Dr Natasha Campbell-Mcbride is the mother of an autistic child and became a pioneer in the nutritional treatment of autism and here describes the basics of her protocol.
There is an unmistakeable epidemic of autism sweeping across the globe, which cannot be explained by genetics or better diagnosis.
So, how and why does autism develop and why do we have an epidemic of this devastating disorder
Autism is essentially a digestive disorder. In the first two years of life the child’s digestive system, instead of being a source of nourishment for the child, becomes a major source of toxicity. Hundreds of toxins produced in the gut of the child get absorbed through the gut lining into the bloodstream, are carried to the brain and “clog” the brain with toxicity.
Autistic children usually have normal eyes, ears,tactile sensitivity and taste buds. All the information gathered by these sensory organs is passed to the brain to be processed and learned from. By looking, listening, tasting and touching the baby and toddler learn how to communicate and experience behave appropriately. However, if the brain is hampered by toxicity, it cannot process this sensory information and cannot learn from it. As a result everything the child hears, sees, touches and tastes turns into a noise in the child’s head, sometimes frightening, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes overwhelming. From this noise the child cannot learn anything useful. In the first two years, language, normal communication, normal behaviour are learned – these are all the things an autistic child does not acquire.
Babies are born with sterile digestive systems. In the first 20 or so days of life that sterile surface gets populated by a mixture of microbes, which becomes the child’s gut flora. If the child does not acquire the normal gut flora then the digestive system will not be healthy and cannot digest and absorb food properly. It follows that the autistic child will suffer colic, abnormal stools, bloating, reflux and malabsorption with multiple nutritional deficiencies. The child is then immune-compromised and this leaves them open to allergies, auto-immunity, ear and chest infections, impetigo and colds for which they are prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Autistic children receive numerous courses of antibiotics during the first few years of life and this affects the quantity and quality of friendly bacteria in the gut. The role of beneficial bacteria is to control the growth of pathogenic (bad) bacteria, viruses and fungi which are responsible for Clostridia and yeast, mainly of the Candida family. The toxins produced by these microbes flow from the gut to the brain and this is what makes the child autistic. Abnormal gut flora, gut dysbiosis, caused by use of drugs and antibiotics and modern lifestyles, is passed mainly by the mother to the child thus starting the slide into autism.
Diet for autism is a big subject but needs to be the most important part of treatment. Beneficial bacteria orchestrate the process of cell regeneration in the intestine. If these bacteria are not available or damaged then the process gets out of order and the job of digesting and absorbing food is hampered. This results in a lack of nutrition to the brain thus producing a child with autistic tendencies. The therapeutic diet is to remove starches and sugars from the diet as these are the one which challenge the child’s damaged gut lining and feed on pathogenic microbes. In order to remove all starches and complex sugars from the diet we have to exclude:
- All grains and end products
- Sugar in any shape or form
- Starchy vegetables, such as potato, parsnip, yams, sweet potato and Jerusalem artichokes
- Most beans including soy
- Milk sugar, lactose which means milk is excluded. However, fermented milk products,
such as natural yoghurt, butter, natural cheeses, créme fresh and soured cream are
lactose-free and are allowed.
- Processed foods are completely out as most of them contain starches, sugars, milk, soy and
Also they are full of E-numbers, colours, flavourings, preservatives and additives which are not helpful for autistic children
Having listed the foods which are not good for an autistic child it would seem like there isn’t much left that they can have but there are quite lot of options and alternatives:
- All meats bought fresh or frozen and cooked at home
- Fish and shellfish bought fresh or frozen and cooked at home
- Good quality eggs
- Fermented milk products
- All fresh vegetables except starchy ones
- All ripe fruit, as unripe fruit contains starch
- Dried fruit without additives
- Nuts and seeds, unprocessed
- Cold pressed oils
- Natural unprocessed honey
The majority of autistic children are extremely fussy eaters and can get trapped in a vicious cycle of food cravings, intolerances and addictions and without intensive help are unable to break out of the habits. It takes determination and effort on the part of the parents but meal times become enjoyable as a result.
There are a few supplements which are essential in order to heal the gut and restore immunity and brain function. It needs to be worked out by a practitioner to meet the requirements of the individual child.
- A therapeutic strength probiotic containing a mixture of lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and soil bacteria. It needs to be introduced gradually as it can cause an increase in symptoms
until the body adjusts.
- Essential fatty acids – omega 3 & omega 6,lot of research and clinical experience has been accumulated to show their effectiveness. Arachidonic acid is not found in any
supplement but is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. Research shows that patients
with autism lose it in large amounts from their cell membranes. It comes from animal fats in meat,
eggs and dairy products.
- Cod Liver Oil is the best source of vitamin A for autistic children and is essential for cell regeneration in the gut, functioning of the immune system and a myriad of other
functions in the body.
Autism is not a doom and gloom disorder, there are hundreds of published cases around the world where autistic children have fully recovered and lead normal lives.