Monday, April 30, 2012
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER (ASD)
I am going to “stick my neck out” because I am so appalled by the widespread disease that is going to bankrupt us through medical costs. This presentation is to develop what I consider to be the direct cause of ASD. Some of this is from the hard won experience of a small group of physicians who have faced the challenges of sick chemistry affecting the growing brains of so many children. Before starting on that, however, I want to point out something that is well known already. The Japanese are the healthiest people in the world, but when they come to the U.S.A. they succumb to the same diseases as Americans. That must tell us that there is something wrong with the U.S. environment and that dietary mayhem that stalks vast numbers of people is an important part of this. I have seen hundreds of children within the autistic spectrum. The ones with ADD, ADHD and other similar diagnostic categories, like “variations on a symphonic theme”, are usually easy to treat with dietary correction and non caloric supplements. They are the high functioning group, whereas the children with autism are low functioning at the other end of the spectrum and are much harder to treat-- but they are treatable. First, let us look at the environment. We all know that our air, water and food are polluted with all kinds of chemicals and heavy metals. We invite our own collective disaster as we continue to damage our sensitive biological machinery. It is also obvious that we cannot change that, simply because industry creates our modern era of employment. The factor that is common to so many diseases, including ASD, is oxidative stress, so this demands a simple explanation. We, like the rest of the animal kingdom, consume oxygen in a process known as oxidation. This is complex chemistry and beyond the scope of an article like this, but it is governed by a simple fact: “not too little and not too much, the Yin and the Yang”. Too little oxidation is obvious, but many people have a little trouble with “too much”. The concept of free oxygen radicals has become fairly well known in health articles. The simplest explanation is that they might be compared with sparks that fly out from a fire that is burning briskly. Sparks are dangerous because they may spread the fire, so they have to be quenched. For example, a fireguard might be placed in front of an open hearth fire to prevent sparks setting fire to a carpet. The same principle applies to oxygen radicals; they have to be quenched also. The harder we work mentally or physically the more oxygen is consumed and the “metabolic fires have to burn more briskly”. This is where the “genius” of Mother Nature comes in. She invented chemical substances called antioxidants, many of which are derived from diet. It is important to note that antioxidants act as a team in the body for they might be compared with strands of wire that make up a fireguard. A single wire would not catch the sparks and a single antioxidant does not do the job of quenching oxygen radicals. It is simple to compare the oxidant chemicals with sparkplugs in a car: spark plugs ignite gasoline whereas oxidants in the body burn or “oxidize” protein, fat and carbohydrate, the equivalent of gasoline. Efficient oxidation is midway between “too little and too much”. This is essential to maintaining maximum efficiency of our cellular engines that are known as mitochondria. Thus, each of our body cells has its own energy budget, automatically adjusting or adapting to its required work load. I cannot imagine this wondrous process being coordinated without a computer and the limbic system and brainstem, that make up the lower more primitive parts of the brain, fulfill that function. Since this part of the brain is the most oxygen-demanding tissue in the body/brain combination, it is hardly surprising that it is the very first organ to “feel the oxidation pinch” if and when it occurs. But I have learned that a curious thing happens with mild oxidation deprivation. The computer becomes more irritable. Since this is the part of the brain that generates our emotional reflexes, an affected person becomes more emotional. The emotion itself (e.g. anger) is a normal reaction but becomes exaggerated and increased in volume. Children with ASD often have severe temper tantrums long after their normal incidence in infancy. They tend to be associated with some degree of violence such as kicking the wall. We know that mild to moderate oxidative inefficiency in brain occurs because giving air enriched with twenty percent carbon dioxide to patients who suffer panic attacks will initiate a panic attack. Such attacks are nothing more than fragmented fight-or-flight reflexes occurring without the threatened danger that normally initiates this survival reflex. The sympathetic arm of the autonomic (automatic) nervous system is activated too easily. If the oxidation mechanism becomes more severe and prolonged, the nervous control mechanisms begin to deteriorate and collapse. The prototype for this is the vitamin B1 deficiency disease beriberi. Now we must go back to ASD and the fundamental issue of oxidative stress. Published information in a medical journal has reported that neonatal jaundice and/or so called “colic” are in fact the first signs of oxidative stress. When I was speaking to an audience of parents of ASD children, I asked for a show of hands for the incidence of these two symptoms in their children. About two thirds of the parents responded for each of those observations. The next question that I asked was how many of these children had experienced ear infections and about the same number of parents raised their hands. Some of these children had received ear tubes and it is not as well known as it should be that they are not for drainage but to allow air (hence oxygen) into the middle ear cavity. Hence inefficienrt oxidative function enters into the underlying cause of ear infections. These symptoms are so common in the infancy of children that later become autistic that it would make sense to accept them as a potential warning of worse things to come later. To start nutrient supplements for infants with this kind of neonatal history would be, to my mind, absolutely mandatory. It is true that parents would never know if they have prevented ADD, ADHD or autism, because there is not an automatic incidence of brain dysfunction in every child with this clinical picture. It is, however, completely safe and can only do good, irrespective of the normal or potentially abnormal physiology. The only way that we would know whether such a preventive program would work would be by looking at public health statistics a few years later and see if the incidence of such problems has been shown to decrease. This would require a big change in the usual and customary pediatric approach. In our present state of knowledge, preventive nutrition is the only way that we can hope to reduce the incidence of ASD. If we wait until the dread diagnosis is made somewhere between the ages of eighteen months and four years, the treatment potential is much harder, much more expensive and prolonged. The old proverb that prevention is better than cure is, in this case, an imperative. The trouble is that mainstream medicine still has not caught up with the real meaning of the word “prevention”. Only a few pediatricians are aware of the vitally important ways in which Mother Nature exhibits her warnings. Even then, they must be able to recognize that oxidative stress can only be treated from a well rounded knowledge and experience of nutrient-based therapy. There are always plenty of calories in our diets. The tragedy is that the calorie-bearing foods are not being oxidized efficiently, particularly in brain. The ratio of calories to non-caloric nutrients is too high, producing an effect similar to a choked car engine. There is insufficient energy to power growth and function. Perhaps what really happens is that the “hard wiring” that must configure the adult brain becomes held back. Thus we see a child who has never completely broken through to adult status.