I see a number of parents of autistic children in Cyprus where I work and live and it is always difficult working with the despair that they often feel. Will their child get better, how long will it take, what else can they do, etc? They often come in with thick files of tests that other practitioners have asked them to run, or that they themselves have researched on the Internet. Often these tests alone have cost them thousands of dollars!
One of the things that I find overwhelming myself, let alone the parents, is the vast array of biochemical parameters that they have to wade through and cross-correlate before making any sense of the “gestalt” or the full picture. This is a mind boggling and daunting task for most professors of biochemistry, let alone a humble parent. There are fatty acid profiles, amino acid profiles, heavy metal profiles, mineral profiles, blood and urine profiles …… profiles upon profiles upon daunting profiles!
How does one approach all these factors with some comprehensive simplicity? Well, this is the model that I have been using and we are seeing a gradual progress in most of the children that follow through.
Autism and Mercury
Most of the children come back positive for mercury levels and some others have a variety of other heavy metals. This does not really surprise us as most children are born with these metals these days. In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in 10 newborn babies, with a total of 287 chemicals found in the group. To our knowledge this work represents the first reported cord blood tests for 261 of the targeted chemicals, and the first reported detections of at least 209 chemicals. Scientists refer to this contamination as a person’s body burden.
The study found a broad array of pollutants that collectively are known to present potential risks to nearly every organ and system in the body:
- Of the 287 chemicals found in newborn umbilical cord blood, 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause developmental problems. The dangers of exposure to these chemicals in combination has never been studied.
- We detected 287 chemicals of 413 tested (69 percent) in umbilical cord blood samples from 10 newborn babies, with a range of between 154 and 231 for each child. We found 101 chemicals in all babies tested.
- Our tests targeted nine chemical classes; we detected at least half of the analyzed chemicals in each class.
The chemicals found span organochlorine pesticides (DDT and dieldrin, for example), chemicals currently or formerly used in a wide range of consumer products (perfluorochemicals, brominated fire retardants, PCBs), and chemical pollutants from waste incineration and fossil fuel combustion (polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins and furans, polychlorinated naphthalenes, mercury).
These chemicals have been shown in various research studies to move through the placenta via passive diffusion and sometimes via active transport mechanisms from maternal to fetal blood.
Another 18-year study of more than 800 children whose mothers ate mercury-containing seafood while pregnant shows that the toxic effects of prenatal exposure to mercury on brain functions can be permanent. Even low levels of mercury from the maternal diets produced slowing of hearing-related electrical signals in the brain when the children were tested at age 14. The teenagers also had impaired neurological regulation of their heart rate, a sign of mercury toxicity in the brain stem.
The publication of the study coincides with the Environmental Protection Agency doubling its estimate of the number of babies born in the U.S. with blood mercury levels that pose a risk for developmental toxicity. New data suggest that one in six babies may have mercury levels exceeding the EPA’s safe limit.
Why My Baby?
So the ten million dollar question is, “Why did my baby develop autism?”
This is quite a difficult question to answer as there are so many factors that can trigger the immune and nervous systems of young babies to begin behaving abnormally. Certainly, many of the vaccines contain a preservative called thiomersal, which is 49.6% mercury – a substance known to have neurotoxic effects, especially in infants whose brains are still developing. Of course, young babies do not only receive on vaccination in their lifetimes, they receive many. These cumulative effects of mercury impair brain development and damage the child’s immune system and gastrointestinal tract, resulting in hypersensitivity to toxic environmental substances.
Dr. Stephanie Cave presented enlightening data on mercury toxicity. She explained how:
By age two, American children have received 237 micrograms of mercury through vaccines alone, which far exceeds current EPA “safe” levels of .1 mcg/kg per day. That’s one-tenth of a microgram, not one microgram.
Three days in particular may be singled out as spectacularly toxic for infants:
- Day of birth: hepatitis B-12 mcg mercury – 30 x safe level
- At 4 months: DTaP and HiB on same day – 50 mcg mercury – 60 x safe level
- At 6 months: Hep B, Polio – 62.5 mcg mercury – 78 x safe level
- At 15 months the child receives another 50 mcg – 41 x safe level
These figures are calculated for an infant’s average weight in kilograms for each age.
So if your baby has already been born with hundreds of chemicals from the time it entered the world, all from the mother, it would be safe to say that the developing immune system would already be pretty overloaded. Then comes along “Mr. thiomersal” and this is the trigger to really knock it for six.
Add a genetic predisposition to modulating levels of glutathione, metallothionein, hemoxygenase and other stress proteins which are deficient in autistic children and the removal of mercury and other toxins is made a lot more difficult. A nutrient-deficient diet which is the norm these days and you begin to have quite an explosive cocktail of factors. So what’s the end result – in the baby’s developing brain, mercury and other toxins interfere with neuronal migration, depresses cell division, disrupts microtubule function, and reduces NCAMs.
Interestingly, brains of autistic children show neurotransmitter irregularities which are virtually identical to those arising from Hg exposure:
- both high or low serotonin and dopamine, depending on the subjects studied;
- elevated epinephrine and norepinephrine in plasma and brain; elevated glutamate; and acetylcholine deficiency in hippocampus.
Moreover, some autistic children show a low capacity to oxidize sulphur compounds and low levels of sulphate. This may not be surprising as mercury preferentially binds to sulphydryl molecules such as cysteine and glutathione which are crucially important in the detoxification pathways of the liver. Hence, the young child becomes even more toxic as levels of mercury and other xenobiotics accumulate in the their little bodies as the detoxification mechanisms become more and more sluggish.
Besides low sulphate, many autistic children have low glutathione levels, abnormal glutathione-peroxidase (GP) activity within erythrocytes, and decreased hepatic ability to detoxify xenobiotics. Glutathione participates in cellular detoxification of heavy metals and hepatic glutathione is a primary substrate for organic-mercury clearance and intraneuronal glutathione participates in various protective responses against mercury in the Central Nervous System.
The Proverbial Canary in the Coal Mine?
It appears that autistic children be the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine” whose nervous systems are more susceptible to the impact of toxic heavy metals in the environment, incurring neurological damage even at low exposure levels?
One recent study found that in one group of 18 autistic children, 16 had blood levels of toxic heavy metals and chemicals exceeding adult maximum tolerance. This build-up of toxins may not arise simply from excessive exposure, but from a marked inability to process and eliminate toxins from the body. Indeed, when the children were assessed using a biochemical analysis to gauge the body’s ability to detoxify substances, researchers found that every child showed out-of-range results suggesting a defect in this two-phase detoxification process. Such a mechanism could lead to a back-up of toxic heavy metals and chemical toxins and increased free radical activity in the body, the researchers explained. Since the blood-brain barrier of children is still not fully developed, these toxic and oxidized molecules could penetrate into regions of the brain and damage neutrons, receptors, synapses, enzymes, and cell mitochondria, and also set off auto immune reactions that trigger further damage.
According to other studies, autistic children may have problems metabolizing and detoxifying certain compounds due to an impaired biochemical process called sulphation. Sulphation plays an important role in the second phase (phase2) of the detoxification process in the liver. Impaired sulphation could make autistic children more vulnerable to multiple heavy metal and chemical sensitivities. It could also help explain an exacerbation of behavioural problems after children eat foods containing phenol, tyramine, and phenyl compounds, which are normally neutralized through the sulphation process
Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon whose shocking new discoveries show that mercury toxicity alone is not the only factor linking vaccines with the autism epidemic. Dr. Wakefield’s research centres around the MMR vaccine – measles/mumps/rubella – which does not contain thimerosal.
Dr. Wakefield’s research has shown that at least three-quarters of autistics have pathologically blocked bowels, due to the huge swelling of the tissue lining the intestine.
In virtually every autistic patient they examined, this nodular hyperplasia is both an immune response and an autoimmune response that Wakefield and O’Leary have clearly linked to the presence of measles virus from the MMR shot. No other virus was found in those cells. It looks like a new gut pathology has been discovered that science never knew existed before.
As most autistic diagnoses are made after 15 months then there was this period of time where the young infant has accumulated even more toxins from the environment, the water supply, the mother’s milk, particularly if the mother has amalgam fillings, as well as other food sources.
So what are we saying? Well, as you can see from the abovementioned scenario, the little baby is getting more and more toxic with time with blocked detoxification mechanisms until eventually a largish dose of mercury from a vaccination becomes the last straw to break the camels back. It is no surprise that autistic symptoms develop slowly over time as toxic accumulations slowly increase – there are a few exceptions of sudden onset, but this may be triggered by the introduction of large doses of mercury from vaccinations, particularly if the multi-dose ampoules are not shaken correctly and the mercury sits at the bottom. It takes time for the neurological damage to occur and there is a preclinical “silence” where overt symptoms are not seen initially.
In my practice, one of the first things that I do is to identify using VEGA technology which I have been using for over a decade any food allergies or intolerances that the child may have. This is also cross-correlated using Autonomic Response Testing using the parent as a surrogate link. There is never a case when some sort of food will appear on testing – usually lactose or milk, wheat, sugar and caffeine. Sometimes there may be a gluten intolerance to all the gluten grains such as barley, rye, oats and wheat.
Milk has been well researched and found to produce exorphins, morphine-like compounds that are then taken up by areas of the brain known to be involved in autism and schizophrenia, where they cause cells to dysfunction. Animal finding suggest a gut problem in the inadequate secretion of enzymes. A study showed 95 percent of 81 autistic and schizophrenic children had 100 times the normal levels of the milk protein in their blood and urine.
There are a whole number of behaviors that the rat has after being injected with the milk protein beta-casomorphin-7 that are basically the same as one sees in the human with autism or schizophrenia. If we ring a bell beside a rat’s cage, it normally looks up to see where the noise is coming from. But the rats after beta-casomorphin-7 didn’t do that — they were completely oblivious to the bell-ringing above them. This struck the researchers as interesting because many mothers of autistic children comment that they seem at times to be totally deaf — they talk to their children and they just don’t seem to hear them. The researchers suspect the process begins in the intestine, where the body absorbs the protein when a person eats foods containing it.
They think this process is linked to the production of antibodies in the gut when you eat something to which you’re sensitive. Both schizophrenic and autistic persons have a high incidence of certain antibodies, and a high incidence of diarrhoea, which points to an intestinal disorder. So the investigators believe that with autism and schizophrenia, the basic disorder is in the intestine, and these individuals are absorbing beta-casomorphin-7 that they normally should break down in the body as amino acids, rather than peptide chains up to 12 amino acids long.
In my approach with autistic children I try to simplify things based upon the numerous research studies of which some have been mentioned here. These are basically the steps that I take with most children and fine-tune as we go along:
- Test for food intolerances and eliminate these from the diet immediately.
- Discuss the premises of a healthy diet, which means cutting out all sugar, refined foods, stimulants such as caffeine in chocolate or hot chocolate, fried foods and eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, fish and meat with wholegrain cereals such as brown rice, millet, quinoa etc.
- Supplement with a good multivitamin/multimineral with fatty acids in the ratio of about 4 Omega 6:1 Omega 3.
- Give Bach remedies to help the temperament and mood of the child – about 5-6 of these remedies are chosen from a total of 38 remedies and mixed together in a bespoke formula for the child.
- Test for mercury using a pre-post provocation test.
- Administer a natural heavy metal chelator that is also good for eliminating other xenobiotics, as well as helping to modulate the immune system and gut. This is called HMD™ – see further details at www.detoxmetals.com
- Give drainage remedies – usually homeopathics, biological medicines and herbal remedies for opening up the liver and kidneys in order to help the toxins eliminate from the body.
- Identify Candidiasis, a systemic fungus that can cause many problems as it releases 79 different toxins as the immune system kills it off. Treat this using herbal and Sanum Isopathic remedies.
- Administer nootropic substances that can help to boost I.Q. and generally help boost cognitive functioning – there are different types and will depend on the age of the child.
This is the basic protocol that all autistic children will follow, but there can be modifications based on each child’s history and circumstances. I strongly encourage the parents to be patience and persistent – this is a protocol that needs to be followed for at least 6 months. I usually find that the parent’s will begin to relax after about the first month as they see steps of progress in their children’s behaviour, communication skills and cognitive functioning. The progress is slow but positive and is relatively easy to implement and above all cost effective as one if not paying extortionate doctor’s fees. The supplements themselves should not cost more than $50-$60 per month.