Autism (technically autism spectrum disorder or ASD) is categorized as a group of disorders relating to brain development. These can affect social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communication, immune function, the gastrointestinal system, motor skills and coordination.

Symptoms of autism usually start to surface between 15-24 months, although signs may be observed in some children earlier. Most specialists will not diagnose autism until at least 2 years old, even if there are already signs and symptoms. Autism is known to primarily impact brain development from a very early age.

Autism symptoms are linked to many factors, including a lack of beneficial bacteria and environmental toxins that affect brain development. This includes the health of the mother during pregnancy and birth as well as genetic predisposition. When tested, most children on the autism spectrum do not have a balanced or normal gut flora. This further reinforces the case that a healthy immune system is vital for proper brain function & continuous development.

Autism is extremely complex. There is no one single method that works for everyone, as each case is very unique. However, there are a few general rules I suggest my patients follow that ensure optimal health:

1. Reduce your toxic & chemical exposure as much as you possibly can. This means choosing organic produce, fruit, pasture raised animal proteins and organic & chemical free personal care products. Also, avoid genetically modified food at all costs.

2. Foods to avoid or remove:

* Dairy, including cheese, ice cream, milk, yogurt and even vegan cheeses containing casein in them.

* Gluten and most grains as they can wreak havoc on the gut, causing more inflammation and worsening an already compromised immune system.

* All artificial colors and flavors which can cause behavioral issues or outbursts

* Sugar, fructose, corn, corn syrup, corn starch, sodas, juices

* Soy, soy protein, soy oil, processed vegetable oils

* Packaged and processed foods

* Caffeine and stimulants

3. Discuss and review vaccine ingredients and policies with your holistic practitioner or autism specialist before you decide on opting in or out of vaccines for your child.

4. Add fermented foods to the diet. These contain beneficial bacteria that boost and strengthen the immune system and gut. If those aren’t palatable, take a good quality probiotic instead.

5. Avoid heavy metals such as mercury fillings, lead in paints and fluoride in water. Avoid bottled water and use a filter for tap water. I recommend installing a whole house water filter by Aqua Sauna, if possible. Otherwise, there are many good countertop water filters available to ensure good quality drinking water.

I have been treating autism for many years and have seen remarkable advances in our understanding of it. While this is not a comprehensive list, these are good general guidelines to follow in helping your child on the spectrum heal. We understand how difficult it is to raise a child with autism and we welcome any questions or comments you may have regarding autism diagnosis and treatment.