What is Autism?
Symptoms of Autism
Causes of autism / risk factors for autism
Prevention / remedies / cures / treatment for Autism
What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of three neural developmental disabilities. The three disorders are: autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder.
Autism affects both the brain and body of young children. These children exhibit impaired social interaction; impaired verbal and non-verbal communication; and restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behaviour. The symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old.
How autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize is not well understood.
Autism affects about 0.1-0.2% of all children worldwide. In the USA ten times as many children are affected, at about 2% (up from 1% in 2007). (3,4,5) Boys are diagnosed with ASD about four times more than girls. (8)
Symptoms of Autism
Symptoms are highly variable with each individual child. Parents usually notice the first signs at around six months, and usually before the age of two. The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first develop more normally and then regress. Symptoms may continue through to adulthood, but usually in a more muted form.
- Social interaction. People with autism often lack the intuition about others that many people take for granted.
Infants show less attention to social stimuli and respond less to their own name. They smile and look at others less often.
Toddlers make less eye contact and do not have the ability to use simple movements such as pointing at things to express themselves. They won't take turns with others.
Three to five year olds don't show social understanding, approach others spontaneously, imitate and respond to emotions, communicate nonverbally, or take turns with others. However, they do form attachments to their primary caregivers.
Autistic children have difficulty making and maintaining friends.
Tantrums tend to be more common, and they may exhibit aggression or destruction of property.
- Communication. The worst-affected third to half of autistic children may not be able to function normally because of their restricted communication.
In their first year, infants may display delayed onset of babbling, diminished responsiveness, and vocal patterns that are not synchronised with the caregiver.
In their second and third years, autistic children have less frequent and less diverse babbling, words and word combinations; their gestures are less often integrated with their words. They are less likely to make requests or share experiences, and are more likely to simply repeat others' words.
After the age of 8-15 some autistic children may seem to communicate normally, but may not understand what they are receiving.
- Restricted interests and repetitive behaviour. No single behaviour seems to be specific to autism, but autistic children tend to exhibit such behaviours more often and strongly. They include:
Repetitive movements and unusual gestures such as hand flapping, head rolling, or body rocking.
Resistance to change, such as insisting that the furniture not be moved or refusing to be interrupted.
Obsessive rule-following, such as arranging objects in stacks or lines.
Rituals such as eating, dressing or doing things the same way.
Preoccupation with a single television program, toy, or game.
Self-injury such as eye poking, skin picking, hand biting, and head banging.
- Other symptoms. Most people with ASD have problems with motor coordination, more so with autism. (6,7) More than two thirds of autistic people show some level of poor muscle tone, poor motor planning, and toe walking.
Children may be particularly fussy eaters, and have eating rituals.
A few children may show exceptional memory, perception or attention, often in a narrow area.
Causes of autism / risk factors for autism
- Bacterial imbalance (usually caused by antibiotics). Loss of healthy bacteria, and the proliferation of other bacteria and micro-organisms. One study showed that autistic children had significantly fewer types of gut bacteria, making them more vulnerable to overgrowth by pathogenic bacteria. (10)
Children with autism almost always have digestive disorders, and these gastrointestinal problems usually continue through to adulthood.
In a study published in April 2019 (20), Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and colleagues at Arizona State University sequenced the dna of gut bacteria from 20 autistic children to discover which species were present and missing. They found that the autistic children in their study were missing hundreds of species of bacteria that are found in a healthy person's intestines. One notable absence was Prevotella, which ferments otherwise-indigestible carbohydrate polymers in dietary fibre. Prevotella is abundant in the alimentary canals of farmers and hunter-gatherers who have never been exposed to antibiotics, but it is rare in western Europeans and Americans, and nearly non-existent in children with autism spectrum disorder. Bifidobacterium was another species of bacteria that was largely missing in the autistic children.
Eighteen autistic children participated in the study. Fifteen of them had severe autism. Eighteen weeks after they were given a faecal transplant, also called microbiota transfer therapy (MTT), significant improvements were apparent. After two years, only two of the group were still severely autistic, and eight of the group (the majority) were completely cured. (20)
In another study (21), researchers were able to introduce autism symptoms into mice after transplanting faeces from autistic humans. However, the mice stayed healthy after transplanting faeces from non-autistic humans. Dr Mazmanian and his team also found that the intensity of a human donor's autism was transferred to the recipient mice. If an individual person's symptoms were severe then so, too, were the symptoms of the mice that hosted his gut bacteria. (21)
- Vaccines. Giving a vaccine to a child who is ill dramatically increases the risk of that child getting autism and being severely affected for his/her life. (13) If the child has digestive problems, a compromised immune system, is fighting any kind of infection, has recently required antibiotics or any kind of medical attention, or is other than completely normal and healthy, then that child should NOT be given a vaccination because it could result in a disaster. Even if the child is in perfect health, there is a risk that his/her development milestones will be reversed and they could still get autism from the vaccination. The pharmaceutical companies are fighting their culpability in every possible manner, as it will show them being just as culpable as the tobacco companies were a few decades ago when they were in complete denial that smoking is harmful to your health. (11)
- Toxic diet. Autism is correlated with processed foods and a Western diet. Processed foods and drinks are a primary source of the toxins that cause ASD.
Mothers who consume seafood during pregnancy lower their baby's risk of autism. Cold water ocean fish are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain development. Do not use omega-3 supplements. (16)
Genetically modified foods are a cause of autism. It is essential to eat an organic and GMO-free diet.
- Vitamin D deficiency, both in mothers during pregnancy and in infants. (1, 14, 19)
Insufficient sunlight. There is increased prevalence of autism in regions of greater cloud cover and rainfall where there are lower levels of sunlight. (1) Many studies show that children born during the spring are more prone to autism. In the northern hemisphere, March is the time of lowest vitamin D levels in the mid-latitudes. This corresponds to brain damage around the sixth month of pregnancy.
Having a dark skin. Those with a dark skin produce less vitamin D from sunlight.
- Inflammation. Studies suggest that abnormal activation of the immune system can cause inflammatory tissue damage that eventually leads a wide variety of problems such as autism, compromised behavioural development, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, psoriasis and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In particular, there is a risk of damage to the foetus during pregnancy. Studies in experimental mice show that stimulating the mother's immune system during pregnancy causes offspring with altered gene expression in the brain, problems with behavioural development, and immune system changes and autoimmune disorders. (12)
- Pharmaceutical drugs. In a study (18) of 966 mother-child pairs (mostly boys), researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public health found that prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a frequently prescribed treatment for depression, anxiety and other mental and psychological disorders, was associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delays (DD) in the children.
Examples of common SSRIs include Citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and sertraline (Zoloft).
Use of and psychiatric drugs by the mother during pregnancy. (9, 17, 18)
- Environmental toxins such as industrial and household chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, by-products of vehicles and factories and heavy metals.
- Premature delivery. The more premature the baby, the higher the risk of autism. Low maternal vitamin D level is a risk factor for premature delivery.
- Infection during pregnancy increases the risk of autism and schizophrenia. (1) Influenza and other fevers which raise body temperature during pregnancy can have adverse effects on the developing foetus. High levels of vitamin D may lower the risk for influenza.
- Oxidative stress. There are many papers in the literature reporting that vitamin D reduces oxidative stress.
- Advanced age in either parent. (9)
- Diabetes in either parent (9), or more particularly in the mother. (15)
Prevention / remedies / cures / treatment for Autism
- Faecal transplant, also known as Faecal microbial transplant or Microbiota transfer therapy (MTT). The majority of severely autistic children in a study were completely cured two years after treating them with a faecal microbial transplant. (20)
- Avoid antibiotics. Always avoid antibiotics as far as possible, particularly during pregnancy and while breast feeding. A single course of antibiotics can upset many individuals for life.
- Probiotics. Get the best possible bacterial exposure both before, during and after pregnancy. Use probiotic foods and drinks throughout life.
- Avoid genetically modified foods. Consume only certified non-GMO foods which are also organically grown.
- Intensive social and remedial connection with the child.
- Vitamin D. Ensuring sufficiency with good exposure to sunlight, a diet high in vitamin D and other nutrients, and possibly with vitamin D supplementation.
- Avoid processed food and drink, use high-nutrient traditional foods as described in Grow Youthful. Ideally, start taking action before pregnancy. People who live this diet and lifestyle have a high degree of resistance to most degenerative diseases.
- Fresh, unpolluted air to counter oxidative stress. Deep breathing. Therapies which improve breathing, such as yoga. This also suggests the use of oxygen therapies such as hydrogen peroxide in drinking or bathing water.
- Earthing or grounding.
- Many of the factors related to depression and other neuropathies also apply to autism.
- See details of remedies recommended by Grow Youthful visitors, and their experience with them.
1. John Cannell. Vitamin D Council.
2. William B. Grant. Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC), PO Box 641603, San Francisco, CA, 94164-1603 USA.
3. Rutter M. Incidence of autism spectrum disorders: changes over time and their meaning. Acta Paediatr. 2005;94(1):2-15. doi:10.1111. PMID 15858952.
4. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders - autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 14 sites, United States, 2008. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2012;61(3):1-19. PMID 22456193.
5. Stephen J. Blumberg, et al. Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011-2012. National Health Statistics Reports. March 2013;(65).
6. Geschwind DH. Advances in autism. Annu Rev Med. 2009;60:367-80. doi:10.1146/annurev.med.60.053107.121225. PMID 19630577.
7. Fournier KA, Hass CJ, Naik SK, Lodha N, Cauraugh JH. Motor coordination in autism spectrum disorders: a synthesis and meta-analysis. J Autism Dev Disord. 2010. doi:10.1007/s10803-010-0981-3. PMID 20195737.
8. Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J et al. The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders. Annu Rev Public Health. 2007;28:235-58. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007. PMID 17367287.
9. Gardener H, Spiegelman D, Buka SL. Prenatal risk factors for autism: comprehensive meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2009;195(1):7-14. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.051672. PMID 19567888.
10. Dae-Wook Kang, Jin Gyoon Park, Zehra Esra Ilhan, Garrick Wallstrom, Joshua LaBaer, James B. Adams, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown. Reduced Incidence of Prevotella and Other Fermenters in Intestinal Microflora of Autistic Children. 3 July 2013. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68322. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0068322.
11. Hedi Orbach, Nancy Agmon-Levin, Gisele Zandman-Goddard. Vaccines and Autoimmune Diseases of the Adult. Discovery Medicine, published online 4 February 2010.
12. Gloria B. Choi, Yeong S. Yim, Helen Wong, Sangdoo Kim, Hyunju Kim, Sangwon V. Kim, Charles A. Hoeffer, Dan R. Littman, Jun R. Huh. The maternal interleukin-17a pathway in mice promotes autismlike phenotypes in offspring. Science. Published online 28 Jan 2016. DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0314.
13. The 2016 film Man Made Epidemic provides compelling evidence that MMR and other vaccines applied to an infant too early, or a child who is not in excellent health, can result in autism with dreadful consequences for the life of that child, for its' family, and for society.
Filmmaker Natalie Beer sets off on a journey around the world speaking to leading doctors, scientists and families to find out the truth about the autism epidemic and whether or not vaccines have a role to play. The movie explores the common misconception that autism is solely genetic and looks into scientists concerns over recent years about environmental factors such as medication and pesticides which continue to leave our children with physical and neurological damage.
14. A A E Vinkhuyzen, D W Eyles, T H J Burne, L M E Blanken, C J Kruithof, F Verhulst, V W Jaddoe, H Tiemeier, J J McGrath. Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism-related traits: the Generation R Study. Molecular Psychiatry; advance online publication 29 November 2016; doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.213.
15. Anny H. Xiang, Xinhui Wang, Mayra P. Martinez, Kathleen Page, Thomas A. Buchanan, R. Klara Feldman. Maternal Type 1 Diabetes and Risk of Autism in Offspring. JAMA. Published online June 23, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.7614.
16. Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS, Biswas P, Thorpe GC, Moore HJ, Deane KHO, AlAbdulghafoor FK, Summerbell CD, Worthington HV, Song F, Hooper L. Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 18 July 2018. Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003177. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003177.pub3.
17. Daniel R. Morales,Jim Slattery,Stephen Evans, Xavier Kurz. Antidepressant use during pregnancy and risk of autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: systematic review of observational studies and methodological considerations. BMC Med. 2018; 16: 6. Published online 15 January 2018. doi: 10.1186/s12916-017-0993-3.
18. Rebecca A. Harrington, Li-Ching Lee, Rosa M. Crum, Andrew W. Zimmerman, Irva Hertz-Picciotto. Prenatal SSRI Use and Offspring With Autism Spectrum Disorder or Developmental Delay. Pediatrics May 2014, VOLUME 133 / ISSUE 5.
19. Eyles, Darryl W., Trzaskowski, Maciej, Vinkhuyzen, Anna A. E., Mattheisen, Manuel, Meier, Sandra, Gooch, Helen, Anggono, Victor, Cui, Xiaoying, Tan, Men Chee, Burne, Thomas H. J., Jang, Se Eun, Kvaskoff, David, Hougaard, David M., Norgaard-Pedersen, Bent, Cohen, Arieh, Agerbo, Esben, Pedersen, Carsten B., Borglum, Anders D., Mors, Ole, Sah, Pankaj, Wray, Naomi R., Mortensen, Preben B. and McGrath, John J. The association between neonatal vitamin D status and risk of schizophrenia. Scientific Reports, 8 1: 17692. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-35418-z.
20. Dae-Wook Kang, James B. Adams, Devon M. Coleman, Elena L. Pollard, Juan Maldonado, Sharon McDonough-Means, J. Gregory Caporaso & Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown. Long-term benefit of Microbiota Transfer Therapy on autism symptoms and gut microbiota. Scientific Reports 9, Article number: 5821 (2019). Published online 09 April 2019.
21. Gil Sharon, Nikki Jamie Cruz, Dae-Wook Kang, Daniel H. Geschwind, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Sarkis K. Mazmanian. Human Gut Microbiota from Autism Spectrum Disorder Promote Behavioral Symptoms in Mice. Cell 177, 1600-1618. 30 May 2019.