Natural Medicine Causes & Treatment of Autism

autism and toxic chemicals

Autism is a brain development disorder characterised by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) also include the related conditions Asperger syndrome.

Asperger's however, has no delay in language development. Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear. Proposed environmental causes are heavy metals, pesticides and childhood vaccines. One study suggests implicates the hygiene hypothesis as a cause of autism.

Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. Although early behavioural or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills, there is no known cure. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful, and an autistic culture has developed, with some seeking a cure and others believing autism should be tolerated as a difference and not treated as a disorder.


Reports of autism cases grew dramatically in the U.S. from 1996 to 2007. It is unknown how much, if any, growth came from changes in autism's prevalence. Most recent reviews tend to estimate a prevalence of 1–2 per 1,000 for autism and close to 6 per 1,000 for ASD; because of inadequate data, these numbers may underestimate ASD's true prevalence.

The number of reported cases of autism increased dramatically in the 1990s and early 2000s. This increase is largely attributable to changes in diagnostic practices, referral patterns, availability of services, age at diagnosis, and public awareness, though unidentified contributing environmental risk factors cannot be ruled out. The available evidence does not rule out the possibility that autism's true prevalence has increased a real increase would suggest directing more attention and funding toward changing environmental factors instead of continuing to focus on genetics.

Social development

People with autism have social impairments and often lack the intuition about others that many people take for granted. Autistic infants show less attention to social stimuli, smile and look at others less often, and respond less to their own name. Autistic toddlers have more striking social deviance. For example, they have less eye contact and anticipatory postures and are more likely to communicate by manipulating another person's hand.

Three- to five-year-old autistic children are less likely to exhibit social understanding, approach others spontaneously, imitate and respond to emotions, communicate nonverbally, and take turns with others. However, they do form attachments to their primary caregivers. They display moderately less attachment security than usual, although this feature disappears in children with higher mental development or less severe ASD.

Older children and adults with ASD perform worse on tests of face and emotion recognition.

Contrary to common beliefs, autistic children do not prefer being alone. Making and maintaining friendships often proves to be difficult for those with autism.

There are many anecdotal reports of aggression and violence in individuals with ASD. The limited data suggest that, in children with mental retardation, autism is associated with aggression, destruction of property, and tantrums.


About a third to a half of individuals with autism experience communication difficulties including delayed onset of babbling, unusual gestures, diminished responsiveness, and vocal patterns that are not synchronised with the caregiver. In the second and third years, autistic children have less frequent and less diverse babbling, consonants, words, and word combinations.

Autistic children are less likely to make requests or share experiences, and are more likely to simply repeat others' words (echolalia) or reverse pronouns. Joint attention seems to be necessary for functional speech, and deficits in joint attention seem to distinguish infants with ASD. For example, they may look at a pointing hand instead of the pointed-at object and they consistently fail to point at objects in order to comment on or share an experience. Autistic children may have difficulty with imaginative play and with developing symbols into language.

Repetitive behaviour

Autistic individuals display many forms of repetitive or restricted behaviour, which the Repetitive Behaviour Scale-Revised (RBS-R) categorizes as follows;

Stereotypy is repetitive movement, such as hand flapping, making sounds, head rolling, or body rocking.

Compulsive behaviour is intended and appears to follow rules, such as arranging objects in a certain way.

Sameness is resistance to change; for example, insisting that the furniture not be moved or refusing to be interrupted.

Ritualistic behaviour involves the performance of daily activities the same way each time, such as an unvarying menu or dressing ritual. This is closely associated with sameness and an independent validation has suggested combining the two factors.

Restricted behaviour is limited in focus, interest, or activity, such as preoccupation with a single television program or toy.

Self-injury includes movements that injure or can injure the person, such as biting oneself. A 2007 study reported that self-injury at some point affected about 30% of children with ASD.

Other symptoms

An estimated 0.5% to 10% of individuals with ASD show unusual abilities, ranging from splinter skills such as the memorisation of trivia to the extraordinarily rare talents of prodigious autistic savants.

Unusual responses to sensory stimuli

Differences are greater for under-responsivity (for example, walking into things) than for over-responsivity (for example, distress from loud noises) or for sensation seeking (for example, rhythmic movements).

Muscle weakness

Several studies have reported associated motor problems that include poor muscle tone, poor motor planning and toe walking.


Unusual eating behaviour occurs in about three-quarters of children with ASD, to the extent that it was formerly a diagnostic indicator. Selectivity is the most common problem, although eating rituals and food refusal also occur. Some children with autism also have gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms.


At some point in childhood, about two-thirds of individuals with ASD are affected by sleep problems; these most commonly include symptoms of insomnia such as difficulty in falling asleep, frequent nocturnal awakenings, and early morning awakenings.


Autism is one of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), which are characterised by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, and severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behaviour. These symptoms do not imply sickness, fragility, or emotional disturbance.

Western Medical Causes of Autism

Many causes of autism have been proposed. Autism does not have a single cause however but is instead a complex disorder with a set of core aspects that have distinct causes.

The number of people known to have autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, at least partly due to changes in diagnostic practice, it is unknown whether prevalence has increased as well. An increase in prevalence would suggest directing more attention and funding toward changing environmental factors instead of continuing to focus on genetics.


According to western medicine, genetic factors are the most significant cause for autism spectrum disorders. Early studies of twins estimated heritability to be over 90%, in other words, that genetics explains over 90% of whether a child will develop autism.

Whilst the consensus among mainstream autism researchers is that genetic factors predominate, some geneticists are concerned, as one anonymous researcher put it, that "geneticists are running the show, and ignoring the environmental aspects."

Though autism's genetic factors explain most of autism risk, they do not explain all of it. A common hypothesis is that autism is caused by the interaction of a genetic predisposition and an early environmental insult. Several theories based on environmental factors have been proposed to address the remaining risk.

Advanced parental age

A 2007 review of risk factors found associated parental characteristics that included advanced maternal age, advanced paternal age, and maternal place of birth outside Europe or North America. It is not known whether these associations reflect genetic, epigenetic or environmental factors.

Prenatal environment

Prenatal environmental factors, such as agents that cause birth defects, the environment after birth, such as children's diets are linked to Autism. This is particularly relevant during the first eight weeks from conception.


In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects teratogenic agents. Teratogens are environmental agents that cause birth defects. Some agents that are known to cause other birth defects have also been found to be related to autism risk. These include exposure of the embryo to thalidomide, valproic acid (an anticonvulsant and mood-stabilising drug) or misoprostol (a drug used for the prevention of NSAID-induced gastric ulcers. These cases are rare.

Questions have also been raised whether ethanol (grain alcohol) increases autism risk, as part of foetal alcohol syndrome or alcohol-related birth defects.


A 2007 study by the California Department of Public Health found that women in the first eight weeks of pregnancy who live near farm fields sprayed with the organochlorine pesticides dicofol and endosulfan are several times more likely to give birth to children with autism. The association appeared to increase with dose and decrease with distance from field site to residence.

A 2005 study showed indirect evidence that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides such as diazinon and chlorpyrifos may contribute to autism in genetically vulnerable children.

Maternal infection

Prenatal viral infection has been called the principal non-genetic cause of autism. Prenatal exposure to rubella or cytomegalovirus activates the mother's immune response and greatly increases the risk for autism. Congenital rubella syndrome is the most convincing environmental cause.

The maternal antibody theory hypothesises that immunoglobulin G (IgG) in a mother's blood can cross the placenta enter into the foetus’s brain, react against foetal brain proteins, and cause autism. The theory is related to the autoimmune disease hypothesis, except it focuses on maternal antibodies rather than the child's.


Prenatal stress consisting of exposure to life events or environmental factors that distress an expectant mother has been hypothesised to contribute to autism, possibly as part of a gene-environment interaction.

Oxidative stress due to glutathione deficiency

This theory hypothesises that toxicity and oxidative stress may cause autism in some cases. Evidence includes genetic effects on metabolic pathways, reduced antioxidant capacity, enzyme changes, and enhanced biomarkers for oxidative stress; however, the overall evidence is weaker than it is for involvement oxidative stress with disorders such as schizophrenia. One theory is that stress damages Purkinje cells in the cerebellum after birth, and it is possible that glutathione is involved.

Thyroid problems

Thyroid problems that lead to thyroxine deficiency in the mother in weeks 8–12 of pregnancy has been postulated to produce changes in the foetal brain leading to autism. Thyroxine deficiencies can be caused by inadequate iodine in the diet, and by environmental agents that interfere with iodine uptake such as fluoride in tap water or act against thyroid hormones.

Folic acid

It has been hypothesised that folic acid taken during pregnancy could play a role in causing autism by modulating gene expression.


A 2006 study found that sustained exposure of mouse embryos to ultrasound waves caused a small but statistically significant number of neurons to fail to acquire their proper position during neuronal migration. There is no scientific evidence of an association between prenatal ultrasound exposure and autism, but there are very little data on human foetal exposure during diagnostic ultrasound.

Obstetric conditions

Autism is associated with some perinatal and obstetric conditions. A 2007 review of risk factors found associated obstetric conditions that included low birth weight and gestation duration, and hypoxia during childbirth. A 2007 study of premature infants found that those who survived cerebellar hemorrhagic injury (bleeding in the brain that injures the cerebellum) were significantly more likely to show symptoms of autism than controls without the injury.

Postnatal environment

A wide variety of postnatal contributors to autism have been proposed, including gastrointestinal or immune system abnormalities, allergies, and exposure of children to drugs, vaccines, infection, certain foods, or heavy metals. The evidence for these risk factors is anecdotal and has not been confirmed by reliable studies. The subject remains controversial and extensive further searches for environmental factors are underway.

Hygiene hypothesis

In medicine, the hygiene hypothesis is a hypothesis that states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system. Other diseases, such as the rise of autoimmune diseases and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in young people in the developed world, have also been linked to the hygiene hypothesis. There is some evidence that autism is caused by an immune disease one study suggests implicates the hygiene hypothesis as a cause of autism.

Because of the increased use of antibiotics, antipyretics (paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen) and vaccines against childhood diseases, children with modern medical care are less likely to experience high fever. According to some medical papers, high fever may prevent cancer.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors that have been claimed to contribute to autism or exacerbate its symptoms, or may be important to consider in future research, include certain foods, infectious disease, heavy metals, solvents, diesel exhaust, PCBs, phthalates and phenols used in plastic products, pesticides, brominated flame retardants, alcohol, smoking, illicit drugs and vaccines.


Lead poisoning has been suggested as a possible risk factor for autism, as the lead blood levels of autistic children has been reported to be significantly higher than typical. The atypical eating behaviours of autistic children, along with habitual mouthing and pica, make it hard to determine whether increased lead levels are a cause or a consequence of autism.


This theory hypothesises that autism is associated with mercury poisoning, based on perceived similarity of symptoms and reports of mercury or its biomarkers in some autistic children. The principal source of human exposure to organic mercury is via fish consumption and for inorganic mercury is dental amalgams. Other forms of exposure, such as in cosmetics and vaccines, also occur. Fluoride in water is also a soucre of heavy metals including mercury.

A 2006 study found a slight association between autism and environmental releases of mercury, primarily from coal power plants; this study used Texas county-wide data and did not distinguish between prenatal and postnatal exposure. A 2009 followup study found a similar slight association between autism rates and distance to industrial and power plant mercury sources in Texas.

Perhaps the best-known theory involving mercury and autism involves the use of the mercury-based compound thiomersal a preservative that has been phased out from most childhood vaccinations in developed countries. Parents may first become aware of autistic symptoms in their child around the time of a routine vaccination.

Exposure of children to vaccines

Vaccines have attracted much attention, as parents may first become aware of autistic symptoms in their child around the time of a routine vaccination, and parental concern about vaccines has led to a decreasing uptake of childhood immunisations and an increasing likelihood of measles outbreaks.

MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine theory of autism is one of the most extensively debated theories regarding the origins of autism. A disputed 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield et al. reported a study of 12 children who had autism and bowel symptoms, in some cases reportedly with onset after MMR. Although the paper concluded "We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described," Wakefield nevertheless suggested during a 1998 press conference that giving children the vaccines in three separate doses would be safer than a single jab.

However there is overwhelming scientific evidence showing no causal association between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism, and there is no scientific evidence that the vaccine preservative thiomersal helps cause autism. Research aside, mercury is contained in vaccines and is a neurotoxin. Pregnant women are advised to avoid it so we can hypothesise that it is not good for infants.

Although there is no evidence that autism is caused by vaccines or any preservative or additive ever used in vaccines, many parents are concerned about the risks of vaccination due to various unsupported theories related to vaccines. For example, many parents delay or avoid immunising their children under the "vaccine overload” hypothesis that giving many vaccines at once may overwhelm a child's immune system and lead to autism.


A 2008 preliminary case-control study based on a parent survey presented evidence that paracetamol (acetaminophen) following MMR vaccine is apparently associated with development of autism in children aged 1–5 years. The effect has not been independently confirmed.

Viral infection

Many studies have presented evidence for and against association of autism with viral infection after birth. Viruses have long been suspected as triggers for immune-mediated diseases such as multiple sclerosis but showing a direct role for viral causation is difficult in those diseases, and mechanisms whereby viral infections could lead to autism are speculative.

Autoimmune disease

Viral infection has been hypothesised to cause autism via an autoimmune mechanism. This theory hypothesises that autoantibodies that target the brain may cause or exacerbate autism. It is related to the maternal antibodies theory, except that it postulates that the effect is caused by the individual's own antibodies, possibly due to an environmental trigger after birth.

Vitamin D

This theory hypothesises that autism is caused by vitamin D deficiency, and that recent increases in diagnosed cases of autism are due to medical advice to avoid the sun. The theory has not been studied scientifically.


It has been hypothesised that rain, or some environmental trigger positively associated with rain, acts together with an underlying genetic predisposition to cause autism. A 2008 study found that precipitation was associated with autism by examining county-level autism data for California, Oregon, and Washington.

Precipitation is also associated with television watching, and a 2006 analysis by three of the same authors, all economists, concluded that just under 40% of autism diagnoses in the three states result from television watching due to precipitation. Rain also, results in less exposure to sun and decreased Vitamin D levels.

Leaky gut syndrome / Increased intestinal hyperpermeability

Parents have reported gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances in autistic children, and several studies have investigated possible associations between autism and the gut. The disputed Wakefield et al. paper also suggested that some bowel disorders may allow antigens to pass from food into the bloodstream and then to contribute to brain dysfunction. Although Wakefield later proposed the term autistic enterocolitis.

In another example, a 1998 study of three children with ASD treated with secretin infusion reported improved GI function and dramatic improvement in behaviour, which suggested an association between GI and brain function in autistic children, although the low number of patients is statistically insignificant.

Pathophysiology of autism

Autism affects the amygdala, cerebellum and many other parts of the brain. Autism appears to result from developmental factors that affect many or all functional brain systems, and to disturb the timing of brain development more than the final product.

Neuroanatomical studies and the associations with teratogens strongly suggest that autism's mechanism includes alteration of brain development soon after conception. Brain weight and volume and head circumference tend to be greater in autistic children.

Current hypotheses include:

  • An excess of neurons that causes local overconnectivity in key brain regions.
  • Disturbed neuronal migration during early gestation.
  • Unbalanced excitatory–inhibitory networks. Abnormal formation of synapses and dendritic spines.
  • Disrupted synaptic development may also contribute to epilepsy, which may explain why the two conditions are associated.

Interactions between the immune system and the nervous system

Interactions between the immune system and the nervous system begin early during the embryonic stage of life, and successful neurodevelopment depends on a balanced immune response. Several symptoms consistent with a poorly regulated immune response have been reported in autistic children. It is possible that aberrant immune activity during critical periods of neurodevelopment is part of the mechanism of some forms of ASD.

Increased serotonin

Several neurotransmitter abnormalities have been detected in autism, notably increased blood levels of serotonin. Whether these cause structural or behavioural abnormalities is unclear.

The mirror neuron system (MNS)

The mirror neuron system (MNS) theory of autism hypothesises that distortion in the development of the MNS interferes with imitation and leads to autism's core features of social impairment and communication difficulties. The MNS operates when a human performs an action or observes another human perform the same action. The MNS may contribute to an individual's understanding of other people by enabling the modelling of their behavior via embodied simulation of their actions, intentions and emotions.

Under conectivity and overconectivity of the brain

The underconnectivity theory of autism hypothesises that autism is marked by under-functioning high-level neural connections and synchronisation, along with an excess of low-level processes. Autistic individuals tend to use different areas of the brain for a movement task compared to a control group.

A 2008 brain-imaging study found a specific pattern of signals in the cingulate cortex which differs in individuals with ASD. The cingulate cortex is an integral part of the limbic system, which is involved with emotion formation and processing, learning, and memory, and is also important for executive function and respiratory control.


About half of parents of children with ASD notice their child's unusual behaviours by age 18 months, and about four-fifths notice by age 24 months. As postponing treatment may affect long-term outcome, any of the following signs is reason to have a child evaluated by a specialist without delay;

  • No babbling by 12 months.
  • No gesturing (pointing, waving goodbye, etc.) by 12 months.
  • No single words by 16 months.
  • No two-word spontaneous phrases (other than instances of echolalia) by 24 months.
  • Any loss of any language or social skills, at any age.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that all children be screened for ASD at the 18- and 24-month well-child doctor visits, using autism-specific formal screening tests. In contrast, the UK National Screening Committee recommends against screening for ASD in the general population, because screening tools have not been fully validated and interventions lack sufficient evidence for effectiveness.


Autism is defined as exhibiting at least six symptoms total;

  • Including at least two symptoms of qualitative impairment in social interaction.
  • At least one symptom of qualitative impairment in communication
  • At least one symptom of restricted and repetitive behaviour

A paediatrician commonly performs a preliminary investigation by taking developmental history and physically examining the child. If warranted, diagnosis and evaluations are conducted with help from ASD specialists, observing and assessing cognitive, communication, family, and other factors using standardised tools, and taking into account any associated medical conditions.

ASD can sometimes be diagnosed by age 14 months, although diagnosis becomes increasingly stable over the first three years of life: for example, a one-year-old who meets diagnostic criteria for ASD is less likely than a three-year-old to continue to do so a few years later.

In the UK the National Autism Plan for Children recommends at most 30 weeks from first concern to completed diagnosis and assessment, though few cases are handled that quickly in practice.

Western Medical Management

The main goals of treatment are to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence.

Intensive, sustained special education programs and behaviour therapy early in life can help children acquire self-care, social, and job skills, and often improve functioning and decrease symptom severity and maladaptive behaviours, claims that intervention by around age three years is crucial are not substantiated. Available approaches include applied behaviour analysis (ABA), developmental models, structured teaching, speech and language therapy, social skills therapy, and occupational therapy.

Many medications are used to treat ASD symptoms. More than half of U.S. children diagnosed with ASD are prescribed;

  • Psychoactive drugs
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Stimulants
  • Antipsychotics

There is scant reliable research about the effectiveness or safety of drug treatments for adolescents and adults with ASD.


There is no known cure. Children recover occasionally, so that they lose their diagnosis of ASD occurring sometimes after intensive treatment and sometimes not. It is not known how often recovery happens; reported rates in unselected samples of children with ASD have ranged from 3% to 25%. A few autistic children have acquired speech at age 5 or older. Most children with autism lack social support, meaningful relationships, future employment opportunities or self-determination.

Some adults show modest improvement in communication skills, but a few decline; no study has focused on autism after midlife. Acquiring language before age six, having an IQ above 50, and having a marketable skill all predict better outcomes. Independent living is unlikely with severe autism.

Natural Medicine Causes and Treatment of Autism

Whilst these are all theories, and are not yet proven according to scientific measures you must remember that even the prevalence, medical management and prognosis of autism is still uncertain. What should be agreed on is this; the causes of Autism are a multifactorial. It is not wise to focus on genetics as the only cause. All genetics disorders must be triggered by something whether it be a viral infection or environmental toxin.

With a condition such as this it is best to err on the side of caution and keep an open mind when it comes to theories. My advice in practice is to address these hypothesises without doing harm to the patient. For example some extremely restrictive diets may result in malnutrition.

Summary of Natural Medicine causes of autism

1. The Hygiene Hypothesis

A lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system.

2. Leaky gut syndrome / Increased intestinal hyperpermeability

Leaky gut syndrome is caused by increased permeability of the gut wall resulting from toxins, poor diet, parasites, infection, or medications, thus allowing substances such as toxins, microbes, undigested food, waste, or larger than normal macromolecules to leak through an abnormally permeable gut wall initiating an overactive immune response.

3. Vaccinosis

The homeopathic term for chronic adverse vaccine reactions is “vaccinosis.” Whether or not vaccines contain mercury, they still and do contain other neurotoxins, aluminium and formaldehyde

4. Dipeptydal peptidase IV deficiency/ Opiod Excess / Hollow organ dismotility / Increased Urinary IAG / Glutathione deficiency / Immunosuppression

Dipeptydal peptidase IV deficiency

This enzyme Dipeptydal peptidase IV, present in the intestinal mucosal cells, T cells, and epithelial cells in GU tract, appears to be absent or reduced in autistic children. It is needed to breakdown casomorphine an opiod.

Opiod Excess

Opiod pepetides are found in greater amount in the urine and serum of autistic children. When in excess they negatively affect hormones. Desmorphin is only found in autisc children. These opiod pepetides and opiod like substances produce the symptoms of the autism spectrum.


Opiods decrease T-cell proliferation which in turn leads to immune dysfunction seen in autistic patients.

Hollow organ dismotility

The abnormal opiod peptides found in the urine of autistic children have various negative effects on the Gastro Intestinal Tract (GIT). Hollow organ dismotility results from uncoordinated electrical activity and poor gut motility leading to spasm and constipation.

Decreased cAMP and increased Urinary IAG

Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels are lower in autistic children due to increased exogenous opiods. Constant inappropriate stimulation due to excess opiods depletes cAMP levels this means that less of the enzyme is phosphorylated.

Tryptophan is not converted to serototin resulting in increased urinary IAG. Autistic children have been found increased levels of IAG. This indicates that there is defective tryptophan metabolism. Tryptophan is the enzyme required to convert tryptophan to serotonin. It must be phosphorylated using cAMP.

Glutathione deficiency

Glutathione is part of glutathione peroxidase, our endogenous antioxidant. Opiods reduce hepatic glutathione.

5. Secretin deficiency

Secretin is a digestive enzyme involved in protein metabolism. It is deficient in many autistic patients and results from the fact that opiods decrease gastric acid secretion. Secretin when given to autistic patients reverses the lowering of cAMP brought about by opioids.

6. Gluten/casein theory

There is gluten casein intolerance in autistic children. When gluten is not metabolised properly, A gliadin is produced. The body cannot metabolise A gliadin. A-gliadin binds to receptors they knock off the opiods therefore resulting in increased circulating opiods. A strict gluten/casein free diet is compulsory to reduce circulating opiods.

7. Carnitine and Fatty Acids

Another abnormality in autistic patients is the build-up pf long chain fatty acids in cell membranes. Carnitine assists fatty acid transportation across mitochondrial cell membranes.

8. Hypomethylation

Methylation is involved in the breakdown of immune complexes, histamine, hormones, DNA, serotonin. Autistic patients have high serotonin levels as a result of hypomethylation.

9. Environmetal factors

  • Phthalates in vinyl and plastic flooring
  • Teflon pans
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Artificial food additives, colourings, preservatives, flavouring.

10. Nutritional deficiencies

1. The Hygiene Hypothesis and Molecular Mimicry

The hygiene hypothesis is a hypothesis that states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system.

Other diseases, such as the rise of autoimmune diseases and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in young people in the developed world, have also been linked to the hygiene hypothesis. There is some evidence that autism is caused by an immune disease, with one study implicating the hygiene hypothesis as a cause of autism.

Mechanism of action

Allergic diseases are caused by inappropriate immunological responses to harmless antigens driven by an overzealous Th2 (T helper cells)-mediated immune response. Many bacteria and viruses normally encountered elicit a Th1-mediated immune response. This down regulates Th2 responses to keep the immune system in check.

The hygiene hypothesis states that insufficient stimulation of the Th1 arm leads to an overactive Th2 arm, stimulating the antibody-mediated immunity of the immune systems, which in turn led to allergic and some autoimmune diseases. This proposed mechanism however, cannot explain the rise in incidence of several Th1-mediated autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and type I diabetes.

The hypothesis suggests that the developing immune system of a child needs to come into contact with common childhood diseases, either bacterial, viral or parasitical in nature, in order to train the immune system to be able to recognise self cells from foreign cells and to down regulate overactive immune cells so that they don’t get out of control and attack their own body or elicit an overactive response. This lack of down regulation leads to the immune system being unable to recognise its own cells from a foreign cell therefore attacking its own cells resulting in autoimmune disease. See molecular mimicry below.

Supporting evidence

The hygiene hypothesis is supported by epidemiological data. Studies have shown that various immunological and autoimmune diseases are much less common in the developing world than the industrialised world and that immigrants to the industrialised world from the developing world increasingly develop immunological disorders in relation to the length of time since arrival in the industrialised world.


Breastfeeding is necessary to inoculate the child’s bowel with beneficial gut flora and to introduce the child’s immune system to food antigens through the mothers diet. This is why it is important NOT TO omit potential allergenic foods when breastfeeding as this is how your child develops antibodies to food antigens. Breasts, unlike bottles, are also not sterile.

Molecular mimicry

The study of autoimmunity, the failure to recognise self antigens as “self”, has grown immensely. Autoimmunity is a result of a loss of immunological tolerance, which is the ability for an individual to discriminate between self and non-self. Molecular mimicry is a theoretical proposal that explains the causes of autoimmune disease and an overactive immune system such as seen in allergic disease.

Molecular mimicry states the body is unable to identify foreign and self-peptides which causes autoimmune disease. The reason the immune system is unable to downregulate and to recognise its own cells is because it has been untrained due to lack of exposure in childhood to childhood diseases. Vaccination is obviously a big issue from a naturopathic perspective. T Helper cells and B cells are lymphocytes (immune cells) that fight antigens (pathogenic proteins).

T helper cells when presented with an antigen generate cytokines to kill the antigens. The principal functions of B cells are to make antibodies against antigens. Upon the activation of B or T cells, it is believed that these “peptide mimic” specific T or B cells can cross-react with self-antigens, thus leading to autoimmunity.

Autoimmune Theories

Brain autoantibodies to myelin basic protein (anti-MBP) and neuron-axon filament protein (anti-NAFP) have been found in autistic children. One possible cause of autism may involve faulty immune regulation, in particular, autoimmunity. Among autistic children, antibodies to myelin basic protein are found in higher amounts than control children. Autoimmune disease may be triggered by infections with bacteria or viruses. In autism, coincidental findings indicate infections with congenital rubella and cytomegalovirus.

2. Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability)

Also found in the urine of autistic patients is undigested food particles. This suggests a leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal hyperpermeability.

Leaky Gut Syndrome is also described as increased intestinal hyperpermeability. Tight junctions (TJs) represent the major barrier between intestinal epithelial cells that line the digestion tract. Damage to the TJs leads to intestinal hyperpermeability ("leaky gut") which is part of the pathophysiology behind acute and chronic diseases such as systemic inflammatory response syndrome(SIRS), inflammatory bowel disease IBD including Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC), gastrointestinal diseases, cardiovascular disease type 1 diabetes, allergies including eczema and asthma, and autism.


Three mechanism are proposed;

  1. Dysbiosis
  2. A "leaky" intestinal mucosal barrier
  3. Altered intestinal immune responsiveness

1. Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis refers to a condition with microbial flora imbalances in the digestive tract It has been associated with different illnesses, like inflammatory bowel disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. A leaky bowel wall leads to bacteria and endotoxins building up in the bloodstream creating an immune response. This is an important stimulus for inflammatory cytokine activation.

2. A "leaky" intestinal mucosal barrier

The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients and electrolytes, and to maintain water homeostasis. Another important function is its ability to keep pathogens from the environment that enter through the gut from the host through this barrier mechanism.

The intercellular tight junctions of the intestinal epithelial barrier, together with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the neuroendocrine network, controls the balance between tolerance and immunity to nonself-antigens. Whilst this tight junction should allow absorption of essential nutrients and ions, intestinal tight junctions that are “leaky” allow substances, which should not be absorbed into the blood stream. Select enteric viruses, bacterial pathogens and parasites modulate intestinal tight junction structure and function and these effects may also contribute to the development of chronic intestinal disorders. Physiological, pharmacological, and pathophysiological stimuli all cause changes in the barrier properties of the tight junctions.

Enteric pathogens such as E. coli, Giardia, and TNF disrupt tight junctions function of epithelial cells. Alcohol consumption induces a state of "leaky gut" increasing plasma and liver endotoxin levels, leading (in excess) to liver diseases.

3. Altered intestinal immune responsiveness

Kupffer cells are macrophages located in the liver. When Kupffer cells become activated they produce a variety of substances including cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase metabolites, and reactive oxygen species such as superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and nitric oxide that damage the TJs and lead to increased intestinal hyperpermeability.

3. Vaccinations and Autism

A hospital in London, discovered a possible connection between autism and viral infection associated with the MMR vaccination. The damage from autism is thought to be provoked by an allergic type reaction initiated by the body’s reaction to the vaccine. This auto-immune response could also affect DPP-IV, reducing its levels, thereby connecting vaccines to the opioid theory of autism. One of the leading sites in the anti-immunization field is the National Vaccine Information Centre (NVIC).

"Vaccination is a medical procedure which carries a risk of injury or death. As a parent, it is your responsibility to become educated about the benefits and risks of vaccines in order to make the most informed, responsible vaccination decisions."

There area also possible, but unproven links between MMR vaccine and juvenile diabetes, multiple vaccines and autism, and OPV and Gulf War syndrome.

Vaccines and demyelination

At birth, relatively few pathways have myelin insulation. Myelination in the human brain continues from before birth until at least 20 years of age. Up until the age of 10 or so, vast areas of the cortex are not yet myelinated, and up to the age of 20, large areas of the frontal lobes are not yet myelinated. Myelination begins in the developmentally oldest parts of the brain, like the brain stem, moving to the areas of the nervous system that have developed more recently, like the prefrontal lobe and cortex. The prefrontal portions of the cerebrum have a profound influence on human behaviour Impairment of myelination can alter neural communication without necessarily causing severe CNS damage.

Vaccines have adjuvants like mercury, aluminum and formaldehyde compounds, as well as foreign proteins (some from other species in which the vaccines were grown) and biological organisms, unprotected nerves may be impacted.

The history of studies on vaccines began in 1922 when a smallpox vaccination program caused an outbreak of encephalitis, with a secondary result of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an ascending paralysis ending in death. Encephalitis, whether caused through disease or as a result of vaccination, can cause demyelination of the nerves. In 1947, Isaac Karlin suggested that stuttering was caused by "delay in the myelinisation of the cortical areas in the brain concerned with speech." In 1988, research by Dietrich and others using MRI imaging of the brains of infants and children from four days old to 36 months of age have found that those who were developmentally delayed had immature patterns of myelination.


Thiomersal or methylmercury was an adjuvant in vaccinations until 1999. It is very toxic by inhalation, ingestion, and in contact with skin (EC hazard symbol T+), with a danger of cumulative effects. Few studies of the toxicity of thiomersal in humans have been performed. Cases have been reported of severe poisoning by accidental exposure or attempted suicide, with some fatalities. Methylmercury and ethylmercury distributes to all body tissues, crossing the blood-brain barrier and the placental barrier, and ethylmercury also moves freely throughout the body.

Concerns based on extrapolations from methylmercury caused thiomersal to be removed from U.S. childhood vaccines, starting in 1999.

Following a mandated review of mercury-containing food and drugs, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked vaccine makers to remove thiomersal from vaccines as quickly as possible as a purely precautionary measure, and it was rapidly phased out of most U.S. and European vaccines.

Many parents took the action to remove thiomersal, in the setting of a perceived increasing rate of autism as well as increasing number of vaccines in the childhood vaccination schedule, as indicating that the preservative was the cause of autism. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. to seek damages from alleged toxicity from vaccines, including those purportedly caused by thiomersal.

DPT and Brain Damage

In 1992, the Institute of Medicine concluded that "the evidence is consistent with a causal relation between DPT vaccine and acute encephalopathy, defined in the studies reviewed as encephalopathy, encephalitis, or encephalomyelitis, and the evidence indicates a causal relation between DPT vaccine and anaphylaxis, between the pertussis component of DPT vaccine and protracted, inconsolable crying."

Like the material used to produce experimental allergic encephalitis, vaccines contain substances which qualify as "adjuvants." Common adjuvants used in vaccines are aluminum hydroxide and aluminum potassium sulfate. These substances initiate reactionary antibody formation.

Dr. Charles M Poser has drawn the link between the vaccines and demyelination: "Almost any... vaccine can lead to a non infectious inflammatory reaction involving the nervous system.

Jonas Salk, the developer of the vaccine, wrote in 1975, "Live virus vaccines against influenza or poliomyelitis may in each instance produce the disease it intended to prevent . . . . the live virus against measles and mumps may produce such side effects as encephalitis . "

MMR Vaccine and Autism

Since the MMR vaccine was introduced about 35 years ago, the incidents of autism in children have increased by 1,000 percent, from two or three in 10,000 to one in 500. The publications of Dr. Andrew Wakefield in March 1998 and of Dr. Brent Taylor in June 1999 share only two important features, they both originated from The Royal Free Hospital in London, and they both appeared in Lancet.

Andrew Wakefield did his first colonoscopy on an autistic child, because the anguished mother begged him to find the reason why her son had such terrible gastro-intestinal problems. When he found some very specific pathology, Dr. Wakefield proceeded to investigate several more autistic children, identifying and documenting, again and again, the same very unusual findings. A particular aspect of the history intrigued Dr. Wakefield. Many parents adamantly stated that their children's autistic symptoms appeared shortly after they received the MMR vaccine. Dr. Wakefield had no choice but to mention that many parents reported some temporal relationship between the MMR vaccine administration, and the onset of their children's autistic symptoms.

The immediate result of Dr.Wakefield's paper was a vitriolic attack from every front. A flood of opposing articles appeared in the same issue of Lancet, and systematic criticism, nearing persecution, of this decent researcher began, and is still going on.

Distraught parents of affected children have become even more confused, because no one has been able to prove conclusively to them yet, that an MMR vaccine-Autism connection does not really exist. There have been no safety follow-up studies looking beyond four weeks post vaccination, and many have been partially funded by vaccine manufacturers, with obvious studies quoted, commercial interests. Indeed, no serious researcher has looked at a large sample, three to nine months post MMR vaccination, when auto-immune diseases usually would occur.

The following facts remain:

  • The incidence of Autism has increased significantly in the last decade, as has the vaccination schedule.
  • This trend is continuing.
  • No one has proved that MMR vaccine plays a role in autism.
  • No one has proved conclusively that it does not. No one has proved that aluminium adjuvant in vaccines do not play a role in autism.
  • Serious studies by independent researchers are desperately needed, to look into all aspects.

Vaccination During Pregnancy and Risk for Autism

  1. F. Yazbak describes six mothers who received live virus vaccines and one received a Hepatitis B vaccine during pregnancy after having received an MMR booster five months prior to conception. All the children who resulted from these pregnancies have had developmental problems, six out seven (85%) were diagnosed with autism, and the seventh seems to exhibit symptoms often associated with autistic spectrum disorders. Avoid vaccinations especially when pregnant.

Fluoride in water contains mercury

During chemical phosphate fertilizer production, silicofluoride, lead, arsenic, and mercury is produced. Due to environmental regulations, ‘wet scrubber’ chimney pollution control devices are now required to capture contaminants from being emitted. This unprocessed liquid scrubbing mixture is called hydrofluorosilicic acid and it is this hydrofluorosilicic acid that is added to municipal drinking water. Filtering water is necessary to remove contaminants, in particular heavy metals in autism and indeed all chronic and autoimmune disease.

See Carahealth Eco Gravity Water Filter

4. Opioid Excess Theories

The opioid excess theory of autism says that autistic children are symptomatic due to excess opioid-like substances, whose effects on the brain produce the symptoms of autism.

Opioids and opioid-like substances, especially when in excess, also have many effects upon hormones and hormonal regulation and can upset the endocrine system. Opioid-like substances including Casomorphine, A-Glaidin, Desmorphin, Deltophin II, Morphine modulating peptide, Novel Autism Peptide I, and Novel Autism Peptide III. Dr. have been isolated and identified in urine or serum of autistic patients. The peptide desmorphin is only found in autistic children and on the backs of non-captive poison dart frogs. These opioid-like molecules are thought to cause the symptoms of autism.

Dermorphin is a mu-opioid agonist and is displaced by naloxone or morphine; hence, the justification for using naloxone with autistic children to block the effects of dermorphin and its relatives. Sauvagine is another opioid-like peptide found in higher concentrations among autistic children.

It and dermorphin affect both ACTH and beta-endorphin release from pituitary cells, inhibit prolactin and human growth hormone release. When dermorphin is administered by intracerebroventricular injection, it induces analgesia and catalepsy, along with conspicuous EEG and behavioural changes and a sharp reduction in gastric emptying time and gastric acid output. Prolactin release is stimulated.

These peptides have interaction with other neuropeptides. A neuropeptide is any of the variety of peptides found in neural tissue; e.g. endorphins, enkephalins.

Dipeptydal peptidase (DPP-IV) deficiency

Enzyme dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP)-IV plays a major role in glucose metabolism is associated with immune regulation, signal transduction and apoptosis. DDP-IV is the only known enzyme to break down casomorphine, dipeptidyl peptidase IV or DDP-IV. DDP-IV appears to be absent or reduced in autistic children. The theory is that the enzyme is deactivated due to an auto-immune mechanism.

Many autistic people have low levels of specific amino acids, despite a diet sufficient to support normal levels. DPP IV is found on epithelial cells in the kidney and is responsible for breaking down peptides into amino acids which are then reabsorbed. An absent or non-functioning enzyme could explain lowered levels of amino acids.

If DPP IV deficiency results in autism, what can be done?

If the enzyme is missing, replacing it should solve the deficiency. DPP IV is found on intestinal mucosal cells, epithelial cells in the GU tract, and on the surface of T-cells. It might be possible to hook the DNA sequence coding for DPP IV onto some type of delivery mechanism (such as a plasmid) and infuse the plasmids into the patient so that the desired sequence would be incorporated into the patient's DNA. Another alternative is stem cell therapy or live cell therapy. Injected cells might produce DPP IV which would migrate to areas in which it is needed.

If the enzyme is inactivated by an autoimmune mechanism, replaced enzyme would also be inactivated however. It is important also to treat the causes of the autoimmune condition by adopting the Four Rs and stimulating and retraining the immune system through fever managment.

Hollow organ dysmotility

The abnormal opioid peptides dermorphin and sauvagine found in the urine of autistic children may contribute to gut disorders, the main of which is known as hollow organ dysmotility syndrome. This is a condition in which pain arises from uncoordinated electrical activity and peristalsis in the gut, including the production of spasm and chronically elevated gut wall muscle tension.

Reduced cAMP levels and increased urinary IAG

Excess opiods cause increased urinary IAG levels among autistic people. In autistic people, cAMP levels are lowered by constant (inappropriate) stimulation of opioid receptors on the cell surface. Cyclic AMP is required for phosphorylation.Tryptophan hydroxylase (an enzyme involved in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin) must be phosphorylated in order to be active. In autism, less tryptophan hydroxylase is phosphorylated, and therefore more of the enzyme is inactive. When this happens, tryptophan is not converted into serotonin, but is shunted down alternate pathways, eventually leading to urinary IAG and 3-indoleacetate. Therefore autistic patients have increased urinary IAG have low high urinary IAG and decreased serotonin.

Reduced glutathione

Excess opioids have been shown to decrease hepatic glutathione. Low levels of glutathione have been demonstrated in autism. Glutathione is an antioxidant that protect cells from reactive oxygen species such as free radicals. Glutahione and selenium form glutathione peroxidase an endogenous antioxidant (made by our body in the liver). Immunosuppression Opioids decrease T-cell proliferation via the mu-receptors. Many autistic people demonstrate a mild immunosuppression which could be accounted for by the actions of opioids on T-cells.

5. Decreased secretin

Secretin is a hormone that controls the secretions into the duodenum. Its effect is to regulate the pH of the duodenal contents via the control of gastric acid secretion and buffering with bicarbonate. Excess opioids decrease gastric acid secretion. One theory as to the apparent "secretin deficiency" seen in many autistic patients is that the pH of the contents in the upper duodenum never gets low enough to cause the mucosal cells to release secretin.The improvement of some autistic people on secretin has been dramatic.

Secretin and cAMP

Secretin stimulates pituitary adenylate cyclase (via PACAP) which increases intracellular cAMP in certain brain regions. One thought is that secretin administration reverses the lowering of cAMP brought about by opioids.

Lectins and Secretin

Lectins are able to bind to cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins. Foods with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, and nuts, may be harmful if consumed in excess in uncooked or improperly cooked form. Adverse effects may include nutritional deficiencies, and immune (allergic) reactions. Possibly, most effects of lectins are due to gastrointestinal distress through interaction of the lectins with the gut epithelial cells. A recent in vitro study has suggested that the mechanism of lectin damage may occur by interfering with the repair of already-damaged epithelial cells. Lectins are able to bind to cholecystokinin (CCK) receptors. Cholecystokinin is a peptide hormone of the gastrointestinal system responsible for stimulating the digestion of fat and protein.

Cholecystokinin, is secreted by the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine, and causes the release of digestive enzymes and bile from the pancreas and gallbladder, respectively. It also acts as a hunger suppressant. Recent evidence has suggested that it also plays a major role in inducing drug tolerance to opioids like morphine and heroin.

6. Casein free/gluten free diet connections to autism

Investigations as to the development of caso-morphine and gluteo-morphine in autistic children are being undertaken. In some individuals who cannot metabolise gluten, a-gliadin is produced. The body cannot metabolise A-gliadin, which binds to opioid receptors C & D. These receptors are associated with mood and behaviour disturbances. A strict gluten and casein-free diet does appear to reduce the level of opioid peptides and improve autism for some people. The earlier the implementation of the diet, the better the chance of recovery.

7. Carnitine and Fatty Acids

Another abnormality observed in autism is the accumulation of long-chain and very-long-chain fatty acids in cell membranes. Carnitine palmitolytransferase is essential in the steps responsible for the transport of Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA) and Very Long Chain Fatty Acids (VLCFA) across the mitochondrial membrane so these fatty acids can be broken down and metabolised.

Carnitine palmitoyltransferase synthesis and half-life are dependent on the presence of cAMP. In autism there is decreased cAMP. Carnitine has also helped some autistic children, and, in fact, there is a glycogen storage disease that is a carnitine deficiency syndrome which presents like autism.

Vitamin B12 therapy is based in part upon the role of vitamin B12 in synthesising essential fatty acids.

8. Defective methylation results in histamine excess and serotonin deficiency

Methylation is an important metabolic process, possibly defective in autism, and pertaining to the control of histamine excess, protection of DNA, promotion of serotonin production, and other brain functions. Histamine is methylated in the liver "Methylation" is not just one specific reaction. There are hundreds of "methylation" reactions in the body. Methylation is simply the adding or removal of the methyl group to a compound or other element. A "methyl" group is simply one carbon connected to three hydrogen atoms. When a methyl group is received or lost this either turns on or turns off biological reactions in the body.

Methylation requires nutrients.

Some of the more relevant methylation reactions would be;

  • Getting methyl groups "turns on" detox reactions that detox the body of chemicals.
  • Getting methyl groups "turns on" serotonin and melatonin, production.

Some people actually are known as over-methylators and this can contribute to aggression or hyperactivity seen in ADD etc. Specifically, in relation to autism, conditions of excess histamine are due to poor methylation nearby the liver due to lack of nutrients in the diet.

Histamine levels are a good indicator of how someone is methylating

High levels of histamine as seen in autism indicates undermethylation. Supplements that increase methylation to lower histamine are indicated. These supplements include taurine, GABA, folic acid, B12, B6, DMG, TMG (and SAMe).

Low levels of histamine on the other hand, indicate overmethylation. Overmethylation is of partcular importance in mental health. This means that many supplements are contraindicated as they increase methylation and will therefore further lower histamine. These supplements include taurine, GABA, folic acid, B12, B6, DMG, TMG (and SAMe)

9. Environmental Fators

Prenatal Aspartamate Exposure

Some parents suspect that prenatal aspartame (NutraSweet) can trigger the auto-immune response that leads eventually to autism. Controversy exists about the potential effects of this artificial sweetener, and about whether or not it has an effect on the developing brain. When the temperature of Aspartame exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in Aspartame coverts to formaldehyde and then to formic acid, which in turn causes metabolic acidosis. The methanol toxicity is thought to mimic the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Aspartame changes the dopamine level in the brain, affecting Parkinson's Disease.

Cadmium in cigarette smoke and autism and learning disorders

"The Effect of Ambient Cadmium Air Pollution on the Hair Mineral Content of Children" Stewart-Pinkham, SM.

Hair analyses of 80 children with learning and behavioural problems were assessed by age, sex, season, place of residence, exposure to passive smoke and excess contact with known cadmium air pollutant sources. All children had been exposed for at least 2 years to air pollution from a refuse-derived fuel incineration plant. All of the patients had increased hair cadmium compared with a control group, but there was a strong seasonal influence on hair cadmium. Exposure to cadmium was ubiquitous.

A neurobehavioral toxic effect was found in children who showed evidence of inhibition of pyrimidine-5'-nucleotidase by low hair phosphorus levels and low zinc levels in whom there was enhanced lead absorption.

Phthalates in vinyl flooring linked to autism

Children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit chemicals called phthalates are more likely to have autism, according to research by Swedish and U.S. scientists.

The study of Swedish children is among the first to find an apparent connection between an environmental chemical and autism. Swedish families were asked questions about flooring as part of research investigating allergies and indoor air pollutants.

Phthalates, used to make soft plastic, have in previous studies been connected to allergies and asthma. The study was based on surveys that asked a variety of questions related to the indoor environment.

Of the study's 4,779 children between the ages of 6 and 8, 72 had autism, including 60 boys. The researchers found four environmental factors associated with autism: vinyl flooring, the mother's smoking, family economic problems and condensation on windows, which indicates poor ventilation.  Infants or toddlers who lived in bedrooms with vinyl, or PVC, floors were twice as likely to have autism five years later, in 2005, than those with wood or linoleum flooring.

"A greater proportion of children with autism spectrum disorder were reported to have PVC as flooring material in the child's and the parent's bedroom in 2000 compared to children without autism spectrum disorder," the scientists wrote in the journal Neurotoxicology. "Furthermore, children with autism spectrum disorder were reported to live in homes with more condensation on the inside of the windows, which...may be seen as an indicator for deficient ventilation."

The lead investigator was Carl-Gustav Bornehag of Karlstad University in Sweden, who in 2004 found a high rate of asthma and allergies among children living in households with dust containing phthalates. The scientists reported that they do not know if asthma and autism are related, or whether phthalates contributed to the risk of autism by some other mechanism, such as disruption of hormones. Phthalates in animal tests interfere with male hormones and sexual development.

Teflon Pans

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), used to make stain-resistant clothing and non-stick surfaces such as Teflon, may cause the immune system to overreact to allergens. Mice given PFOA produced more allergen-specific antibodies, and experienced more constriction of their airways, when exposed to an egg allergen. Currently, no studies have looked at the effects of PFOA on allergies in humans. PFOA is now present in the blood of 95 percent of the U.S. population. PFOA has already been identified as a "likely" human carcinogen by an advisory panel to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In animal studies, PFOA caused:

  • Serious changes in organs including the brain, prostate, liver, thymus, and kidneys
  • Death of several rat pups that were exposed to PFOA
  • Changes in the pituitary in female rats, at all doses (the pituitary controls growth, reproduction, and many metabolic functions)
  • Tumours in at least four different organs in animal tests, and PFOA has also been implicated in an increase in prostate cancer in PFOA plant workers
  • Whilst there is no link to autism directly it is best to avid this highly dangerous chemical

New Scientist June 21, 2007 Artificial food colourings, flavouring, preservatives, sweeteners 10. Nutritional deficiencies vitamin A, zinc, glutamine, glutathione

Naturopathic Treatment Principles for Autism

  1. Retrain the immune system.
  2. Repair leaky gut syndrome / Increased intestinal hyperpermeability.
  3. Chelate heavy metals.
  4. Improve methylation of histamine and heavy metals.
  5. Increase glutathione peroxidase.
  6. Replace Nutritional Deficiencies glutathione selenium, zinc, Vit A.
  7. Avoid colours, flavours, preservatives, additives, gluten and casein.

1. Retrain the immune system

Get dirty

Get dirty, allow your children to get dirty. Encourage normal play on the beach or in the dirt. Avoid the overuse of antibacterial particularly on eating utensils and dishwashing liquid. Remember, the development of specific immunoglobulin antibodies to environmental allergens encountered early in life is a normal, healthy physiological response to develop tolerance to the environment. Examples of these allergens include not only surface and airborne bacteria and viruses but also foods in particular and cows’ milk or egg. However, if there is an abnormal response and large numbers of antibodies are generated, this may cause an allergic reaction.

Fever management

The ability to throw a good fever is an example of the strength of what naturopaths term, the Vital Force. Many patients with chronic autoimmune conditions and allergic disorders do not get fevers. Many patients have taken fever suppressing medications there whole lives. The fever is a natural response and should not be suppressed. When the fever is between 38-40°C cancer destroying immune cells are activated.

The fever inhibits toxins and clears waste from the tissues, lymph and blood, on which bacteria feed and multiply. Killer T-cells are increased, as are neutrophils and macrophages, which are the white blood cells responsible for destroying invaders. Fever IS NOT DANGEROUS unless the temperature is over 101°F (38.3°C) in an infant, 103°F (39.4°C) in a child or 104°F (40°C) in an adult.

The treatment principle is to encourage and support the fever. Next time you get sick do not take paracetamol or aspirin. Lose the soldier on attitude. Eat chicken soup and go to bed. For fever management I recommend Yarrow Elder and Peppermint (YEP) tea. YEP tea is a blend of diaphoretic herbs, which promotes sweating to lower temperature. Please note herbs are amphoteric meaning that they can increase the temperature in a low-grade fever or increase temperature in a high-grade fever. Alternatively if someone is throwing a low grade fever, ie < 38 °C a warm YEP tea will increase the body temperature.

2. Repair Leaky gut syndrome / Increased intestinal hyperpermeability

4 Rs

  1. Reduce food antigens
  2. Replace digestive enzymes
  3. Repair gastrointestinal lining
  4. Re inoculate bowel flora

1. Reduce food antigens

The most common food allergies are allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat.

2. Replace digestive enzymes

Short term use of digestive acid supplements then use herbal bitters to naturally stimulate digestive acid secretions. Herbal sialogogues promote salivation to digest carbohydrates, herbal cholagogues promote bile flow to digest fats and herbal stomachics promote hydrochloric acid to digest proteins. Digestive enzymes including saliva, stomach acid and bile flow using herbal bitters which are naturally;

  • Sialogogues (promote saliva)
  • Cholagogues (promotes bile)
  • Orexogenics (promotes stomach acid)

Short-term use of digestive enzymes such as bromelain and papain may be advisable, alternatively eat pineapple or papaya after meals as these fruits contain the proteolytic enzymes. Chew your food 32 times. Avoid liquid with meals as this dilutes hydrochloric acid.

3. Repair gastrointestinal lining

Nutrients specifically for leaky gut

L-Glutamine for gut repair

Glutamine is important for a large number of bodily functions. It is one of the most important nutrients for healing leaky gut syndrome because it is the preferred 'fuel' for the cells lining the mucosa of the small intestine (enterocytes). Glutamine is also required for the production of both intestinal mucus and Secretary Immunoglobulin Type A (SIgA). Glutamine will help repair and maintain a healthy small intestinal lining. The suggested dosage for moderate-severe leaky gut syndrome is in the range of 5-20g per day .Please note these are adult doses. Please see a professional nutritionist to prescribe to children.

Vitamin A

An essential nutrient for the production of the GI tracts protective antibodies (SIgA). Vitamin A also helps to maintain a healthy intestinal mucosa and soothes inflammation. Vitamin A can be used safely in doses of up to 20,000-25,000 IU's per day. Vitamin A is also involved in immune function, skin and cellular health and displays antioxidant activity. Please note these are adult doses. Please see a professional nutritionist to prescribe to children.


Zinc is required for growth and healing and is essential to cells with a rapid turnover. The cells of the small intestinal mucosa have an extremely rapid turnover, being replaced about every four days, so zinc is extremely important to the integrity of the intestinal lining.

Small intestinal permeability is often increased in patients with Crohn's disease and may be pathogenic for clinical relapses. Clinical studies have shown zinc supplementation can resolve permeability alterations in patients with Crohn's disease in remission. Improving intestinal barrier function may contribute to reduce the risk of relapse in Crohn's disease. Dosages in the range of 50-80mg per day are usually taken to correct deficiencies of zinc. Please note these are adult doses. Please see a professional nutritionist to prescribe to children.

Sturniolo GC., Di Leo V., Ferronato A, D'Odorico A., D'Incà R Zinc supplementation tightens "leaky gut" in Crohn's disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis.2001 May;7(2):94-8.


Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans. GAGs form an important component of connective tissues and is essential for the secretion of the mucus that creates a protective lining on top the cells of the gut.

4. Reinoculate the bowel flora

Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be healthy for the host organism. Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures; such as in yoghurt, soy yoghurt or as dietary supplements.

Potential benefits

Experiments into the benefits of probiotic therapies suggest a range of potentially beneficial medicinal uses for probiotics. For many of the potential benefits, research is limited and only preliminary results are available. It should be noted that the effects described are not general effects of probiotics. Recent research on Lactobacillus has focused on the interaction with the immune system, anti-cancer potential, and potential as a biotherapeutic agent in cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, travellers' diarrhoea, paediatric diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

3. Chelate heavy metals

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a powerful anti-oxidant. Its main function is to increase production of glutathione, which helps dissolve toxic substances in the liver. It helps neutralise free radicals and protects cells from damage. Many physicians who follow the Defeat Autism Now (DAN) organisation's autism lipoic treatment protocols use alpha lipoic acid in the treatment of mercury toxicity.


According to parent surveys compiled by Defeat Autism Now of autism therapies, parents report that chelation single the most effective therapy in the treatment of autism for children under the age of 5. Owing to the presence of two thiol groups, dihydrolipoic acid is a chelating agent. Lipoic acid administration can significantly enhance biliary excretion of inorganic mercury, although it is not known if this is due to chelation by lipoic acid or some other mechanism. Lipoic acid has the potential to cross the blood-brain barrier unlike DMSA and DMPS.


A soluble fibre supplement is recommended in combination with ALA to attach to the heavy metals and assist removal from the body.

4. Improve methylation of histamine and heavy metals

Folate, B12, B6, TMG and zinc are all involved in methylation.

DMG 125 mg

Dimethylglycine Dimethylglycine (DMG) is a chemical derivative of glycine, with two glycine amino acids attached to a methyl-group. Glycine acts as a building block for many critical substances in the human body, including the amino acid properties of methionine, choline, a wide variety of important hormones and neurotransmitters, and DNA.

TMG Powder

Trimethylglycine Trimethylglycine (TMG) is similar to Dimethylglycine (DMG). It has one additional methyl group (CH3-) that consists of a glycine amino acid and three methyl groups. TMG is a more active methyl donor and helps to support the methylation cycle by converting homocysteine to methionine.

Anecdotal reports indicate that treatment with DMG (or trimethylglycine, of which DMG is the precursor) may ameliorate or alleviate many symptoms of autism. It is theorized that DMG/TMG are effective because they improve cell methylation, which may be inefficient in people on the autistic spectrum.

5. Increase glutathione peroxidase

Glutathione is synthesised by the human body on its own and is present in every cell, including those of immune system. During the synthesis of glutathione, the body first extracts the three amino acids from the foods. The amino acids are then combined to form glutathione. Medical researches have revealed that this antioxidant regulates the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the generation of lymphocytes (present in white blood cells).

A deficiency of this antioxidant may lead to nervous system disorders such as lack of coordination and mental problems. It also speeds up the process of aging. It is a precursor to glutathione peroxidase. Glutathione peroxidase is an enzyme that is made by our body to help in detoxification of free radicals and heavy metals in particular.

Glutathione has multiple functions:

  • It is the major endogenous antioxidant produced by the cells, participating directly in the neutralisation of free radicals and reactive oxygen compounds, as well as maintaining exogenous antioxidants such as vitamins C and E in their reduced (active) forms.
  • Regulation of the nitric oxide cycle, which is critical for life but can be problematic if unregulated.
  • Through direct conjugation, it detoxifies many xenobiotics (foreign compounds) and carcinogens, both organic and inorganic. This includes heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic essential in autism.
  • It is essential for the immune system to exert its full potential, e.g.,

(1) modulating antigen presentation to lymphocytes, thereby influencing cytokine production and type of response (cellular or humoral) that develops,

(2) enhancing proliferation of lymphocytes, thereby increasing magnitude of response,

(3) enhancing killing activity of cytotoxic T cells and NK cells, and

(4) regulating apoptosis, thereby maintaining control of the immune response.

  • It plays a fundamental role in numerous metabolic and biochemical reactions such as DNA synthesis and repair, protein synthesis, prostaglandin synthesis, amino acid transport, and enzyme activation.

Thus, every system in the body can be affected by the state of the glutathione system, especially the immune system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and the lungs.

Natural sources of glutathione are asparagus, orange, grapefruit, watermelon, potato, tomato, strawberries, spinach, cabbage, parsley, broccoli and meat. Glutathione is available commercially as a dietary or nutritional supplement.

6. Replace nutritional deficiencies glutathione, glutamine, zinc, Vit A, omega 3

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Pilot findings seem to suggest a potential beneficial effect of omega-3 fatty acid (FA) supplementation on behavioural alterations in children with autism.

Vitamin B6 and multivitamins

A moderate dose multivitamin/mineral supplement on children with autistic spectrum disorder found that the supplement group reported statistically significant improvements in sleep and gastrointestinal problems compared to the placebo group.


As opiods reduce hepatic glutathione and glutathione is part of glutathione peroxidase, our endogenous antioxidant, it is important to replace glutamine deficiency.

Vitamin A

Autistic children may have a Vitamin A deficiency because of gastrointestinal inflammation caused by Leaky Gut syndrome, allergies or viral infections.

7. Avoid colours, flavours, preservatives, additives, gluten and casein

Food allergens

Although sensitivity levels vary by country, the most common food allergies are allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat. These are often referred to as "the big eight." They account for over 90% of the food allergies. An example of allergies more common to a particular region is the surplus rice allergies in East Asia where rice forms a large part of the diet.

When it comes to food allergens the advice is reduce and rotate. Complete elimination is often not advised as it often makes the patient more sensitive.

Avoid the following;

Artificial ingredients

Since most children with autism have poor digestive system and weakened immune system, intake of artificial ingredients will cause toxin accumulation in the liver, leading to abnormality of liver function in toxins elimination, resulting in increasing the severity of the symptoms.

Artificial colours

Artificial food colour interfers the neurological processes, such as the behaviour, personality and learning ability of children with or without autism if taken in high dose. Some artificial ingredient such as FD & C Red No. 2 dye have shown to promote cancerous growth. Researcher found that removing the artificial colours from the autistic children diet, improve in attention deficit and hyperactivity behaviours dramatically.

Artificial flavours

Artificial flavours are any synthesized chemical added to manufactured foods to change or make its taste better such as banana - isoamyl acetate; cinnamon - ethyl cinnamate; orange - octyl acetate and pineapple - methyl butyrate; pear. It causes nervous tension including mental concentration, behaviour, lost of energy and weakened immune response. Long-term usage can increase your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other degenerative conditions to children's central nervous system.

Artificial preservatives

Artificial preservatives are a group of chemical substances, such as BHT, nitrates, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, BHA, etc. added to food, sprayed on the outside of food, or added to certain medications with the purpose of preventing food from spoiling or discolouring. It causes allergic reactions in children, resulting in skin rashes or facial swelling and worsening asthma.


Olestra is a fat substitute used in crackers and potato chips. It is type of additive can not be absorbed by the digestive system, leading to diarrhoea, loose stools, abdominal cramps.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

MSG is used as a flavour enhancer in many cooking and preservative foods. MSG can cause sensitive neurons to die and also lead to headache, nausea or vomiting. Artificial sweeteners are a synthetic sugar substitute. Artificial sweeteners are replacing natural sugar in a wide range of products traditionally containing sugar. Studies found that artificial sweetener may increase risk of bladder and brain cancers.


It is 600 times as sweet as sugar and has been used in beverages, frozen desserts, chewing gum, baked goods, etc. and belongs to a class of chemicals called organochlorides. Some of them are considered toxic to our health.


It is 200 times as sweet as sugar and can be used as a tabletop sweetener, frozen desserts, gelatins, etc. Researchers found that aspartame may increase the risk of brain damage and cancer.

Yeast extract

It is also known as processed yeast products and has been used as food additives or flavourings under the name of monosodium glutamate (MSG). It contains glutamic acid which is classified as exitotoxins, and can cause brain damage in some studies.

Trans fat

Trans fat is the hydrogenated oil found in many biscuit, breads, mayonnaise, margarine, and peanut butter etc. and can cause cholesterol building up in the arteries, leading to less blood circulation to the central nervous system, thus increasing the severity of the symptoms of autism and heart diseases and stroke. Some studies also found that trans fat causes brain, adrenal gland and thyroid tumours and cancers in some animal studies.


Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains, including oats, rye, barley, bulgar, durum, etc. and extracted from flour by washing out the starch. It also has been used as artificial additive as a stabilising agent in some foods. Intake of gluten may cause autoimmune disorder of the small intestine and symptoms of gastrointestinal disorder including chronic diarrhoea, failure to thrive and fatigue.


Casein is a protein found in milk and foods containing milk, such as cheese, butter, yogurt, etc. Studies found besides promoting cancer, it also increases the risk of cholesterol building up in the arteries, leading to heart diseases and stroke. Casein after intake can also be broken down to casomorphins, a chemical agent which is known to interfere with the function of neurotransmitter in transmitting information and decrease the immune response to foreign bacteria and virus invasion. Non organic foods

Non organic foods may contain / Pesticides & Herbicides

Pesticides & Herbicides is highly toxic. Because of their value of increasing the production of foods and prevent insect eating aways the profits of the growers, it have been widely uses in non-organic farming. Intake of non-organic foods may weakened the immune system as well as interfering the liver function in toxic elimination, leading to central nervous tension and exhibiting the symptoms of autism. Hormones & Antibiotics Animal fed with fed antibiotics, hormones, ground up remains of other animals causes hormone imbalance in our body, leading central nervous disorder, increasing the risk of irregular cell growth, and damaging the balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

Refined foods

Refined foods have little fibre and release sugar in the blood stream quickly, causing the responses of pancreas to produce high level of insulin to neutralize it in a short period of time, that interferes with the normal function of central nervous system in controlling the concentration, focus and behaviour for children with autism.

Foods promote immune allergic reaction

Since most children with autism have a weakened immune system, eating food promote the immune allergic reaction may cause immune system to attacks a normally harmless substance and interfere to the body's own natural opioid and disable the enzymes that would break down these naturally occurring compounds, leading to inflammation and gastrointestinal disorder.

Make Changes to your Lifestyle

  • Avoid environmental hazards
  • Have wooden floors only especially in the nursery.
  • Use stainless steel pans.
  • Avoid refined processed foods.
  • Avoid passive smoking.

Herbs are safe for children please contact me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for dosage.

Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.

Cert IV TAE. 

Natural Medicine Consultation

Natural Medicine Consultation
Brand Carahealth

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