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Vitamin D and Behaviors

Vitamin D and Autism

New research is showing that up to 75% of children on the autism spectrum show significant improvement with high dose Vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D levels are very often significantly lower in children with autism and ADHD.

Vitamin D has many vital roles in our body, including enhancing intestinal absorption of other critical nutrients such as Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Phosphate and Zinc. Vitamin D is also very involved with immune function and regulating the inflammatory response within the body.

Vitamin D deficiency has been proven to play a role in many conditions such as autoimmune and behavioral disorders.

Unfortunately, very few foods contain Vitamin D. It is pretty limited to Wild Caught fish (salmon), mushrooms and some shellfish as well as fortified milk. Most of our Vitamin D supply is meant to come from the sun.

Recommended intakes for infants and children vary from 400IU to 1000IU per day depending on specific needs of the child.

However, higher doses are many times warranted for certain conditions and when deficiency is known.

Serum (blood) Vitamin D levels are very important to know prior to supplementing and should be checked again after about 6 months of supplementing. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider for the 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. According to research, ideally levels should be at least 45ng/ml.

Reports and research shows that there appears to be better cognition, focus, and eye contact in autism spectrum disorders and ADHD as vitamin D levels are normalized.

 

 

 

Mohommad, R, et.al, The Relationship between Serum Vitamin D Level and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Iran J Child Neurol. 2015 Autumn; 9(4): 48–53.
Cannell, J, Vitamin D and Autism, What’s New? Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2017 Feb 20.

Nutrient Deficiencies are typically the Root Cause of Behaviors. Get the list of Most Needed Supplements for Behavioral Conditions!

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oranges, healthy eating, autism

How Diet Change Helped My Son’s Autism

When my son first started showing signs of autism, I was determined to give it my all and find out how to help him.

I was so excited to have this little guy; I followed every guideline to a “T” and I watched all of his milestones so carefully.  All of his developmental milestones were met on time or even early. He crawled at 6 months, walked at 12 months, played ball, laughed, smiled, had eye contact and said first words, “mama”, “dada”, “ball”.

At 18 months he stopped saying new words and quit saying the few words he had been saying. At this time, he also started showing obsessive compulsive tendencies with lining his cars up. He would get down on the floor and study the wheels. The wheels of the car had to be perfectly aligned with the edge of the carpet.

He was no longer interested in play and only wanted to walk up and down stairs…nonstop. He would go up and down, up and down with no interest in anything else around him. He would stare at his cars for hours, open and close all the doors in the house numerous times, turn door knobs repeatedly, and stare at door hinges while inspecting exactly the way they were working.

He became obsessed with specific objects, such as a placemat and a cup he drank from. They had to be placed just right and he would stare at them without distraction incessantly. Some doors in our house had to be open and others had to be closed; the sunroof in the car had to be just as he wanted it or he would scream the whole way home.

He would have severe laughing fits followed by screaming and crying. Additionally, he was very sensitive to sounds and bright lights. Crowded stores would cause high anxiety for him and he would cover his ears any time we were driving down the highway. The sound of blenders and vacuum cleaners would sending him into screaming tantrums.

His OCD and meltdowns completely ruled our life for a while--the places we could go was very limited due to his behaviors. He had no interest in other kids and did not want to play.

I became concerned of him having autism and began to research. My research kept leading me to gluten free/casein free diets as a way to improve symptoms associated with this disorder. My initial reaction was, “oh he could never do that! That’s all he eats! Macaroni and cheese, pizza, breakfast cereal and grilled cheese.”

However, after many months of researching, I continued to be led to this same idea and I felt this was exactly the way to go. After all, what could it hurt? Maybe we would see some benefit and even get a little healthier in the process.

By this time, he had been diagnosed with multiple ear infections, viruses, colds and stomach bugs. My son seemed to be sick...all. the. time. He had even landed in the hospital from dehydration due to severe stomach virus and double ear infection at the same time.

He was very behind in language development as well as gross and fine motor skills by this point.

We found a few highly recommended integrative medicine doctors and clinical nutritionists and we began our journey of healing. We learned what was occurring on a biochemical basis to cause certain behaviors and make him not be able to effectively communicate with us.

We had our son tested for food allergies, food sensitivities, bacteria, yeast, viruses, and even parasites. He tested intolerances to gluten, dairy, eggs, and citrus. The gluten and casein were reacting like drugs in his body which is why that was the only thing he would eat. His gut was low in good bacteria, and high in bad bacteria and yeast. He tested low in several critical nutrients such as B12, Vitamin E, and Chromium--all very important in neurological function. The bacteria, yeast and food intolerances were preventing him from absorbing important nutrients and due to his very self-limiting diet, he was not getting adequate nutrients from foods.

The diet change began very simple. We substituted all of his favorite things with gluten free versions. Within three days he was trying new foods! We were able to progress the diet from there, eventually getting to a whole foods diet with even vegetables.

Once we started addressing these underlying issues, we started seeing much improvement in his ability to focus and concentrate and even started to hear new words from him. His ability to focus helped him learn new skills from his therapies. Within a few months, his OCD was greatly improved and his screaming tantrums had significantly decreased. His daily anxiety levels were dramatically reduced and our happy, playful boy was returning to us. We continued improving his diet over the years and we added supplements needed based on blood work for nutritional deficiencies.

Today, my son is 11 years old and he no longer has obsessive compulsive behaviors. His once very uncontrollable anxiety is now very well managed. He has excellent gross and fine motor skills, imaginative play and is very social. He is in a mainstream classroom and has several friends. I wasn’t sure at one time if I would ever hear him say “mama” again, or hear him say “I love you”. It was very hard to foresee any type of conversation with him. Now, we have full conversations and he is curious about everything. It is often sometimes challenging to get him to STOP talking, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The more I continued to research, the more interested I became in the biochemistry of our bodies and the impact they have to heal themselves in so many ways. There are many chronic conditions on the rise; it is not just autism.

Genetic components mixed with environmental triggers make for a very chaotic cascade of  health conditions. While this is not about "treating" autism, it is about making the child healthier.

Many times, a child's "autism-like" behavior can result from specific medical issues, food sensitivities or nutrient depletion. Once treating these specific issues, the child is healthier and feels better which results in better behaviors and communication.

donuts, gluten

What Are Food Sensitivities & How Do They Contribute To Children’s Behaviors?

Most people are very aware of the effects of common food allergies. People may suffer from hives, difficulty breathing, sneezing, runny nose, or itching.

Very commonly overlooked, however, are food sensitivities (commonly referred to as “hidden food allergies”) which can contribute to many different health conditions as well.

If someone has a sensitivity to a specific food, an IgG (Immunoglobulin G) response occurs in the body. This is different from the IgE response which occurs in an “allergy”. The IgE response activates an immediate release of histamine. However, with the IgG immune response there is still a reaction happening which activates cytokines (immune response chemicals) in the body, though this is very commonly a delayed response and does not have the antigen-antibody response that the IgE reaction does.

This response can happen hours or even up to 7 days later. These cytokines can inflame the gut, the brain, or even respiratory tract and can affect how you or your child feels emotionally and physically.

Some common symptoms seen with the effects of food sensitivities in children are:

• Inconsistent performance: he or she will know the material one day but not the next.
• Poor memory
• Struggles with focusing and attention.
• Sensory processing problems: things such as noises, tags, foods, and transitions bother this child
• Irritability
• Hyperactivity
• Frequent meltdowns

Additionally, the child may have frequent infections, constant allergies, or digestive issues.
The best way to determine if someone has a food sensitivity is by an elimination diet, which consists of eliminating the foods which are most commonly contributors. A typical elimination diet lasts approximately 3 weeks in which the foods are slowly added back in to see if a reaction occurs.

Specific blood work can also be looked at to determine an IgG response to foods.

The most common food contributors to causing a food sensitivity in the body are:

• Dairy
• Eggs
• Gluten – Protein in Wheat, Rye, Oats and Barley
• Sugar (Especially if your child has candida, a yeast overgrowth which can effect behavior, common in children with neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD and Autism.)
• Shellfish
• Soy
• Food Dyes, Preservatives, Pesticides, GMO’s (Genetically Modified Foods)

 

Contact  me with any questions or for more information.

 

 

 

References:
Lord, Richard, Bralley, J., Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicines, 2nd edition, Metametrix Institute, 2012, pgs. 433-436

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Favorite Autism Resources

When we first decided to change the way our family ate, it was challenging.

This was such a big change and it was something completely foreign to us. My husband was not on board with it in the least because we were literally taking out the only things in my son’s diet that he would eat. His diet was extremely limited and we were already facing the struggles of a diagnosis of autism.

We could not imagine trying to change this aspect of our lives at the moment. I did so much research in this time and needed to know *why* I was going to make the change. Understanding exactly how this was going to make a difference was so important to me and it would be easier to explain to and convince my husband if I had some real understanding.

Through time, I will continue to add to my blog posts to give you the same guidance and understanding. For those of you that like to look at the science , I will provide that. So much incredible research has been done over the last few years and is continuing to be done.

It seems that every month there is a new research article released discussing the benefits of gluten free diet with autism (and autoimmune conditions) and how vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as the health of the gut microbiome (good vs bad bacteria in digestive tract) dramatically affect the symptoms while also showing some guidance toward further research looking for causal factors.

Through our journey, I read so many books and went to so many different websites. Here, I am listing some of the ones that were the most helpful in our journey. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like further guidance on this topic.

 

 

  • GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD

 

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autism, behavior, help, interventions

Helping My Child With Autism. Where Do I Start?

Prior to 1980, autism was only seen in approximately 1 in 10,000 kids. Now, according to the CDC, autism rates are 1 in 45.

There are many pieces to the autism puzzle.

 

The medical community agrees that there are multiple factors involved in autism and it is the general consensus that it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental triggers.

 

The GI tract is now referred to as the “Second Brain” and contains 100’s of millions of neurons—more than the peripheral nervous system. Genetic factors such as MTHFR, and environmental factors, such as nutrient deficiencies, toxins, antibiotics, gut dysbiosis and food intolerances all influence inflammation and the gut/brain barrier. Getting to these core concepts can result in better communication, more focus and concentration and improved behaviors.

 

An increasing number of parents are seeking biomedical interventions for their children on the autism spectrum as well as for ADHD.

Clinical nutrition for autism and other behavioral conditions addresses some of the biomedical theories related to autism. The four main areas addressed under this approach are gastrointestinal abnormalities, immune dysfunctions, detoxification abnormalities, and/or nutritional deficiencies/ imbalances.

Addressing these issues can help control specific behaviors associated with these conditions!

It is often wondered how the gut can cause certain “autistic behaviors”. The medical literature is revealing that an imbalanced microbiome combined with “leaky gut” can cause an inflammatory immune response in the brain.

What about Genetics?

There are many aspects to genetics in autism. There is continuous research in this area as well. However, as we are finding out, genetics just sets things up ….there is something environmentally that triggers the spiral. A lot of this genetic research is focused on methylation and detoxification.  According to University of California Davis, “nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics, is the study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients (and other naturally occurring compounds) in the foods we eat.” Genetics cannot be fixed…however, supporting the system can make a profound difference in prevention and treatment of certain conditions.

One of the most commonly discussed methylation and detoxification genetic mutations is MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase). It is estimated that up to 60% of the population has MTHFR. This specific mutation causes an interruption in the methylation pathway which assists the body in converting folic acid/folate to its useable form. Additionally, those with MTHFR have a reduced ability to eliminate toxins and heavy metals.

This mutation has been linked to many ailments, not just autism. It is important to note that having MTHFR does not mean autism or another condition is going to happen. It is just something to be aware of so the body can be supported appropriately.

 

What can be done?

  1. Heal the gut.

 This is done by removing problematic, inflammatory foods which are heightening the immune response in the body. Also, adding in reparative nutrients and supplements that will help the body to rebuild and repair tissue in gut lining. Many people see incredible positive changes in autistic behaviors just by taking addressing this core issue.

 

  1. Dietary Changes.

Up to 80% of parents report marked improvement by removing gluten and casein from their child’s diet. There is so much science behind this, but it leads back to inflammation and “leaky gut”.

 

  1. Supporting the immune system.

There are many natural ways to do this through dietary means and herbs. One of my favorite additions is elderberry syrup which has loads of benefits and anti-viral properties.

 

  1. Full Integrative Approach.

There are many modalities that can improve autism behaviors and symptoms. Speech therapy, ABA therapy, Music therapy, Martial Arts, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Chiropractic Care, Massage (specifically Craniosacral work), Equine Therapy, and Pet Therapy. These are some that we have engaged in over the years with much success from each one. I believe a wide variety of therapies is the best intervention.

 

For questions or further information, feel free to Contact Me directly.

 

Shaik Mohammad N, et. al, Clinical utility of folate pathway genetic polymorphisms in the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders., Psychiatr Genet. 2016 Dec;26(6):281-286

 

 

 

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