Exploring Ways to Reduce the Symptoms of Autism from the Inside Out
Written by: Andrea Hop, Health Coach
The best thing a person with autism can have is an advocate who looks beyond his or her behaviors and struggles and sees the person within. Having autism is like having a fingerprint. Each individuals’ expression of behaviors and symptoms is unique to them. While a good deal of conventional medical advice deals with the suppression of symptoms, there are many avenues to explore the root cause of those symptoms and help the person’s body heal from the inside out.
Every child on the spectrum has some degree of symptoms that are metabolic, which may include problems with his or her digestive, immune, and nervous systems. Although symptoms manifest differently in each person, relief of some symptoms will be found when the focus is put on healing the gut and then determining what next steps the child will benefit from. For example, behaviors like stimming are directly related to the food the child eats and how well that nutrition is assimilated in the digestive system. According to Dr. Joseph Cannizarro, in his book Answers for the 4A Epidemic, the main causative factors linked to autism symptoms in children are good and bad gut flora, immune system dysregulation, and nutritional depletion.
Let’s talk first on the health of gut flora and the strength of the immune system. Good gut flora (or the balance of bacteria that lives in our GI tracts) is responsible for neutralizing toxins, keeping the gut alkaline, and engaging the immune system.
Dr. Cannizarro points out, “Many of the symptoms of autism, such as hyperactivity, aggression, and stimming are related to persistent gut dysbiosis” (52).
Many people with autism experience bloating, constipation, loose stools, and digestive discomfort. This is an indication that healing the gut is vital to improving symptoms. To begin healing the gut one could work with a professional, such as a Naturopathic Doctor, who could determine what type of bad flora is dominating the digestive tract and work to eliminate it with a monitored process of killing off the bad flora, while nourishing the gut with good flora with the use of prebiotics and probiotics. This kind of care can be a huge step in alleviating the severity and frequency of autistic behaviors as well as increase immune function and nutrient absorption. The GI tract is responsible for 80% of our immune system after all.
Damaged gut flora can also lead to abnormal brain function in children with autism. Children with autism are often deficient in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients necessary for healthy brain development. The typical diet for these individuals usually consists of foods higher in processed carbohydrates and simple sugars, often due to “pickiness” from the child. These types of foods are not broken down properly, leaving children devoid of the very nutrition they need to heal. Many health experts recommend a diet free of gluten and dairy for people with autism, especially while they are healing their digestive tract. Since it can often be difficult to eliminate processed carbohydrates and simple sugars right away, working with a health coach is a very effective step in healing the gut and adding in more key nutrition for a person with autism. A health coach can support the family in changing their diets to include more nutrition from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, clean protein, and seeds, in conjunction with the medical plan, to heal the body from the inside out.
There are many options available to aid in healing the root cause of the symptoms impacting a person with autism’s life. Working professionals who see the whole person with autism and not just the behaviors, evaluating the dysfunction and healing the gut, while supporting the healing process with a nutritious, plant-based diet is a powerful step to letting the child with autism shine.
Cannizzaro, Dr. Joseph A. Answer for the 4A Epidemic: Healing for Kids with Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies. Lake Mary: Siloam, 2012. Print.