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Sender: FEATNEWS@LIST.FEAT.ORG (FEATNews Announcement List) From: feat@FEAT.org (FEAT) Date: Tue, May 16, 2000, 10:31am (EST-2) To: FEATNEWS@LIST.FEAT.ORG Subject: Can Diet Offer Hope To Autistic Children?
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Can Diet Offer Hope To Autistic Children?
[For some children food may be the key to controlling autism, says Fleur Brennan. There are no known scientific studies clearly establishing the relationship between diet and autism. However, there is significant anecdotal evidence from accounts of parent's experiences. London Daily Express © May 2000 (not available online.)]
When Diane Dann's daughter, Lisa was two she often had tantrums, accompanied by bizarre hand-flapping and screaming. She was unable to talk, point, communicate or play. Autism was diagnosed. As Lisa had been given multiple doses of antibiotics in her premature-baby unit and during her first year, her paediatrician suggested a link between her autism and a yeast infection, candida, leading to food intolerance. After treatment for the candida and a wheat and milk-free diet of pears, rice and meat, her autistic symptoms abated and she began to talk and develop normally.
Lisa, now 14, keeps to her diet and enjoys roast meals with chips fried in sunflower oil and cakes made with soy flour. She goes to a mainstream school with her sisters in Eastbourne and has largely overcome the condition.
Her consultant paediatrician, Michael Tettenborn, of Fimley Children's Hospital, says she was typically autistic when he first saw her. He is encouraged that her recovery has been sustained over years, but her remarkable improvement is by no means unique in his experience.
"The improvements are not just wishful thinking. One proof of this is that there is no placebo effect," he says. "On the contrary, when children cut out the offending foods, they usually get worse before they improve."
The diets are not easy to follow and medical supervision and support are essential. There has been no double blind-controlled study of dietary modification for autism because no pharmaceutical company will fund one.
But Tettenborn found that in 57 cases referred to him between 1979 and 1999, 28 showed definite and sustained improvement, with several integrating into mainstream school without much special support. Six more children showed partial improvement. Part of the reason for this success rate is that he sees a self-selected group. Generally only children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms see specialists in the field such as Tettenborn or John Richer, of the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, who has had similar success with children who have signs of food intolerance.
'Diet is only one part of the picture, but it's better than dosing a child with drugs'
"These signs can seem inexplicable, like sticking-up hair or a red ear," says Richer. "Others include a red face, a pasty face, dark shadows under the eyes, catarrh and a runny nose, nose bleeds, snoring, drinking excessive amounts of fluid, bloating, eczema, asthma, hay fever or other allergies, diarrhoea, over or undersensitivity to pain, noise, heat or cold, and pica, which means eating paper, rubbish or other matter."
He emphasises that as well as elimination diets, the children need a raft of other provision, including autistic-specific psychological and educational input.
"Dietary intervention is only one part of the picture, but it is a lot better than children being dosed with psychoactive drugs, with all their unwanted sideeffects," he adds.
Professor Jonathan Brostoff, Professor of Allergy and Environmental Health at University College London, finds that the younger the children are when the offending foods are removed, the better they recover. "If they are two, three or four many have had a lot of antibiotics and may have candida, so they have anti-fungal treatment with Nystatin, and a dairy and wheat-free diet."
When the digestion breaks down wheat and milk, the tiny proteins, called peptides, can pass into the bloodstream of individuals who have a damaged gut that becomes leaky. The peptides act like opiates, which dampen brain activity in some of these children.
"It's similar to the 3pm office energy dip some people get after a sandwich lunch, but more severe. Slowly, after at least a month, autistic children on the diet often respond well. Once they emerge from the opiates shrouding their brains, they have to relearn how to play, how to bond with their parents and how to learn," says Brostoff.
Latest figures from the National Autistic Society show that 500,000 people in the UK have autism, including Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of the condition. Of these, 100,000 are children. In ten years the incidence has almost doubled to 91 per 10,000 people, nearly 1 per cent of the population.
No one knows the reason for this epidemic, but an All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism was launched yesterday to investigate the prevalence of autism. Some people believe heightened awareness of autism is leading to better diagnosis. Others believe that this complex disorder is increasing because of environmental factors such as allergies and sensitivity to vaccines, to genetic factors or a mixture of all these.
Tettenborn thinks that autistic spectrum disorders, including classical autism and Asperger's syndrome, are multifactorial problems, of which diet is one. But by no means can every child be helped by an elimination diet.
'It has been moving to see Simeon change from a crazed bundle into a loving boy'
He believes the controversial link with the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine is tenuous, because many children with autism and food intolerance, such as Lisa Dann, never had the vaccine. Many of the autistic children whose parents see a link with the vaccination could have already had weak immune systems that were further attacked by the inoculation. "But no one knows; the precipitating factor could just as easily be flu or anything else as the MMR vaccine," says Tettenborn.
One child, Simeon Weller, aged 6, of Shefford, Bedfordshire, developed autism and lost his speech after candida and probable coeliac disease. His father, Gordon, a university lecturer, suffers from coeliac disease and gluten intolerance, and his mother, Johanna, has wheat intolerance. The Wellers contacted Allergy Induced Autism's helpline and, under the supervision of a homoeopathic GP, Simeon started a wheat and milk-free diet in November 1997.
At first his symptoms worsened. He had tantrums at mealtimes because of cravings for cheese and wheat-based foods, but after three weeks the deterioration came to an end. Over the next three months Simeon was able to stop taking the Ritalin he had been prescribed for hyperactivity, and his asthma and behaviour improved beyond recognition. He is now in a unit at a local primary school, where he is learning to read and plays normally with the other children.
"It has been deeply moving to watch the transformation of our child from a frightened, disturbed and crazed bundle of chaos into a loving little boy. Our lost child is back and our joy is great," says Gordon Weller.
Allergy Induced Autism is run by Rosemary Kessick, a former business analyst from Peterborough whose son, William, 12, still needs constant supervision. The exclusion diet has helped, but his mother is convinced that his autism began after he was given the MMR vaccine. She is co-operating with research at the University of Sunderland's Autism Research Unit, headed by Paul Shattock.
He has introduced a urine test to measure the levels of opiate-like peptides that autistic children excrete. "Fifty per cent of people with autism seem to have high levels," he says. "Casein, which comes from human or cow milk, produces a peptide, casomorphine, that has opioid activity, and gluten, from wheat, oats and barley, whose compounds form gluteomorphins, add to the already high level of opioids in the body."
Two years ago Dr Andrew Wakefield, of the Royal Free Hospital in North London, described in The Lancet a pattern of inflammation of the bowel, which he believed was part of a new disease, "autistic enterocolitis", linking autism and leaky gut. Children with brain function problems - including autism, Asperger's and attention deficit disorder - exhibited bowel symptoms, including pain, constipation, diarrhoea and colitis, a close relative of Crohn's disease.
He now believes that the MMR vaccine may be connected to gut infection and impaired metabolism, and is calling for further research. This is still an open question. In a Congressional hearing in Washington last month to examine the use of vaccines in the United States, Wakefield described finding traces of measles virus in the intestines of 25 children, including William Kessick, even though William has never had measles, only the MMR vaccine. However, this finding has not been subject to peer review and Wakefield remains a lone voice.
Last month Britain's Medical Research Council claimed that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and either Crohn's disease or autism.
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Q & A – Questions and Autism: Can Folic Acid help prevent autism?
Question: We have an autistic son who is 4 1/2 years old. We just
found out that we are going to have another baby. I read somewhere (now I can't find the article) that 3 - 4 times the amount of folic acid should be taken during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy to help prevent autism. Have you heard of this? Could this be harmful to the unborn child? Do you have any other suggestions - I've wondered if I should go on a GFCF diet? Thank you for your help in this. -Jill Harrison>
Folic acid supplementation just prior to and during pregnancy is highly recommended, but there is no research that I know of that claims it will prevent autism. Unfortunately, since we do not yet know what causes autism, it is not possible to determine how to prevent it at this time. However, some doctors do believe that autistic children benefit from folic acid supplementation. You might want to check out Dr. Sidney Baker's information on folic acid and autism at http://www.sbakermd.com.
The importance of folic acid supplementation for women of childbearing age, and especially during the first several weeks after conception, were determined to help prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. The Recommended Daily Allowance when planning to conceive and during pregnancy is 400 micrograms, with some sources even suggesting as much as 800 micrograms during pregnancy. You should discuss the benefits and proper dose of folic acid with your obstetrician as early as possible in your pregnancy. To find more information about the importance of folic acid during pregnancy, and foods that are rich in folic acid, you can go to http://www.parenthoodweb.com/Library/FDA-FolateBirthdefects.htm, or go to any search engine, such as http://www.yahoo.com and do a search with the search string: folic acid AND pregnancy.
There is no evidence that I know of that a GFCF will prevent autism either. As diet is very important during pregnancy, you should discuss any plans to restrict your diet with your obstetrician, so you can make sure you replace any nutrients that might be lost in a restricted diet. - Ricci Carole Hedequist
[Ricci Carole Hedequist is a mother of four, one with autism. In addition to being one of FEAT's internet researchers, she is the list owner of a secretin discussion list: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
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