pre· vent [verb]: to act ahead of; forestall. to anticipate.
Experts, committees and awareness groups will rally this Tuesday (
4/2/13) for Autism Awareness Day. They will speak of the continued efforts to develop and expand the current philosophies and research about why autism rates have exploded in the last few decades.
While each day and each hour passes, the sense of urgency is carved deeper into all of our lives, young and old.
….leaving us grasping for anything that can be done.
ASD is an extremely heterogeneous group of disorders with multiple subgroups that share a behavioral commonality. There is no medical or genetic test for autism and there is no one underlying cause of ASD – to some extent prevention is elusive. However, there are certain risk factors that are associated with an increase of susceptibility of ASD. [*]
We know that environmental toxicity and nutrition can play a key role in mythylation (a process the controls how genes are expressed). We must begin to use the knowledge we have gathered about known factors contributing to autism and apply them to our lives!
It is known that ‘environmental exposures and genetic susceptibility work in concert’ to increase the risk of ASD and becoming aware of environment stressors and exposures can play a pivotal role in the prevention ASD.[*][*][*][*][*]
When it comes to pesticides, our knowledge base is still growing about the timing, dose and which of the various mechanisms induce ASD. But what we do know, beyond any hesitation, is that pesticide exposure can impair neurodevelopment in children.[*][*][*][*]
Eat Organic (or local) Food
Wheat and corn products are the two most likely commodities contributing to pesticide exposure in children. Organic does make a difference.[*][*]
Use natural products in your house.
(Cleaners, shampoos, laundry detergents, toothpaste, lotions, personal care products)
If the increased cost of more natural options deters you from eliminating chemical-laden cleaners and products, try making them yourself! There are many options available now and the competition among natural products have driven consumer prices down in recent years.
Be cautious of Flame Retardant chemicals (FR, PBDE)
In 2012, research was published that confirmed that flame retardant chemicals affected a specific gene mutation linked to Rett’s syndrome (a condition on the autism spectrum that primarily affects girls).[*]
These chemicals are widespread in children products, in fact, one study found 80 percent of baby and children’s products contained toxic flame retardants (some items include: furniture, car seats, strollers, baby changing mats, crib mattress, carpet padding pillows (even breastfeeding pillows) and pajama clothing).[*]
This particular point can be challenging since products aren’t required to be labeled as containing these chemicals. Becoming more aware of which products contain FR is the first step.
You can cover mattresses and pillows with allergen barriers to reduce exposure to dust that contains PBDEs (I place a polyethylene shower curtain on our mattresses). You can also use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter or an air cleaner with a HEPA filter which reduces the FR-contaminates in the house. You can read more here as well.
If dry cleaning your clothes, find a ‘green’ dry cleaner.
Most dry cleaning facilities will use a chemical called perchlorethylene, this is a known carcinogen and exposure has been associated with male animal models developing autism-like symptoms.[*]
Filter your water
Most of us are lucky enough to have access to treated water, however the water that comes out of the tap isn’t just H2O. Thanks to contamination from agriculture chemicals, cleaning products, pesticides, fertilizers, runoff from waste disposal sites, and industrial dumping – over 200 synthetic chemicals can be found in our drinking water. [*]
Lead is a heavy metal known to affect brain and nervous function – especially dangerous in children. Fluoride in water also influences hormones and brain function. Learn more about your filter choices at the Natural Resource Defense Council’s website here.[*][*][*][*]
‘Green’ industrial cleaners at school (daycares) too
Petition your local school to use cleaners that are safe for children. Using heavy-duty industrial cleaners increase indoor air pollution. Children are, of course, more vulnerable to the fumes inhaled by harsh chemical products (children breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults). Also, the residue from the chemicals used are absorbed through the skin and absorbed into the body.
Start by printing this pdf off and talk to the administration about how you can help keep children healthy.
Improve air quality in your home
When you think of air pollution, you are not likely to think about the pollution in your house – however, you should!
Obviously, don’t smoke (even smoking outside and then coming into the house contaminates the air – just quit already). Try to open windows and create cross ventilation whenever possible. Avoid air fresheners and candles.
What a child eats absolutely contributes to over health and in some research has been seen to affect the clinical manifestation and development of autism.[*]
We even know that certain nutritional interventions can even reverse underlying biochemical disturbances seen in autism (improvements in behavioral characteristics such as repetitive stereotypes, hyperactivity, social contact, and self-injurious behavior).[*][*]
Autism prevalence is related to the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for a variety of reasons. It seems that the ingestion of HFCS leads to mineral imbalances which create multiple pathways for oxidative stress in the brain from exposure to OP pesticides and heavy metals.[*]
HFCS is found in sodas, junk foods, and processed snacks…adds one more reason not to buy that crap.
Avoid artificial food dyes and colorings
Autism has also been associated with certain artificial coloring additives found in processed foods. They also interfere with neurological processes (particularly behavior, personality and learning ability).[*][*][*]
Eat more Omega-3s
Evidence is mounting that a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to childhood neurodevelopmental disorders.[*]
Omega-3 supplementation for treatment of children with ASD has been found to improve cognition, sleep, social interaction, eye contact and sleep.[*][*][*][*]
Omega-3 fatty acids also promote growth of neurons within the brain and can strengthen the surrounding myelin sheaths.
An excellent source of omega-3s is wild caught salmon, flax seeds, walnuts and some dark, leafy green vegetables. Krill oil is also a popular option (which can be a mercury-free source of fish oil) –supplements like Nordic Natural or OmegaBrite are great supplement options.[*]
Take Vitamin D3 supplements
Vitamin D plays a critical role in the development of the brain and research shows it is essential for normal brain functioning. Literature suggests that maternal vitamin D3 deficiency increases risk for autism in children.[*][*][*]
The numbers I’ve seen - If you are pregnant, it is suggested to take 5,000 IUs daily. If you are nursing, take 7,000 IUs daily.[*]
I currently give my daughters 1,200 IUs daily along with a multivitamin. (Be mindful of HFCS and artificial coloring-read the label of your vitamins, especially those made for children.)
(and if you can’t, avoid repeated/long-term use and always employ use of probiotics)
Using antibiotics eliminate both harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Over 500 hundred different kinds of beneficial bacteria is located in the small and large intestines of which hundreds of functions are performed for health metabolism and immune function. Through certain enzyme secretions, these healthy bacteria transform metabolic and microbial wastes (which include hormones, chemical waste, bile, viral toxins, bacterial toxins, cellular debris, etc.).[*]
Research has emphasized caution regarding the increase in use of antibiotic course treatments in children and its association with ASD (particularly the damage done to the intestines).[*][*][*][*][*][*]
Antibiotics also damage the intestinal wall structure (both physically and chemically) by fostering growth of Candida albicans, fungi and yeast – which promotes Leaky Gut Syndrome.[*]
Antibiotics should be withheld unless they are clearly needed.
Children that are breastfed, and who are breastfed for longer periods have a lower risk of being diagnosed with autism. As this is the case, it is also very important for the nursing mother to be aware of her exposure to environmental toxicity and nutritional deficiencies.[*][*][*][*][*]
If you find yourself unable to breastfeed, then be sure to find a formula that does (1) not contain HFCS (2) is organic (3) is supplemented with
DHA/ARA. And when preparing formula try your best to use (1) unfluorinate bottled/filtered water and (2) glass or stainless steel bottles.
In particular casein which is in all milk products. Casein has been documented in aggravating clinical symptoms of autism. Casein in dairy products breaks down into a peptide fragment called casomorphin which has opioid characteristics (yes, you’re literally addicted to cheese).[*][*]
If you are unsure reducing dairy is a good direction for your family, consider that many children (and adults) suffer from dairy intolerance which is much more difficult to diagnose then dairy allergy. Some symptoms of dairy intolerance are eczema and diarrhea (foul smelling poo). Some related dairy problems are ear infections, asthma, hives, ADD/ADHD and autism
Limiting milk/dairy does not mean giving up calcium. Many foods (such as cereals and rice) are enriched with calcium – not to mention that green veggies like spinach and broccoli are awesome sources of calcium as well.
Instead of ice cream – try for sorbet, pudding or fruit-based popsicles. Try alternative plant-based milks.
Although mainstream media, certain vaccine inventors (Paul Offit) and the majority of pediatricians would like to eradicate all vaccine-autism discussions, there are many scientists supporting research that remains to be completed regarding vaccine safety and autism.
In 2009, the director of one NIH (National Institute of Health) agency stated there is legitimate concern and a valid call to study a group of the pediatric population more susceptible (on a genetic basis) to develop ASD in response to vaccination.[*]
There is a lack of clear evidence to either refute or accept a specific relationship, but concern exists regarding cross-reacting response to particular vaccine component, a mitochondrial disorder, or other yet-unknown responses that a subpopulation of children may be susceptible to.
Some other recent research states:
There is very current research now questioning the use of aluminum in vaccines and its ability to cause ASD. 2008[*]
Further study into the relationship between vaccines and autism is warranted. 2011 [*]
Experimental research clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans. In particular, aluminum in adjuvant form carries a risk for autoimmunity, long-term brain inflammation and associated neurological complications and may thus have profound and widespread adverse health consequences. 2011 [*]
What is becoming more evident in autism research is the link between the immune and neurological systems and the concern that a dysregulated or abnormal immune response may be involved in some forms of ASD.[*]
Hyperactivity in immune cells and molecules, such as cytokines, can affect cognitive and emotional processing particularly in the modulation of systemic and CNS responses to infection, injury, and inflammation.[*]
This absolutely does not mean rejecting vaccines.
What this does mean is making informative decisions about your child’s vaccination schedule.
Wait if your child is sick
Postpone vaccination 1 or 2 weeks until your child is healthy (or if he/she was recently on antibiotics).
No Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
Never use Tylenol before or after vaccination.
According to one study completed in 2008, acetaminophen use after vaccination was significantly associated with autistic disorder with children 5 years of age or younger.[*]
This significant association is believed to be due to acetaminophen reducing the available amount of glutathione in the body – which is needed to eliminate toxins.
Delay and/or Select
The most effective and cautious course to pediatric health care is an individual approach.
Vaccination is not all or nothing. For example, your newborn might not need the Hepatitis B vaccine – a better choice may be to delay. That is your choice.
The current ACIP and CDC recommended vaccine schedule is not based on research testing the schedule in its entirety. [*Pg83]
In fact, the most recent report (2013, by IOM) stated, “No evidence is available from studies that have directly examined the current immunization schedule (most studies enrolled children in the 1990s, and most were not conducted in the
)”.[*] United States
The first step in making responsible choices in your child’s vaccination schedule is to learn about the disease (prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, etc) you are going to vaccinate against. An excellent resource is
NVIC – which has a user friendly site listing information on each disease and the corresponding licensed vaccines. Another resource to confirm the data found on NVIC is the CDC’s Pinkbook.
Many of these lifestyle and dietary adjustments not only are associated with a decrease in ASD, but they offer a myriad of overall health benefits.
Do your best to provide superior sources of nutrition for your children, be mindful of their environment and utilize an individualized vaccine schedule.
Each child depends, in a very large part, on their caregiver to help them be healthy to explore, dream and create their lives. If there is chance that chemicals are going to interfere with such wonderment then we must be diligent in using them in a sensible and responsible manner-whether that be agricultural pesticides, cleaners used in our schools, chemical additives to food, or in our method of reducing communicable disease.
This post was inspired after watching the Fall 2012 ARI Conference presentation of ’10 Americans’ by President and Co-founder of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Ken Cook.
Ken reveals the shocking number of toxic chemicals EWG
's research team found in the umbilical cord blood of 10 American babies born in 2004. This landmark study affirms the negative impact that environmental pollution can have on human health, especially relating to autoimmune diseases and autism.
You can the webinar here: http://www.autism.com/index.php//webinars/cook_2012