them cod liver oil and probiotics as a preventative measure. I’m going to add some b vitamins and magnesium baths.

    rabbit_trail wrote on July 12th, 2012
  17. as a teacher of young children, i think it is so important that we get to the bottom of things like autism & adhd, etc. after being exposed to children with these, i fully believe nutrition & overall health (of both expectant mom & then child) play a huge role. i think excellent nutrition is vital before, during & after pregnancy to give baby the best possible chances of being healthy.

    Marissa wrote on July 12th, 2012
  18. First, I want to say that I am a degreed teacher with a concentration and experience in teaching special needs children. I was also one of the first people diagnosed with ADHD.

    For me, getting onto a more natural (and now basically primal) diet, basically eliminated my ADHD as a problem. In this lifestyle, I have found that while the ability to see and hear everything going on around me is still there, it’s a feature now, not a bug. I can focus but still take in my surroundings in a way I think most people can’t.

    I believe, based on my time in the classroom and in one-on-one tutoring, that most children diagnosed with ADHD are really suffering from constant blood-sugar swings. Some of us do have more trouble sitting still and focusing on something we don’t like, but really, why is that considered a dysfunction or disability? It seems to me that most people have a hard time focusing on stuff they hate. We ADD/ADHD people just have a shorter fuse before they say “F THIS!”

    AndreaLynnette wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I think blood sugar swings are a huge problem in schools too! When you look at what they’re serving it’s no wonder – lots of grains, fat free dairy & fruits. Where are the meats, veggies, healthy fats???

      sara wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Unfortunately they are following the Food Pyramid. I think they call it the Food Pyramid because that is the shape your body takes if you follow it.

        Craig wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • +100000!! Haha

          Cherice wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • LOL

          bbuddha wrote on July 12th, 2012
  19. yes yes yes…I feel I averted a diagnosis with my oldest. He was the most colicky baby, non verbal—only grunts, hardly ever smiled and many other issues. I kept telling my doc something was WRONG—but was ignored, likely because he was my first child and I was just “new” to parenting. I took things into my own hands. Right before his second birthday I removed all dairy from his diet and he finally had the first normal bowel movement of HIS LIFE! A few months later after researching GFCF, we took away gluten…within weeks he was TALKING—sentences and for the first time ever told me that he LOVED me. He had never been able to verbally express emotion like that. We had never looked back. I have followed up with probiotics, vitmains/supplements and trying to keep a clean diet. I am now eating primal…but kids are still GFDF…just trying not to overdo any carbs.

    Thank you for writing about this! I agree that these “autism” like symptoms wax and wane but perhaps are never fully cured. diligent attention to diet is BY FAR the best medicine I have seen for our son!

    solstice wrote on July 12th, 2012
  20. It sounds like, for the ADHD kids, many of them would (and do) benefit from a GAPS style diet, to identify and solve their gut problems.

    But how did it come to this? If we look at the deficiencies noted above (EPA/DHA, B vits, especially B12) it becomes obvious we are feeding the wrong foods to our kids. The gov advice of “low cholesterol” means we cut out oily fish, egg yolks, full fat dairy, and, of course, organ meats.

    Yet these are the foods that are richest in all these nutrients – and are what my grandmother insisted I eat as a kid! I acquired a taste for liver and onions – cooked up in our homemade butter from our own cows – how lucky I was!

    Take a look at the baby feeding guidelines from the Oregon Dairy Council And we see that grains and manufactured cereals are recommended from 4 months, more heavily as time goes on, but fish does not make an appearance until 12 months, by which time the kid is likely addicted to wheat already. Organ meats, of course, don;t even rate a mention.

    When you are not eating and addicted to wheat, many other foods are quite enjoyable – even liver!

    we have been damaging their gut health from day

    Paul N wrote on July 12th, 2012
  21. I am self-diagnosed as borderline Asperger’s. E.g. before primal, I would scream inside if I tried to look at someone’s face. After being on primal for a while, it stopped being a problem. I had various other symptoms. I am convinced that primal helped significantly.

    Harry Mossman wrote on July 12th, 2012
  22. As a personal chef I have cooked for more than one family who had an autistic child. I was told by numerous extended family members that adhering to a specific diet made a huge difference for these young individuals. It is definitely a concept that should be more thoroughly explored.

    Karen wrote on July 12th, 2012
  23. Mark, I’m really impressed how you discuss this important and sensitive topic so well. Thank you, and thanks to all of those sharing their stories. We’re trying to figure out some things with our youngest child, and this gives me much to think about.

    Tom Bassett-Dilley wrote on July 12th, 2012
  24. I have a son that is on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal. He is currently dairy free which has made huge improvement but he is still eating gluten. He has severe food intolerances, and has sensory issues. For example, if I serve him a food too warm or cold (must be perfectly room temp for him to eat) he will not eat for the rest of the day it offends his senses so bad. He WILL go to bed hungry if the food was unacceptable. He is already very very small and underweight for his age – he is not on the growth charts. I would love to see if he would benefit from gluten free but I am afraid he would actually starve himself to death during the transition. *sigh*
    I know food plays a role, and I do believe that gut health can make a condition worse….but I am not so sure that autism can be “cured” through any of these methods. My son was clearly different from BIRTH. There was no question in my mind that something was wrong. He would not make eye contract, he had severe feeding issues, he never coed or babbled…etc.

    Running On Empty wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Hiya,

      We do not have an autistic son, however we DO have a little engineer with very picky eating habits who will also go to bed hungry if nothing interests him. We ate a completely paleo diet too and have managed it by including other foods more often than we did before: such as sweet potatoes, (can be mashed, fried, cut into chips, baked, etc). Also, we make faux-tatoes a lot which is boiled cauliflower that is then processed until it’s a nice fine mush, just like mashed potatoes. Typically one adds some sour cream, chives and bacon to that but a little salt is all that’s necessary for something tasty. Also, both of our children are big fans of fried plantains. Once we took the sugar out they both found them very sweet without any added sweetener. Let’s see, he also loves burgers without the bun (which I sneakily incorporate small amounts of liver in to occasionally for the vitamins, he’s never detected it but yours might) which he drowns in dinosaur barbecue sauce (I love dinosaur!).

      I hope this helps, I believe it’s possible for you, and I hope you give it a try. At worst you’ll know it doesn’t help but the upside could be huge.

      -Tim

      Tim wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • This post comes as a big help to me as I have a four year old son that will only eat about 5 things and none of them great. At two and a half he was still not speaking but only grunting. Now his verbal skills are almost where they should be through therapy but his mood swings and behavior can go from angle to demon in a split second. I have often wondered if these issues would improve if his diet would change but am finding it very difficult to get him to eat ANYTHING. It helps to hear that others are going through similar situations and have found successes.

        pam wrote on July 12th, 2012
        • Good, I hope it does help. Despite the objections of much of my family regarding our ‘crazy diet’ both of our boys are thriving on it. They are smack dab in the center of the weight curve (neither over nor under) but at the very top of the height spectrum. I was worried about our older son’s weight too as he’s type 1 diabetic and was getting chubby before we went paleo but that’s gone now. He just had a full blood workup too and his endo was thrilled, they literally had nothing to say to use to improve things. They didn’t even want to hear about the diet… just keep doing it they said.

          The picky one still refuses some meals here and there but he can usually find something he’ll eat (nuts, fruits, etc.) to tide him over. Then he’ll pig out later and I let him. That boy ate four burgers recently, all with no bun. It blew my mind. OH, and don’t be afraid of some good fats. I render my own leaf lard that I get from a local organic farmer here in PA and it makes everything taste so darned good. (I realize I’m a little weird for this, but maybe not so much in the paleo community). But you don’t have to render your own to get the good stuff, organic lard, tallow, and coconut oil can be bought online and they all go a long way toward adding good wholesome calories to the diet of a child who struggles to find tastes he/she can accept.

          -Tim

          Tim wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Thanks Tim. I know I have got to just keep trying to introduce new foods to him. Currently I would say that his diet consists of about 80% bananas, peanut butter & jelly (home made wild fruit low sugar) and rice milk. A big part of the problem is that he will not eat anything that is wet or sticky. So mashed potatoes, soups, juicy fruits etc are out. We are working with feeding and developmental therapists so hopefully that will help. We just spend so much time trying to make sure he eats something – ANYTHING!

        Running On Empty wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I replied above as well to another comment. My son is super underweight also. He’s 28 months and is 6 pounds under the growth chart. Not anywhere close to the growth chart. When we upped the fat and added in potatoes into this diet (like the Perfect Health Diet), he started gaining weight. He gained a pound in the last two weeks and grew an inch.

      My husband and I are small people and I still breastfeed him so I never expected him to be very high on the chart, but I’m happy to see he’s moving in the right direction.

      If you can get your son to eat sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes (you can mash them with coconut oil/coconut milk since you’re avoiding dairy) with bacon bits, that will really help his caloric intake. Just make sure you put a LOT of fat in it. We do eat dairy, so for 12 yukon potatoes, I put in about 10 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of milk, and also do a mushroom cream sauce. He’ll eat a the equivalent of a potato or two at dinner in addition to meat and veggies. Before we added in potatoes, he wouldn’t eat very much. I think some kids will avoid eating too much protein, and it may actually be bad for them to have too high of a ratio of protein in their diet. So lot’s of fat to supplement the calories helps. You may want to check out the Perfect Health Diet.

      Bel wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Read The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and also look up GAPS on yahoo groups. There are at least two, mostly parents of autistic children. The book and the help groups state that the first few days of transitioning off the child’s preferred foods to a healing diet are very difficult, but that within a week the child changes dramatically and begins to really like the new food.

      Yvonne wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I totally understand as my daughter was a preemie (born at 24 weeks, weighing 1# 1oz) and has always been small. As a toddler when she was so very picky it scared me to try to take out the foods that I knew she shouldn’t be eating for fear that she would eat even less. Now, finally, as a 10-year old, she has caught up to her peers. Every child is different and unique, but for mine it just took time and patience to wean her off those foods. Yesterday, we were driving home after a long day at Sea World. She was starving and all I had in the car was dried cherries, almonds, and jerky. She willingly ate those things when normally she won’t because she realized those were the only options. Just keep trying, listen to your instincts (don’t worry about what others will think! ;) ), and don’t give up.

      Jessica (@fringies) wrote on July 14th, 2012
      • Sorry, what I mean by “caught up to her peers” is that in terms of her weight and height. Socially, neurologically, and mentally she is still not typical.

        Jessica (@fringies) wrote on July 14th, 2012
  25. Nutrigenomics is a new, up-and-coming, field in genetics. Fear not people, I think we’re getting through!!

    Gabby wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Nice to hear this one. : )

      Ma Flintstone wrote on July 12th, 2012
  26. I just want to say that my 2 year old can be a very picky eater & our tried & trued trick is smoothies.

    He will eat anything in a smoothie (if it’s blended with fruit) – we add coconut oil, liver, probiotics, greens, etc. Give him a straw & he’s good to go!

    He would live off dairy & fruit some days (if we let him) so I like to sneak in some extras with smoothies.

    sara wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • You never know,though, every kid is different — my ASD girl GAGS on smoothies! she is 11 and was willing to bargain with the devil in order to avoid smoothies! (ie, eat EGGS! Her top most-hated food!).

      Linda wrote on July 15th, 2012
  27. This post was perfect timing for me, I was wondering if SAD played a role in Autism. Thanks for the great post.

    doghug wrote on July 12th, 2012
  28. I normally just read daily and don’t comment but just had to on this one. I have a special needs child, my daughter who is 5. She was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder at 16 months old with associated severe gross and fine motor delays. We have spent a lot of time in various therapies and she had come a long way but we still had issues. I read pretty much everything I could find on how diet plays a role and slowly over time we made changes.

    We started by eliminating preservatives and food dyes etc (and discovered she reacts to Red Food Dye along the way, you want to see mood swings and major meltdowns, give her some Red Food Dye!). We also supplemented with Omega 3’s, that helped a bit too. We then eliminated wheat, she was around 4 by that time and started sleeping through the night fairly regularly for the first time EVER. We were vegetarian for 2 years and while she was doing OK she still had some symptoms (e.g. still some sleep disturbances, difficulty with moods and regulation, over reacting to certain situations, extremely lengthy meltdown/temper tantrums, no tolerance for noise/crowds etc). We were still eating a lot of grains at that point.

    A little over a month ago we decided to try paleo, we stopped all grains and increased the fats that she was eating. I started buying “clean” meats. Within a week we saw major difference in her mood and sensory reactions. Her sleep improved even further. She has not had a meltdown in the month we have been paleo (other than when someone accidentally gave her Red Food Dye!). Coincidence? I think not. I now believe one of her issues might be reactive blood sugar, so the highs/lows of the SAD impact her more severely than someone who is neurotypical. I also think her particular brain needs as much healthy fat as it can get. She had to eat every 2 hours when we were vegetarian and eating grains (just not wheat). Now she eats breakfast, lunch and dinner, sometimes an afternoon snack but not usually. She eats pretty much everything I put in front of her (even sardines!). That never would have been the case a month ago. She had a lot of food aversions, those have resolved. Almost all of her SPD symptoms are gone, the gross and fine motor delays are still present but I suspect over time those will continue to improve as well. So while I don’t view paleo (or any diet) as a “cure” I certainly view it as being symptom relieving in a child who is not neurotypical. What’s funny is I shared these things with her pediatrician over a year ago at her 4 year old appointment and she acted like any changes were just a coincidence. We just saw the doctor yesterday and we were talking about how well my daughter is doing. She asked what our regimen was that was helping so I told her. Her response “Oh, you know what you are doing right? The paleo diet.” Apparently our pediatrician does it too! Love that :) I hope over time the idea that diet can play a significant role in some of these disorders takes a firmer hold. I scoffed to at first but then decided to experiment and see what happened. I’m so glad I did, the changes in my daughter have been profound.

    Mama2SPD wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • That is heart warming to read. I’m so glad you’re finding some success with diet. Keep it up!

      I too have had major personality changes because of diet but it’s in a different direction. I’ve always wanted to write books and poems and draw and paint but never had any gumption to do so. The ideas kept piling up over time but like the children at an old orphanage no one ever took them anywhere. When we went low carb and then paleo… it was like the lights had been turned on inside my mental mansion. I began writing like a man on fire and today I’m on my third book (and many more short stories), my paintings are getting better and I find myself doodling again. I never thought this would have happened but it’s changed my life. Is it the paleo diet or just a full blown midlife crisis? (sans the car, I hate cars) I don’t know, but I’m not looking back.

      -Tim

      Tim wrote on July 12th, 2012
      • Great Tim! What a cool story. Doesn’t it make you wonder what potential is just waiting in others to be unlocked by real food. i noticed one of your other replies was in the form of a clever poem, and it made me smile.

        momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • Thank you, I’m glad you liked the poem. And I agree with you… there’s so much limiting people, holding them back from being their best selves. It makes me sad that so many look to change their diet only when forced by a major health crisis. We came to it through trying to better manage our eldest son’s type 1 diabetes. We learned how Low carb can bring better control, which it did but it also banished my allergies and caused me to spontaneously lose more than 40 extra lbs… More research and time and we’re here, paleo and proud of it.

          -Tim

          Tim wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • J. Stanton talks about a similar effect at his website (gnolls.org) – that, once you start to eat like a predator (paleo), you soon begin thinking like one – your senses are sharpened, you start to feel more bold and adventurous, likely to do spontaneous things, etc.
        I know I have been more focussed with my work since going paleo.

        Being rid of excess weight helps too.

        Best of luck with your writing.

        Paul N wrote on July 13th, 2012
    • Amazing. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope the symptoms keep improving!

      Gabby wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • YES! I love this share. My son also has SPD and had PDD-NOS, and most of his behavioral concerns went away with the changes we made to his diet. Funny, he never slept through the night either, until I went gluten free. I was told this was due to my poor and permissive parenting, but gluten free for 2 days got me a 3 year old who slept for the first time in his life, a 5 month old who started napping for the first time in his life, and a husband who never could sleep who started sleeping well. Fascinating.
      As for the global muscle delays, the one thing that made tremendous improvement for my son was a therapy called “Sensory Learning Program.” There is a great article on it in WIRED magazine. I don’t know how it worked, but I do know that in the spring, his teachers recommended another year of preschool because his muscles were too weak to get through the day. We did SLP over the summer. By fall, he was like a new kid, with normal energy levels and no more lethargy.
      The last time my son had dyes was at the dentist, and it was three days of devil-child. NOT a coincidence.

      momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • It is amazing something like gluten can cause sleep issues, my husband and I were shocked when we discovered that seemingly benign food ingredient was behind our daughter’s poor sleep!

        I can always tell when my daughter has been accidentally “glutened” because the sleep issues and mood problems come back full force for a few days. Summer has been nice because she is always in my care so I know 100% she is gluten free and her sleep reflects that, last night she slept over 11 hours straight, that never used to happen!

        Thanks for the SLP tip, I will look into it! My daughter has come a long ways, just looking at her you would never guess she is delayed motor wise, she walks/runs normally, can write her name etc. But it becomes painfully apparent when she is around kids who are far younger than her and doing things she can’t yet. She’s 5 and several weeks ago we were at the park (had just started paleo), there was a 2 year old there climbing all over the place doing things my daughter still can’t do motor wise. Interestingly though since being paleo I have noticed an increase in her overall strength. Last night she and my son were playing wheelbarrow and she was able to walk around on her hands with him holding her legs, she could not do that a month ago!

        Mama2SPD wrote on July 13th, 2012
  29. This is a great article! I’m sharing it with all my friends as I work with a lot of teachers of special children and I have many friends who also have children who are not neurotypical.

    Diet makes a HUGE difference. My daughter is 20 but was diagnosed with bipolar and a bunch of other issues when she was 9. We tried a few diet changes as she was growing up but nothing really seemed to work. Just over a year ago she “accidentally” went gluten free for a week. She had pasta at a friend’s house and by the next morning was miserable. Since then she has been completely gluten free and has seen dramatic improvement in her symptoms. Just over a month ago she was able to discontinue her mood stabilizer! Considering the severity of her symptoms, I had never even hoped that this would happen. I would love for her to adopt a Paleo or Primal lifestyle so that she could do even better but that is up to her.

    The more I learn about nutrition and how our bodies react to food, the more I see how this effects our kids. In order to save the upcoming generations, we need to fix our broken nutrition.

    Keep the great articles coming, Mark!

    Tree wrote on July 12th, 2012
  30. I just want to point out that a primal type diet has shown to help out adhd and autism in some patients, but it is certainly not a cure and it doesn’t help everyone. I just want to point that out before people start claiming primal cures autism.

    Jim Hensen wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Cured my add.

      Ma Flintstone wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • Thank you for saying this. You have to try everything, and since Autism is a SYNDROME, not a disease, every child will respond to different things.

      Linda wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • Autism is a spectrum of disorders and for most kids autism is a disease, not a syndrome (environmentally triggered versus purely genetic). it is largely an autoimmune disease which affects the GI system which in turn affects the neurological system. Again, only some doctors like Dr. Herbert get this but many more are jumping on board to the fact that autism is largely environmentally triggered and its conditions can be mitigated and sometimes completely alleviated with dietary, homeopathic and medical interventions.

        Autism Dad wrote on July 14th, 2012
        • Thanks, Autism Dad. I think the issue is that there are different versions of what is labelled autism, and calling them all the same thing upsets people, because some kids have underlying medical issues that can be addressed to their benefit, and in other cases (genetic autism) maybe not so much.

          momof2groks wrote on July 14th, 2012
    • I don’t think anyone is saying that. People are giving real life examples of how it has helped their families. It may not work for everyone, but it works for many. Therefore, it is worth discussing and sharing.

      momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
  31. Mark, you didn’t address cause – and specifically the role the mother-to-be’s health plays in producing a healthy child. What a pregnant woman eats, doesn’t eat, how much sun she gets, etc. This is slowly coming into the awareness of the medical establishment, so you do a search and see lots of correlative studies coming out.

    I guess cause may be beyond anyone’s bailiwick right now. Seems the only thing for certain is that we do not know what we are dealing with here.

    Pure Hapa wrote on July 12th, 2012
  32. Hi,
    Fabulous article, I have a son with Aspergers Syndrome. This is a subject close to my heart.

    Janene Dixon-Smith wrote on July 12th, 2012
  33. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22099159

    J Inorg Biochem. 2011 Nov;105(11):1489-99. Epub 2011 Aug 23.

    Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism?

    Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA.

    Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, 828 W. 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1L8. lucijat77@gmail.com

    Abstract

    Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are serious multisystem developmental disorders and an urgent global public health concern. Dysfunctional immunity and impaired brain function are core deficits in ASD. Aluminum (Al), the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant, is a demonstrated neurotoxin and a strong immune stimulator. Hence, adjuvant Al has the potential to induce neuroimmune disorders. When assessing adjuvant toxicity in children, two key points ought to be considered: (i) children should not be viewed as “small adults” as their unique physiology makes them much more vulnerable to toxic insults; and (ii) if exposure to Al from only few vaccines can lead to cognitive impairment and autoimmunity in adults, is it unreasonable to question whether the current pediatric schedules, often containing 18 Al adjuvanted vaccines, are safe for children? By applying Hill’s criteria for establishing causality between exposure and outcome we investigated whether exposure to Al from vaccines could be contributing to the rise in ASD prevalence in the Western world. Our results show that: (i) children from countries with the highest ASD prevalence appear to have the highest exposure to Al from vaccines; (ii) the increase in exposure to Al adjuvants significantly correlates with the increase in ASD prevalence in the United States observed over the last two decades (Pearson r=0.92, p<0.0001); and (iii) a significant correlation exists between the amounts of Al administered to preschool children and the current prevalence of ASD in seven Western countries, particularly at 3-4 months of age (Pearson r=0.89-0.94, p=0.0018-0.0248). The application of the Hill's criteria to these data indicates that the correlation between Al in vaccines and ASD may be causal. Because children represent a fraction of the population most at risk for complications following exposure to Al, a more rigorous evaluation of Al adjuvant safety seems warranted.
    ———————

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235057

    Lupus. 2012 Feb;21(2):223-30.

    Mechanisms of aluminum adjuvant toxicity and autoimmunity in pediatric populations.

    Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA.

    Neural Dynamics Research Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. lucijat77@gmail.com

    Abstract

    Immune challenges during early development, including those vaccine-induced, can lead to permanent detrimental alterations of the brain and immune function. Experimental evidence also shows that simultaneous administration of as little as two to three immune adjuvants can overcome genetic resistance to autoimmunity. In some developed countries, by the time children are 4 to 6 years old, they will have received a total of 126 antigenic compounds along with high amounts of aluminum (Al) adjuvants through routine vaccinations. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, safety assessments for vaccines have often not included appropriate toxicity studies because vaccines have not been viewed as inherently toxic. Taken together, these observations raise plausible concerns about the overall safety of current childhood vaccination programs. When assessing adjuvant toxicity in children, several key points ought to be considered: (i) infants and children should not be viewed as "small adults" with regard to toxicological risk as their unique physiology makes them much more vulnerable to toxic insults; (ii) in adult humans Al vaccine adjuvants have been linked to a variety of serious autoimmune and inflammatory conditions (i.e., "ASIA"), yet children are regularly exposed to much higher amounts of Al from vaccines than adults; (iii) it is often assumed that peripheral immune responses do not affect brain function. However, it is now clearly established that there is a bidirectional neuro-immune cross-talk that plays crucial roles in immunoregulation as well as brain function. In turn, perturbations of the neuro-immune axis have been demonstrated in many autoimmune diseases encompassed in "ASIA" and are thought to be driven by a hyperactive immune response; and (iv) the same components of the neuro-immune axis that play key roles in brain development and immune function are heavily targeted by Al adjuvants. In summary, research evidence shows that increasing concerns about current vaccination practices may indeed be warranted. Because children may be most at risk of vaccine-induced complications, a rigorous evaluation of the vaccine-related adverse health impacts in the pediatric population is urgently needed.

    ————————–

    Dr. Wakefield and MMR vaccine controversy. Yes he got his license back.

    http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/09/re-how-case-against-mmr-vaccine-was-fixed

    http://www.weeklyblitz.net/2402/brains-used-to-study-autism-are-severely-damaged

    University of Calgary video of brain neuron degeneration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHqVDMr9ivo

    M Peraaho wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • This is not a discussion about vaccines as they relate to Autism. This is about diet and how it may or may not affect the disorder.

      Tim wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • It’s all part of the puzzle. Everything needs to be considered, not just one approach. It is a discussion of vaccines as well, because the approach Mark discusses includes, diet, supplements, and avoidance of environmental toxins.

        momof2groks wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle but I don’t think they all need to be aired out here- I think this is one that is a bit controversial and riddled with emotion. I am not going to say where I come out on this personally because I have upmost respect for both sides and I think this is an inappropriate venue to bring up something so emotionally laden.

          Christina208 wrote on July 13th, 2012
      • no – and it is a very hot topic agreed – however, the poor diet can be likened to an open would that the vaccine is poured – salt-like – into –

        vaccines cannot be separated from a bad diet completely in these discussions as they add a whole convoluted layer of other complications that impact the body differently depending on your diet – the condition of your gut flora and on and on.

        i will never let my child get vaccinated – but i will also never her let her eat gluten grains, fast food, or almost anything processed. she is blessedly “normal” and i read about the trails and tribulations here with a sadness coupled with “there for the grace of the angels go i – and my child” – the grace being enough knowledge to have questioned all these issues INCLUDING vaccines in raising her so far.

        ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • my response above was to Tim a couple posts above…

          ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
        • poor typing – “open wound”, (sorry)

          ravi wrote on July 13th, 2012
  34. I have been doing some research on the MTHFR gene lately since I am homozygous for one version of it (A1289C). In my research, I noticed that there were several studies linking mutations in MTHFR to autism and to MS symptoms as well as anxiety, depression, and other neurotransmitter problems. There were also studies that said gluten and casein interfered with the methylation process even more. The more I look at this stuff, the more everything is intertwined – gut, brain, autoimmune diseases, the list goes on. The one thing in common to all – a primal diet is essential. Good enough for me.

    Laurie D. wrote on July 12th, 2012
  35. My son has is an Aspie with severe sensory issues (touch, light, sound, smell, food textures, etc). He is just starting to go through puberty and his difficult behaviour is becoming worse and worse. My husband and I eat a paleo diet but he lives on milk and bread – he’s extremely fussy and trying to feed him food he doesn’t like always ends in a HUGE screaming meltdown. He will not eat any fruit AT ALL – in fact, if we are in the kitchen preparing or eating fruit he will leave the room because he can’t bare the smell. He will eat cauliflower and carrots but that’s about it. We recognise that his diet is woeful but he’s too big to fight with and we can’t force him. *very big sigh* This article is excellent – I wish there was a way we could implement just a few of the suggestions.

    Rachel wrote on July 12th, 2012
  36. Having lived (stressfully) with a partner with massive mood swings and mental idiosyncrasies for ten years, we finally found a nutritionist who immediately recognised his symptoms (where no other doctors could and who quickly prescribed anti-depressants).Tests were ordered and it was confirmed that he was suffering from pyroluria and was prescribed high doses of Vitamin B6, zinc and a magnesium supplement. In combination with a gradual decrease in carbs (especially sugar and grains…he was very resistant at first), the difference in his behaviour and temperament in a couple of weeks is nothing short of a miracle.
    I think society severely underestimates the power of natural treatments and diet as major contributors to health issues.
    Our life has rapidly changed for the better and we can’t stop smiling.

    Amanda wrote on July 12th, 2012
    • I think you are bringing up an important point (about Pyroluria). I’ve read that it may be tied in with a huge percentage (more than 50%) of autism (and depression, schizophrenia, etc.) cases. My son (age 5) and I are going to get the test done (he is very high functioning on the spectrum – healing him through nutrition -GAPS/Primal – and homeopathy). I think this may be our missing link….

      Maija Giganti wrote on July 13th, 2012
  37. I am a Behavioral Health Specialist, I work in the school system with all kinds of behavioral/emotional issues. I am so convinced that the poor diet of our children is a huge part of the problems the children are having. My problem is, I am not a dietician or a nutrition expert. I don’t want to take classes or get certified as one if they are going to try to feed me SAD guidelines. Does anyone know of a good program in Hawaii or online that would give me some credibility without having to lie about how nutritious I feel oatmeal is?

    Mary wrote on July 12th, 2012
  38. Excellent post.

    Samantha Moore wrote on July 12th, 2012
  39. My family and I have worked with adults and children with disabilities for years now. I consider it my life and my community. One of the most difficult hurtles I feel I assist people with is the fixation on food, and very often the wrong kinds, and diet choices built on bad information.
    That “it’s okay every once in a while” cookie comes a lot more often than nutritionalists would like to admit and the microwave dinners and lack of freshly made food is ubiquitous. Though recommendations are made to improve people’s nutrition I rarely see it followed through on.
    It really makes me happy to hear about parents willing to try something different for their children. I think beginning advocacy for health early is absolutely essential. There can be a lot of challenges growing up and aging with a disability – it’s even more challenging when you are also facing obesity, heart disease and diabetes. I hope coming generations will be better served by their treatment teams to avoid this.

    Grok Fox wrote on July 12th, 2012
  40. Fantastic post, Mark. I’ve always secretly suspected that autism is linked with our wonky lifestyle ways, but have never had any sort of studies to refer to. This is wonderful, and I really appreciate your layperson version – it makes it much easier to digest.

    Nick wrote on July 12th, 2012

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple