April is Autism Awareness Month. Two years ago when my son was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, I knew nothing about the condition. Now, it seems that there are discussions of Autism everywhere. Statistics indicate that a person is diagnosed with Autism every fifteen minutes. The organization, Autism Speaks, states that the disease is now more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. It is increasing at a rate of 10-17 percent annually. Currently, there is not a clear and simple answer to what causes Autism and why it’s increasing so rapidly. To help spread some light on this subject, Dr. Thauna Abrin, ND, a naturopathic doctor trained by the Autism Research Institute (ARI), has graciously agreed to answer some questions about Autism.
KIM: First let me start out by asking, what approach does a doctor trained by the ARI take in treating Autistic children?
DR ABRIN: Defeat Autism Now is a group of doctors trained by the Autism Research in a unique approach to treating autism that involves treating the underlying biomedical (digestive, immune, nutritional and detoxification imbalances) in people with autism. This biomedical approach is recommended in conjunction with a behavioral therapy program, occupational and speech therapy.
KIM: What are typical signs of Autism?
DR ABRIN: The hallmark signs of autism are delayed speech, delayed eye contact, repetitive behaviors and delayed social interaction. If your child does not have 2 word sentences (noun and a verb) by age 2, ask your pediatrician for a developmental assessment for your child.
KIM: Do you have a theory of why Autism is on the rise?
DR ABRIN: My theory is that children are exposed to a multitude of toxins in-utero and in their first few years of life, predisposing them to developing autism. Those children with inefficient detoxification pathways are at risk of developing autism because their livers cannot filter toxins in comparison to the majority of people who are able to efficiently excrete toxins.
Genetics are also involved, with 46% of families with autistic children having two or more members with autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, hypothyroidism). The contributing factors to the rise of autism are multi-factorial, involving poor detoxification, genetics and immune problems from the excessive use of antibiotics.
KIM: As I understand it, most biomedical doctors are advocates of a GFCF (Gluten and Casein-Free) diet which basically means no wheat or dairy. Can you explain to us why the diet is so effective for certain kids on the Autism spectrum?
DR ABRIN: Gluten and casein proteins release chemicals called casomorphin and gliadodorphin, which enter the blood stream and bind to receptors in the temporal lobe, causing an opiate effect. The temporal lobe, the part of the brain involved in speech and auditory processing, is affected by these opiates, leading to brain-fog, reduced speech, reduced eye contact and hyperactivity. By removing gluten and casein from the diet, the brain fog lifts so children are able to shift out of being in their own world. Also for children who are extremely sensitive to gluten, they often have chronic diarrhea, resulting in poor vitamin and mineral absorption.
KIM: I know when my son was diagnosed many people did not agree with the diagnosis and urged me to “wait and see.” “He’ll out grow it or catch up,” they’d easily say. What is your position on the “wait and see” approach?
DR ABRIN: In my experience, I have found that children who are diagnosed with autism under age 2.5 years improve significantly faster with biomedical treatment than older children. In my opinion, doctors and therapists should have learned from the last decade that diagnosing children with developmental delays late prevented them from receiving treatments and therapies that would ensure significant progress.
KIM: Is there precautions a woman can take before or during pregnancy to minimize the chance of her child having Autism?
DR ABRIN: Absolutely! Ideally, women should complete a 3-6 month detoxification program prior to conception to help their bodies be free of heavy metals and chemicals. In addition to eating an organic/free range whole foods diet, starting a high quality prenatal vitamin containing the active forms of vitamin B12 and folic acid (methylcobalamin and 5MTHF) is essential. During pregnancy, women should try to avoid vaccinations, xrays, and minimize ultrasounds and the use of pitocin in childbirth. Research also shows that taking an omega 3 supplement containing 200mg of DHA helps infant’s vision and brain development, resulting in a higher IQ.
Dr Thauna Abrin, N.D. relocated from Honolulu, Hawaii in 2006 to expand her private practice to Walnut Creek. With advanced training in obstetrics, pediatrics and homeopathy, Dr Abrin has developed a special interest in treating women and children. She successfully treats ADHD, autism, and hormonal disorders using naturopathic medicine and detoxification. Visit www.drthauna.com or call (510) 282-2104 for more information.
Kim Rice is a Wellness Coach and mother of three children in Pleasanton writing about topics such as Autism, depression, diet and life transformation. She earned her BA degree in Journalism from the University of Detroit and has over 20 years of corporate writing experience.