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Oct 14, 2016

Treatment for Autism with the right food and nutrients

by Dr. Dan Kalish

Can Body Chemistry influence the Brain Chemistry?

I recently had the great pleasure to interview Julie Matthews, an expert on dietary treatment for autism. Is there a magic autism cure? Clearly not. Even in the absence of a cure for autism, there are many autism treatment plans incorporating changes as simple and as safe as changing the foods eaten. With rates of autism on the increase understanding what therapy for autism can be of benefit is critical to more and more parents. I don’t think there is a more misunderstood or contentious issue in medicine now than autism. The symptoms children suffer from are hard to manage with conventional medications and treatment options. There is, I think we would all agree, not a magic bullet or cure and any potentially beneficial therapy has to be considered in the light of side effects and any harm it may pose to the child. Luckily diet changes and some basic supplementation of key nutrients has been effective for many families and a discussion around safe alternative treatments is much needed. I learned quite a bit from the interview with Julie and hope you do as well.

Neurological or Psychiatric?

“Autism is a neurological condition rather than a psychiatric condition, or a behavioral condition. It’s where the body chemistry is influencing the brain chemistry. It’s diagnosed under the DSM-5, which is a psychiatric manual and it’s based on certain behaviors. People don’t look and see that most kids with autism have digestive issues, allergies or inflammatory issues. They’re just looking at that one particular box. When we see that it’s neurological and biochemistry influences that, the thing that we do every single day that influences our chemistry is the food and nutrients that we put into the system. That’s an important paradigm of seeing autism as this whole body condition. As we work on healing the body, it helps heal and support the brain, which is downstream from all this biochemical noise that’s happening.

Never A Single Cause

I see 3 main areas that are affected frequently. You’ll never find a single cause or cure for autism. People are affected in different ways, but the immune system is going to regulate your ability to fight pathogens as well as to regulate inflammation. We also see a lot of autoimmune issues in children and families with autism. Digestion is a big issue. Between 30-70% of children with autism seem to have some digestive issue; it could be inflammation or pain. There’s a specific new type of gut condition that they’ve found for kids with autism. Many of them have dysbiosis and gut bacteria problems. We also know that their detoxification often doesn’t work the same way as ours does.

Inflammation and the Brain

All of these things can affect the brain. Inflammation can affect the brain. If you don’t digest your food properly, gluten and dairy can become literally opioids that fit in the opioid receptors of the brain. The toxins from microbes can get to the brain. If we can’t digest our food, we can’t get the neurotransmitters we need and the nutrients that our brain needs. It’s not just in children with autism; it’s ADHD, asthma, anxiety, depression and also for most chronic diseases, we see many of these systems being affected. We see the outcome in different ways – foggy brain, cognitive challenges, irritability, aggression etc.”

About Julie Matthews

Julie Matthews combines the best of two worlds, a profound understanding of the physiology and biochemistry behind health problems in children including autism and ADHD as well as the application of clinical nutrition programs using dietary interventions as a primary treatment, combined with nutrient therapies as required. The mere concept that diet can be a treatment for any disorder is nearly heretical in our current conventional medical system. Clinicians and researchers like Julie Matthews are working to change this.
Dr. Dan Kalish

Dr. Dan Kalish

Founder of the Kalish Institute
Dan Kalish, DC, IFMCP, is founder of the Kalish Institute, an online practice implementation training program dedicated to building Integrative and Functional Medicine practices through clinical and business courses.