Archive | September, 2011

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Autism Treatment – How Music Therapy Helps In Treating Autism

Posted on 11 September 2011 by admin

Musical therapy is gaining acceptance in the field of treatments for autism. Individuals on the autism-spectrum who receive music therapy will often have improvement in overall temperament and learning abilities. I recently saw a young boy who loved the Beatles. Hearing their music has helped with his behavior and willingness to communicate. Other individuals have responded in similar ways to other types of music. Music makes connections to the non-verbal part of our brain making it a perfect therapy for disorders in which the person has trouble communicating. This is why it is a perfect fit for autism.

Music therapy has been used in conjunction to help with learning skills. Classical music often playing in the background has been shown to help with mental processing for math and complex problems, but more importantly in autism music in general provides a non-threatening medium for people while playing games that help to improve social and behavior skills. For example, by encouraging eye contact while singing or using musical instruments that need to be held close to the face musical therapy can help autistic individuals break social barriers. In short, music is fun and engaging.

The main thing that music therapy has been shown to help with is the development of speech and communication skills. Music has the ability to connect the verbal and non-verbal functions in the brain. This is critical in autism as speech difficulties are so significant. In the beginning certain individuals may be only able to hum, grunt or make non-word noises while others will babble phrases of verses. The little boy who was a Beatles fan learned to pronounce the famous line “we all live in a Yellow Submarine…” Autistic individuals will often gain the capability to put phrases and sentences together in attempts to communicate with other people. No matter how skilled the individual is with speech, they can participate in musical therapy by clapping to the beat of the song, humming along, or doing simple echoing sounds. It doesn’t really matter just getting them involved in music can make powerful transformations.

Individuals on the autism spectrum are commonly found to be good at music. Some people have perfect pitch, while others may play a particular instrument very well. Even if they show no genius musical ability by common standards you may find that a particularly person has abilities in music that exceed his or her other abilities. A musical therapist can use music as a way to link this kind of learning with other kinds of learning skills such as communicating emotions or improving memory. Trained professionals can use music to teach children and others how to communicate in nonverbal ways, making it easier for patients to learn.

However, music doesn’t need to be reserved for a therapy or a classroom setting. Play music in the home and/or car as a way to introduce new sounds, instruments, and voices into the auditory world for an autistic individual. Break out those Beatles albums and you never know what might emerge for a person on the spectrum. They too may find their favorite Beatles song and learn to sign and communicate in a way they never have before.

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Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) and Autism

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

There is a condition recognized in the biomedical field for autism and related disorders called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections). This particular condition is caused by an immune reaction triggered by a toxin produced from a Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcal infection. There are various strep bacteria that produce toxins as part of their infectious nature. Our immune system responds to them in an attempt to neutralize and eradicate these toxins. Unfortunately, in some individuals, this immune-toxin (aka. antibody-antigen complex) reaction creates immune complexes which are deposited in various tissues of the body. If these immune complexes land in the kidneys there is an immune reaction called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, in the heart it is called rheumatic fever, and in the brain PANDAS can ensue. This autoimmune reaction (self-directed immune reaction to body tissue) in PANDAS is directed to the Basal Ganglia area in the brain. The Basal Ganglia region of the brain when altered or damaged is associated with disorders such as obsessive-compulsiveness (OCD), strange body posturing/movements called chorea, and the typical TIC movements (quick jerking or vocal tics) associated with Tourette’s Syndrome. With obsessive-compulsive behavior anxiety is usually a major problem.

Some individuals on the autism-spectrum suffer with extreme anxiety, but without obsessive-compulsive behavior, while in others the OCD is severe. Even though PANDAS remains a controversial topic in medicine it is reported that PANDAS can cause or exacerbate Tics, Tourettes, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Approximately, 25% of individuals who have one or more of these conditions have what appears to be PANDAS.

Treatment options are limited, although certain biomedical autism treatments such as low dose naltrexone, dietary intervention such as the gluten and casein-free diet, and various supplements that support normal immune function such as Transfer Factor can be helpful in reducing the overall reactivity of the immune system, PANDAS remains a difficult condition to treat.

Antibiotic therapy has worked for some. I have seen clinically where a short course of antibiotics, such as 10 to 14 days of Keflex, Penicillin or Zithromax definitely helps, particularly with the OCD behaviors. Often times a prolonged course of weekly oral Zithromax has been helpful as suppressing the symptoms of PANDAS. In other situations more advanced biomedical therapies such as intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) are needed to short-circuit the autoimmune response. Plasmapheresis, which is a blood cleansing process performed to help diminish the immune-toxin reactions, has shown benefit for some individuals as well. Unfortunately, no treatment is 100% effective for everyone, and some people remain symptomatic even after medical intervention. Great Plains Laboratory – www.greatplainslaboratory.com carries a Streptococcal Panel which highlights immune reactions to strep. If positive this can then be correlated with behavioral and physical manifestations related to PANDAS to see if a treatment trial is indicated.

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Autism Treatmentand the Biomedical Approach – Patience and Perseverance Is Critical For Long-Term Success

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

Biomedicine for autism at its roots is a medical approach for treating autism. It is more than just using psychiatric drugs or behavioral therapy. It is the understanding that for most individuals on the autism-spectrum there are underlying medical problems such as intestinal problems, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, biochemical imbalances and more that contribute directly to their autistic condition.

The implementation of biomedical therapies for individuals with an autism-spectrum disorder is a process of both investigation and patience. The investigative part is determining effectiveness of a therapy versus another. The patience aspect is critical because certain therapies act more quickly than others, and learning to track progress overtime both on a physical and cognitive level is critical. For example, Methyl-B12 therapy (also called Methylcobolamin or MB12) can act very quickly with positive benefits seen in 4 to 6 weeks – in some cases within days. Examples are improved attention, better eye contact and more appropriate speech. On the other hand, a treatment like Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – although it can be extremely beneficial – may takeseveral months before positive changes such as better language, more appropriate behavior, and improved immune function are appreciated. In order to implement biomedical autism treatments you have be open-minded and willing to explore new remedies such as dietary changes, supplement therapy, methylation support (through the use of Methyl-B12), detoxification, etc. with your child, and be tenacious in tracking positive and/or negative changes to best ascertain which remedies help the most and which ones are ineffective.

This process of biomedical intervention is not always easy. However, overtime many parents look back at the biomedical approach they have done and know that positive changes have happened. Perhaps their child has more appropriate language, better awareness of their environment and is more engaged socially with family members. Also, a child’s behavior has improved with less self-stimulation, less irritability or complete lack of aggression. Obviously, these are very desirable outcomes.

As a parent implementing biomedical therapies you need to be cognizant of the fact that overtime biomedical therapies will overlap and you will be doing multiple therapies at once. You may reach a point where you’re not quite sure what is working and what is not working. This is a natural trend in any health program and in most situations is unavoidable. At some point, many parents will start to back away from various treatments such as reducing supplements or allowing for periodic gluten and/or milk consumption, etc. to see if any adverse reactions occur. Every person is different and some individuals who have benefitted greatly by biomedical intervention early on are able to handle less rigid programs overtime without losing the positive gains that were made originally.

Biomedicine for autism and learning the various autism treatments takes research and commitment, but the outcomes can be tremendous. Each person’s reaction to biomedical intervention is very individualized. It is not uncommon to expect a few years of consistent and overlapping treatments to be in place before many individuals can have their programs modified. However, know that as a parent or caregiver of someone on the autism-spectrum the biomedical approach to autism is replete with hope and potential for improved health of your loved one.

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AutismTreatment – Digestive, Allergy, and Behavioral Problems

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

Ongoing digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and reflux are often seen in clinical practice with individuals needing autism treatment. Recently, attention has been turned to an opportunistic intestinal infection called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Dr. Amy Yasko has been looking at this bacteria as a contributing factor in autism, and I have seen over the years in certain autistic individuals that Helicobacter pylori is a causative or contributing factor in their persistent problems of food allergies and intestinal dysbiosis. So what is Helicobacter pylori?

H. pylori is a bacterial infection that invades the lining of the stomach and upper intestine. It is commonly associated with ulcer formation, and is a risk factor for stomach cancer. Typically symptoms of H. pylori manifest as pain and pressure in the stomach region, bloating, distention, and reflux disease (heartburn). In individuals on the autism-spectrum these issues may manifest as behavioral problems such as irritability, agitation or self-abusive behavior after eating, poor appetite, avoidance of eating meat, night waking with irritability and self-stimulatory behavior such as chest pounding. Periodically, bad breath not associated with gum disease, and bowel dysfunction such as diarrhea and/or constipation are present.

A common finding in someone dealing with this infection is the need for digestive enzymes and antacids. H. pylori can cause reduction of hydrochloric acid (HCL) production in the stomach leading to the inability to adequately digest food, especially protein. Antacids work by reducing the amount of organic acids that are released by partially digested food, as well as neutralize the stomachs production of HCL. Although there are many natural treatments for H. pylori, it is generally recommended that one use antibiotic protocols to eradicate this organism, while using natural supplements such as garlic, colostrum, mastic gum, and lactoferrin as adjunctive therapy. The use of Matula Tea also seems to have promise against this bacteria as well.

A common mistake with H. pylori testing is inadequate data collection. H. pylori blood testing can be misleading, and most of the medical literature still debates the most effective means of diagnosis. However, I have had good success with diagnosis based on clinical suspicion, patient history, and the use of specific antibody testing. Antibodies are specific immune chemicals that are produced against bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These antibodies are called immunoglobulins (Ig) – IgG, IgM, and IgA. Most medical doctors will only test for IgG against H. pylori sometimes missing the more subtle immune response of the other immunoglobulins. I like to perform all three to increase the yield of detection. I will also perform an H. pylori stool test from BioHealth Diagnostics Laboratory because in certain individuals the Ig blood testing is inconclusive. In children on the autism-spectrum where blood testing is too difficult simply doing the stool antigen test from BioHealth is often enough to detect the presence of the organism.

Helicobacter pylori eradication is an important component in improving overall digestive function as well as total body balance. The human body should always be viewed as a unification of body systems and interrelated physiological function. In autism treatment, this is critical. The traditional medical community needs to move past its archaic viewpoint that autism is purely a neurodevelopmental disorder, and better understand that medical conditions can often be at the root of an autism-spectrum person’s problems.

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Common “Typical” Signs of Autism

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

Autism as a diagnosis is established based on specific observed behaviors. In addition, there are also various language problems and social interaction issues. No two autistic individuals, whether they are a child, teenager or adult, are exactly the same. Each individual had their own unique wants and desires. Biomedical autism treatments such as dietary changes, supplement therapy and others can help with many of the core autism problems.

Every person with autism has their own unique personality that manifests in a variety of ways. For example, one child can be affectionate, while another appears more aloof. The same thing can be seen with behaviors where one person can be quick to tantrum or be aggressive, while another is calm and non-assertive. There are many interventions that can be utilized to help such as behavioral therapy and autism biomedical treatments.

Language problems, including both receptive and expressive is a major problem in autism. Some individuals are mildly affected, while others have a complete loss of speech. Once again, biomedical autism treatments such as Methyl-B12, folinic acid and Respen-A therapy have helped many with language problems.

Listed below are some core signs of autism that you should be aware of. Even though the severity of symptoms varies from person to person, each person with autism will likely have some issue from each category:

Communication and Language

Lack in speech or limited language development.

Echolalia (as a stereotypical behavior). This sign of autism manifests as repeating something over and over such as a phrase from a video or movie.

Difficulty initiating or maintaining conversation.

Difficulty understanding the nuisances of communication such as humor or concern.

Note: In addition to speech therapy commonly which is commonly implemented for these problems, biomedical autism treatments can help with language development too. I have treated many children in my practice with significant language problems and seen very positive response. One child in particular went from 30 words to over 300 words in 3 weeks with the use of Methyl-B12 therapy.

Social Engagement and Awkwardness

Poor eye contact, poor recognition of facial expressions or body posturing. Lack of social cues recognition

Decreased or absent interest in sharing enjoyment, i.e. playfulness with other people. Lack of humor appropriate for age.

Lack or diminished interest in developing friendships. Overall poor social engagement.
Empathy is lacking. Poor or complete lack of awareness for another person’s pain, desires, or ambitions. Rigid in thinking.

Needs constant order and structure.

Note: Many biomedical autism treatments such as Methyl-B12 therapy and/or the gluten/casein-free diet can help particularly with better eye contact and awareness of others.

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Autism Treatment – Is Autism Curable?

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

“Autism is curable.” This is a statement some people use to indicate that autism is a disease or health condition that can be overcome. Others have vehemently argued that autism is not a disease process at all, and therefore there is nothing to be cured from. The traditional medical community viewpoint is that there is no cure for autism and only supportive treatment such behavioral modification and drug therapies are options worth pursuing.

To fully understand the concept of cure we need to make a distinction between what is commonly called ‘cured’ (a return to a previous state of health before a change had occurred) and ‘recovery’ (the act of regaining health that was previously lost). Traditional medicine, and even those in the autism medical community realize that there is no known cure for autism, although there are different treatments available including biomedical autism interventions that can help individuals on the autism-spectrum such as diet, i.e. gluten-free and casein-free diet and/or the specific carbohydrate diet, nutritional supplement intervention (including multivitamin/minerals), Methyl-B12 therapy, Respen-A, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, detoxification, anti-fungal treatment, and much more, as well as non-biomedical therapies including applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech and occupational intervention. Traditional medicine even has treatments which are mostly drugs such as Risperdal to suppress aberrant behavior. However, none of these treatments are curative.

I do not use the word ‘cure’ in my consultations, internet postings, lectures, or writings when discussing the various treatments available for individuals on the autism-spectrum. Instead, the more appropriate word I like to use is ‘recover.’ Here is an analogy. If you have an accident and break your arm, and overtime your broken arm heals to the point that movement is restored and it appears indistinguishable from before the accident this would indicate a recovery from your injury. However, your arm would still have suffered the injury and therefore an absolute cure from the accident (and subsequent broken arm) is not possible. You still had the broken arm. However, normal function in your arm has been regained…you recovered!

A similar concept applies to autism. Children (as well as teenagers or adults) are not cured from their autism. However, some individuals can recover, losing their diagnosis, and appear indistinguishable from their peers. In these cases their autism was reversed, most or all symptoms of their disorder have disappeared, and they now function typical of other people, but they will always have had what is classified as autism. So what do you think? is autism curable?

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Autism Treatment – Self-Injury Behavior and Autism

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

Self-injury behavior is quite common in autism. I have seen some serious cases where individuals on the autism-spectrum have damaged fingers and hands (from biting) and created deep bruises (from head banging and facial slapping) from self-abusive behavior. There are several theories as to why this occurs, and some resources that can help.

The lack of effective communication skills is likely one of the major reasons for self-injury behavior. The significant language deficits in autism often lead to frustration in a person not being able to communicate their wants or being able to get their point across. The self-abusive behavior such as self-biting can be a way of releasing their frustration. Self-injury can also be a way for an individual on the autism-spectrum to get attention. For example, head-banging or scratching until bleeding occurs will usually draw a parent, therapist or care givers immediate attention. Learning to recognize the different patterns of self-abusive behavior, i.e. the difference between frustration over the inability to communicate versus attention seeking can help in alleviating some of the stress that autistic individuals feel.

Anxiety can be another cause of self-injury behavior. Anxiety in general is high in autism, and if accompanied by self-biting, hitting, slapping, and scratching recognizing the pattern that leads to anxiety, i.e. social gatherings, crowds – then steps can be taken to reduce stressful situations or various treatment intervention, i.e. medication, supplements (GABA, theanine) can be implemented to help ease anxiety.

Recently, studies have uncovered that biochemical changes can occur that contribute to our understanding as to why certain individuals on the autism-spectrum will self-injure themselves. Various chemicals called endorphins are released which influence brain chemistry leading to relief of pain and frustration. In some people these chemicals have a natural calming effect. The improved feelings of calmness may be short-lived, but it does occur. Unfortunately, repeated need to self-abuse is prevalent to induce the endorphin release again. In essence, self-abusive behavior becomes addictive in attempts to get a fix on natural endorphin release for improved sense of temporary well-being.

Some authorities feel that ignoring self-injurious behavior is preferred, but this can be a difficult thing to do for any parent or caregiver. Other reports that learning communication and behavior therapy, possibly along with medication and/or biomedical intervention (diet, supplements) is a better way to proceed. For all family members who are involved in the care of a person with autism learning techniques through communication training is very important. Working with a trained behavior therapist who can help decipher what is causing the self-abusive tendencies can go a long way in eliminating or reducing this troubling behavior.

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Chronic Yeast Toxicity and Autism

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

The organic acid test is essential to analyze for yeast, and bacterial overgrowth. It is also helpful to assess the level of oxalate excretion, and other factors related to glutathione and antioxidant status, serotonin metabolism, quinolinic acid production (a marker for potential brain toxicity) as well as markers for in-born errors of metabolism including oxalate and amino acid dysfunction.

Case History Yeast and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS)

Mark was one of my first ASD cases back in 1998. He was a 2 year old boy diagnosed with PPD-NOS (not otherwise specified). His development was typical of the history listed above. Multiple ear infections had led to repeated antibiotics for months on end. Loose stools were the norm as he struggled to maintain eye contact and learn in school. I ordered an Organic Acid Test (OAT) from Great Plains laboratory and discovered a massive amount of yeast metabolites – arabinose being the most common and quite elevated in Mark. Being new to biomedicine for autism all I knew (back in 1998) to do was make a recommendation for a gluten/casein-free diet and antifungal therapy. The anti-fungal medication was called Nystatin. Mark’s mother also implemented some basic supplements including a multi-vitamin and mineral, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.

After 18 months of continuous use of Nystatin, dietary modification and general nutritional support Mark was mainstreamed into regular school and continued to do well. His repeat OAT finally showed no yeast overgrowth. This case illustrated for me the powerful changes that could happen for an ASD child with basic dietary intervention and prolonged antifungal therapy.

Yeast has a tremendous effect on health. What are common in children with yeast overgrowth are behaviors that suggest dissociation, withdrawal, and aloofness. The most common behaviors that I see most commonly attributable to a yeast overgrowth problem are the following:

Poor eye contact.
Increased self-stimulatory behavior – fixating on spinning objects, odd hand movements including and finger-flicking in front of eyes.
Toe-walking.
Becoming withdrawn.
“Silly, goofy and/or giddy” – but this is not a behavior that involves other people. The child becomes silly, goofy and/or giddy to themselves. Parents will often describe that their child appears drunk.
Increased sugar craving.
Overall increased sensory seeking behavior, i.e. pressure

Other parents can describe more subtle differences, but those listed above are fairly common manifestations. What is most prevalent with “yeasty” behavior is a giddiness that mimics drugged or drunk behavior. When they are put on medications such as Nystatin or natural remedies, i.e. oregano oil, and/or grapefruit seed extract these behaviors improve.

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Autism Treatment – Chronic Stress and Autism

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

Everyone experiences stress in their lives. What separates one person from the next is how their body adapts to stress. Not all stress is bad, as stress can have its benefits in helping the body react, grow and adapt such as building a vibrant immune system. However, chronic stress can lead to long-term health consequences. Stress can come in many forms. Environmental changes such as cold, heat and extreme weather is a form of stress. Foods and food allergies are a form of stress. Mental and emotional factors are a major cause of stress in many people. Parents of autistic children experience a tremendous amount of mental and emotional stress in having to take care of a special needs child.

Vaccines are a form of stress that pushes the immune system to produce protective immune chemicals against vaccine related illnesses. Unfortunately, at times these reactions go array and lead to biochemical imbalances in the body and brain. Hormone imbalances, digestive problems, immune system dysfunction, metabolic disorders can all occur from a chronic burden of stress. Even children respond to stress in similar ways as adults with many of them experiencing mental/emotional changes such as depression, anxiety, and fear.

Children on the autism-spectrum experience stress in a profound way. Cognitive decline, lack of speech, anxiety, lack of social connections, and other behavioral manifestations are a form of mental/emotional stress. In my experience autism-spectrum children are dealing with a lot of physical challenges as well, many of which contribute and worsen their already declining cognitive abilities. Digestive disorders like diarrhea, constipation, yeast and bacterial infections cause a tremendous amount of toxicity in the body. This can cause pain, headaches and a feeling of overall sickness. Immune dysfunction in many children predisposes them to opportunistic infections such as viral, bacterial and yeast imbalances.

Food allergies and sensitivities play a big role in chronic illness. With autism many individuals are burdened with multiple food sensitivities. This leads to bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and malabsorption – all common in autism. Malabsorption (difficulty in absorbing nutrients from the digestive tract into the blood stream) leads partly to the epidemic of nutritional deficiencies seen often in autistic children. Some of these nutritional deficiencies like iron and B-vitamins can lead to anemia causing fatigue, blood cell abnormalities and immune problems. In short, most autism-spectrum children are dealing with various forms of stress in their lives, and much of this stress is interfering with their ability to get well.

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What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome and How Does It Relate to Treating Autism?

Posted on 06 September 2011 by admin

Leaky gut syndrome is a phenomenon in which micro-particles, i.e. food fragments, viruses, bacteria and yeast proteins, and other bio-toxic material are leeched into the blood stream from a breakdown of the intestinal mucosal barrier. With respect to autism, leaky gut is thought to contribute to unwanted molecules (food, bacteria, yeast, etc.) permeating through the intestinal wall and cross-reacting with the immune system (leading to increased susceptibility for allergies) and the brain (leading to problems in cognitive function, language, and behavior), as well as leading to brain inflammation.

Leaky gut syndrome is detrimental for a person’s health because toxic substances which are normally bound in the fecal matter making its way through the digestive system for eventual elimination, now has access through a permeable mucosal membrane leading to physical stress throughout the body. For example, a food protein like gliadin (found in wheat) may trigger brain chemical reactions altering attention, mood, sleep and pain response. If the substance is from an intestinal pathogen such as a bacteria it can trigger immune reactions leading to autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune is the process of the body’s immune system attacking itself and it is known that various infectious proteins can trigger this response, i.e. bacterial toxins leading to reactive arthritis (formally called Reiter’s Syndrome) or PANDAS – a autoimmune post-streptococcal infection condition triggered by group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.

What causes leaky gut syndrome is not entirely known. In autism, part of the issue could be gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that certain individuals have a difficult time digesting. With the inability to breakdown gluten in the gut an inflammatory reaction is created which weakens the gut wall. Inside the gut wall are millions of tiny cells that are responsible for absorbing nutrients from our diet, as well as releasing enzymes to help breakdown the food stuff in the gut. The spaces between cells are vulnerable through something called a tight junction. A tight junction is material that holds cells together. Think of it like mortar between bricks in a wall. If the mortar breaks down than overtime the bricks collapse and the wall falls over. The same thing can happen in the digestive system with the tight junctions breaking down and the space between cells becoming more “leaky.”

Other potential contributing factors to leaky gut are alcohol, caffeine, certain drugs like ibuprofen and diets high in carbohydrates. In autism, a diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is used to eliminate the build-up of inflammation in the gut from hard to digest carbohydrates, i.e. corn, potatoes, rice. The results with this diet can be remarkable in helping autism-spectrum individuals improve their health and overall cognitive abilities. For parents with autistic children, as well as doctors and researchers looking at the role of leaky gut in autism, there is always more to understand with respects to causes and treatment. Simply understanding that leaky gut exists in autism is important and will help everyone involved in the care of an autistic individual better understand some of the reasons behind their health and cognitive challenges.

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