Childhood neurological disorders (NDs) are typically diagnosed by professionals with psychology and psychiatry backgrounds. Parents are often told that their child’s diagnosis is the result of genes and is psychological in nature. Typical “psychological” manifestations of these NDs in children may include delayed speech, lack of eye contact, impaired or non-present social skills, shyness, perseverative behavior (doing the same thing repeatedly), delayed gross or fine motor skills, sensory integration issues (sound and touch sensitivity, etc.), not responding to one’s name, inflexibility with transitions, and major, often unexplained, changes in mood.
Yet, the physical or medical issues that these children often share are rarely noted or discussed. Typical physical manifestations of children with NDs may include food allergies and eczema, general gastrointestinal distress, constipation and diarrhea, yeast overgrowth, immune system disregulation, and sleep disturbances. Typically, proper testing also reveals high levels of environmental toxins relative to neurotypical children.
What has happened to our children? We believe our children’s bodies are overwhelmed by a combination of heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum, etc.), live viruses (particularly from vaccines), and bacteria. These toxins serve to slow or shut down normal biochemical pathways in the body and lead to the physical and mental manifestations we call NDs. Perhaps the best description of what happens to our children is Autism: A Twisted Tale of Virus and Thimerosal, by Dr. Amy Yasko.
Biomedical intervention for NDs is based on the belief that the psychological symptoms of NDs are a product of the physical issues the child is experiencing and that addressing the physical issues will lead to an improvement in the psychological symptoms. (We were very pleased to read the recent cover story in Discover magazine that clearly spells out that autism is “not just in the head” but may actually originate in the gut and from environmental toxins.)
The following is our best attempt to get you started on the path to healing your child. This is not medical advice. It is the opinion of parents, not doctors. The most important thing you can do as a parent is find a qualified physician to help you treat your child. All that is written here is for informational purposes only.
The ultimate goal of biomedical treatment is to remove environmental toxins from your child’s body and repair the damage that has been done. Today, there is a bewildering array of potential treatment modalities for parents to follow. Some of the most popular include:
The DAN Protocol. DAN, or Defeat Autism Now!, is a project of the Autism Research Institute. The DAN Protocol is not a clear and explicit protocol, per se, but rather a general approach to treating children that is being followed by a group of doctors known as DAN doctors. The best resource to get a background in the DAN approach is the book Children with Starving Brains, written by Jaquelyn McCandless, MD, a DAN doctor. A complete list of DAN doctors is available at www.autism.com/dan/ danusdis.htm. DAN Conferences are held for parents twice a year. Yahoo discussion groups that include parents working with DAN doctors include ChelatingKids2 and ABMD.
The Cutler Protocol. Andy Cutler is a scientist who developed a protocol for removing heavy metals from the body. His protocol is detailed in his book, Amalgam Illness, and through the Yahoo discussion group Autism-Mercury. Many of the parents using the Cutler Protocol to remove toxins from their child’s body are also using a DAN doctor and many of the DAN approaches to treatment.
Dr. Amy Yasko. Dr. Yasko’s approach to treating children with NDs has many similarities to DAN, but focuses treatment on the specific genes of the child, providing a roadmap that some parents believe is more customized. Her approach is also more focused on the removal of viruses and bacteria from the child’s body. Learn more through her websites, www.dramyyasko.com and www.holistichealth.com, her parent discussion group, and her book, The Puzzle of Autism: Putting It All Together.
Michael Lang’s Natural Detoxification Program. Michael Lang is the founder of Brainchild Nutritionals, a supplement company serving children with NDs. Recently, he published a helpful guide with his own recommendations for how to detoxify a child with an ND safely and effectively.
Methyl B12 and Valtrex. A number of parents have experienced particular success using a combination of Methyl B12 (a vitamin) and Valtrex (a prescription drug that suppresses viruses). This approach has been spelled out by a parent who recovered his son from autism, Stan Kurtz.
Homeopathy. Many parents report great results using homeopathy. The best description of this approach is available in a book written by a parent, The Impossible Cure. Also, check out the discussion group run by the Homeopathy Center of Houston serving children with NDs.
Most parents employ some combination of the above approaches in treating their child. It can be frustrating for a parent to realize how varied the treatment approaches can be, which is why it’s critical to find a doctor to work closely with to find the right approach for your child. Reading about biomedical treatments for NDs is very overwhelming and it is helpful to keep the “big picture” in mind. The 4 most important things you can do to help heal your child are:
1. Bring down the toxin load.
2. Help the gut heal.
3. Get the nutrients up.
4. Get the metals and other toxins out.
1. Bring down the toxin load.
Toxins are anything that creates stress on the body because they are challenging for the body to excrete. Unfortunately, we have not evolved as human beings fast enough with all the toxins we are now putting into our environment. This is particularly true for children, and especially for children suffering from heavy metal poisoning. The following list is representative of the things you can do to bring the toxic load of your child down. It includes removing dietary toxins including dairy, wheat, trans fats, artificial ingredients, and sugar; reducing household toxins; and avoiding toxins from vaccines and dental fillings. No parent is able to do everything on this list. No parent is able to make a lot of changes overnight. We encourage you to work with your doctor to see which of these make the most sense for your child:
Remove casein (dairy) and gluten (wheat) from the diet. Much has been written about the “GF/CF” diet. Our experience is that this diet tends to benefit most children. The simple explanation is that wheat and dairy proteins are very hard for the body to digest. They often permeate the gut of children with environmental toxicity, get into the bloodstream where they do not belong, and serve as a neurotoxin creating “brain fog.” Most parents see faster results when they remove dairy. If this feels daunting, perhaps experiment with dairy removal first and look for any changes in your child. Removing dairy will not deplete your child of nutrition, particularly if you follow the guidelines under step 3, below.
Remove other food allergens from the diet. The most common allergens are dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, and corn. Most children who are sensitive to dairy are sensitive to soy. (Use rice milk as a milk substitute, not soy milk). An ELISA blood test measuring IgE and IgG anti-bodies will help you determine your child’s food sensitivities.
Get rid of “bad” food and sugar. Trans fatty acids (anything with the word “hydrogenated” in it), artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, nitrates (in hot dogs), and aspartame (Nutrasweet) all add stress to the body. We highly recommend you switch to only natural and organic foods and try to limit sweets as much as possible.
Remove conventional household cleaners. There is a natural version of every household cleaner you own available at natural food stores and some large supermarkets. Conventional cleaners like 409, Ajax, etc. are filled with toxins that your children ingest and have to process. Natural cleaners are significantly less toxic.
Add a HEPA air filter to your child’s room. This will help keep airborne toxins in your house down.
Cook to keep toxins down. Cook only on stainless steel; non-stick pans contain aluminum. Don’t cook on or with aluminum foil. Never microwave plastic; it leeches chemicals into the food.
If your child needs dental work, never use “silver” fillings, as they contain mercury. If your child has mercury fillings, get them removed with a mercury-free dentist. A list by state is available at www.iaomt.org.
If your child needs a vaccination, ensure they are thimerosal-free.
Don’t renovate while you live at home. A renovation project in the middle of trying to reduce the toxic load will put a lot of stress on your child’s body. New paints, new carpets, and sealants all produce volatile organic compounds that are very hard for the body to process.
Use fluoride-free toothpaste. Flouride is a potent neurotoxin. Natural toothpastes do an effective job at preventing tooth decay without being poisonous. There’s a reason fluoride toothpaste has to say on the label “contact poison control” if swallowed (see for yourself ).
2. Help the gut heal.
Environmental illness typically causes gastrointestinal distress and food sensitivities. When the gastrointestinal system is compromised, the immune system suffers as well. Some ways to help the gut heal include:
Removal of food allergens: gluten and casein seem to be the most common allergens.
Cod liver oil: a critical supplement for that provides much needed vitamin A and also helps to heal the sensitive walls of the intestine.
Probiotics: natural supplements that provide the stomach with “good” gut flora.
Digestive enzymes: assist the body in breaking down foods, which can help eliminate large proteins gaining access to the blood stream.
Colostrum: a natural supplement that provides many gut-healing and immune-system boosting properties.
3. Get the nutrients up.
A broad vitamin and mineral supplement is critical for restoring health. Minerals are particularly important because many toxins like mercury directly impact mineral transport within the body. Zinc, selenium, and magnesium are particularly important for restorative health. Also, the use of certain chelating agents may deplete minerals which means the build-up of mineral levels in advance of chelation or other forms of detoxification is very important. Your doctor will work with you to design a nutrient plan tailored to your child’s unique biochemistry.
4. Get the toxins out.
Detoxification is critical to restoring your child to proper health. Some of the more popular forms of detoxification include chelation and natural detoxifiers.
Chelation requires the care of a qualified doctor and involves using a prescription chelating agent in an oral or transdermal form. The most popular chelating agents include DMSA, DMPS, and EDTA. Please note that EDTA can be purchased without a prescription. A popular form of EDTA is in a suppository, made by Detoxamin.
There are a number of natural products for removing heavy metals and other toxins including Natural Cellular Defense, PCA-Rx, and NDF. There are parent discussion groups online for parents using both Natural Cellular Defense and NDF. Anecdotally, we have heard of parents who have had great success with these products and there are some doctors who use one or more of these products within their own treatment protocol.
About the Author:
This article was contributed by Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Organization. Visit them here: www.generationrescue.org
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #21.
To purchase this issue, Order Here.