Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD for short, is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder which is being diagnosed more frequently and may indeed be occurring more often.
Who is Affected by Autism?
ASD is found throughout the world among all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and appears to affect more men than women. It affects about 1% of children and the incidence is increasing. There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK alone. This increase may be as a result of a broader definition of autism plus a greater awareness of the symptoms.
The Effect of Autism
Autistic people experience the world differently to other people and therefore have difficulties with social communication and social interaction. They very often have an increased sensitivity to noise and light leaving them feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
Cause of Autism?
While the actual cause of ASD has not been established theories abound:
Controversy around vaccinations has been around a long time. Despite scientific evidence and agreement that vaccines are safe and effective, there have been numerous unsubstantiated scares regarding their safety. A classic and very well-known point in case was the controversy around the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine and Austism.
In 1998 a paper published in The Lancet by Wakefield et al called “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children” the researchers investigated a consecutive series of children with chronic enterocolitis and regressive developmental disorder and appeared to link the combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to colitis and autism spectrum disorders.
The text of the paper triggered a global health crisis. The main cause of the alarm was the claims that two thirds of the parents of the 12 children examined in the study blamed the MMR vaccination for the sudden onset of what was described as a combination of both an inflammatory bowel disease and “regressive autism”, in which language and basic skills were said to have been lost where the first behavioural symptoms were reported to have appeared within only 14 days of the shot. These “revelations” led to a sharp drop in vaccination rates in the UK and Ireland and increases in the incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in deaths and severe and permanent injuries.
The fraudulent claims came to light when Brian Deer carried out an investigation for The Sunday Times, Channel 4 and the British Medical Journal and found that “Wakefield had been secretly payrolled to create evidence against the shot and, while planning extraordinary business schemes meant to profit from the scare, he had concealed, misreported and changed information about the children to rig the results published in the journal”. Follow-up studies were undertaken and reviews of the evidence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK National Health Service, and the Cochrane Library all found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The debate continues about the effect of the triple vaccine but the consensus based on extensive studies is that there is not a causal role of MMR in autism.
Many people with Autism have both gastrointestinal problems and an imbalanced immune response. Recent interest in the microbiome (microorganisms) has brought fresh thinking to the pathogenesis of ASD and the research supports the concept of an unhealthy microbiome being an important factor in ASD with the unhealthy microbiome causing the impaired immune response. However, the cause of an unhealthy microbiome is not understood, but again it is likely to be related to the increased levels of toxins to which we are exposed.
The evidence certainly lends strength to the proposition that Autism is an autoimmune disease. In this case caused by an unhealthy microbiome which in turn causes the impaired immune response.
Other theories are mainly linked to poorly understood genetic predisposition, environmental or unknown factors. My own belief is that the increased exposure of all of us to industrial and agricultural toxins, (as well as medications) is a major factor in the increasing incidence of Autism. All of these factors share a link to silent inflammation, and whatever the cause, it will be beneficial to counter the common factor which is inflammation.
I believe that Autism (and autoimmune diseases) are caused by the inflammation resulting from free radical damage caused by alterations we have made to our environment with the consequent deterioration of our nutrition and health. Therefore a plant based diet which provides antioxidants, which will neutralize the free radicals and improve the health of our microbiome should be beneficial.
Effect of Good Nutrition
Based on the above, it’s clear that good nutrition, especially a plant based diet which provides the antioxidants required to counter damaging free radicals (the cause of inflammation) which are now so much more prevalent in our bodies as a result of our damaged environment should prove to be beneficial.
For many years I have added to my diet a whole-food plant-based nutritional supplement which provides the nutritional essence of 30 portions of good quality vine ripened fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. I believe that countering inflammation helps to slow the ageing process as well as all degenerative processes. It has been shown that inflammation is fundamental to all disease processes, including ageing and genetic abnormalities, and may be a factor in the causation of ASD as well as the consequent behavioural problems. I would therefore recommend this nutritional supplement be taken by pregnant women as well as by all children with behavioural problems with or without Autism.