Detoxification for Children with Autism
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
We live in a polluted world. Every day we breath in car fumes and industrial wastes. We eat foods containing pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals. We drink milk and eat meats from animals, which are routinely given antibiotics, steroids and other drugs. We eat a countless number of various chemicals in processed foods. We use personal care products full of various chemicals, shown to be carcinogenic and generally toxic for the humans. Our modern energy conserving homes and offices have become toxic places. Modern building materials, insulation, paints, domestic cleaning chemicals, fire retardants all outgas toxic substances which we breath day in and day out. For example, chemical analysis on outgassing of common carpets and carpet adhesives in modern homes found in considerable amounts such toxic substances as formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, benzene, methacrylate, tetrachloroethylene, methyl naphthalene, pthalates, styrene. All these chemicals are known toxins for a human and we breath them in ample amounts every time we are at home. Hospitals and shopping centres have even higher amounts of toxic substances in the air, that is why so many people feel so tired and drained after a shopping trip or a long visit to a hospital. And as if all these is not enough, we routinely take prescription drugs, drink alcohol and smoke tobacco.
So, how do we survive?! How do we manage to live our lives, go to work, have children without just dropping dead after a first breath of traffic jam air in the morning?!
We survive thanks to a very important system in our bodies. A system which until recently was not known to even the medical profession – a DETOXIFICATION SYSTEM. It is a system which is like a cleaner in the body, it constantly cleans out all the toxins, produced as a result of normal body metabolism, and toxins arriving from the outside. It has got its headquarters in the liver and departments in every cell of the body. The sophistication and complexity of this system is staggering to even most knowledgeable biochemists. There is a lot we still don’t know about how it works so efficiently. But what we do know is that this system, in order to function well, has to have a constant supply of certain nutrients: zinc, magnesium, selenium, molybdenum and other minerals and trace elements, hundreds of enzymes, many amino-acids and essential fats – all the substances which our autistic children are deficient in. Due to these deficiencies the detoxification system can not function at an optimum level in an autistic child. At the same time this system is overloaded with work, because autistic children are very toxic children. Imagine a worker, who is being starved of food and drink, and at the same time is given more and more work to do. How is he going to cope? He is going to put most of this work into a backlog, hoping for better times when he would be able to attend to it. That is exactly what the detoxification system does in an autistic child – it stores various toxic substances in different tissues in the body in order to deal with them later. That is why when these children are tested for heavy metals, petrochemicals and other toxins they always test positive. Unfortunately, a lot of these chemicals have affinity for fats and therefor get stored in body fats. A human brain and the rest of the nervous system has a very high proportion of fats in its tissues and become a storage sight for these toxins. A brain clogged with toxicity can not develop or function well. We see this very clearly in autistic children.
But why are autistic children so toxic? Is it because of a polluted environment? Well, the pollution probably accounts for less than 10% of the toxic load in an autistic child. The rest comes from within – mainly from the child’s digestive system.
The parents of autistic children always new that there is a connection between their child’s autism and a whole host of digestive problems, which these children suffer with. Now the medical profession has been made aware of it through the research done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Having done endoscopies, biopsies and lots of other tests on a group of autistic children they found a pathology which is now named Autistic Enterocolitis. In the gut of autistic children they found chronic ongoing inflammation with erosions, blisters, abscesses filled with pus, degeneration of normal structure of the gut mucosa and compaction with large amounts of stool and undigested food particles, which are literary glued to the walls of the bowel. Whatever stool comes out of these children is an overspill, which seeps through a narrow channel in the bowel between large masses of compacted faeces. These compactions provide a wonderful environment for all sorts of parasites, worms, bacteria, fungi, viruses to thrive in and to produce large amounts of various toxins, which get absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed around the body. As a result the child becomes toxic. Our digestive systems are the roots of our health. A tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, it is likely to die. A child with sick digestive system is not going to thrive and develop normally either. The digestive system in an autistic child instead of being a source of nourishment, as it is supposed to be, becomes a major source of toxicity. Some of these toxins have been well studied, like the opiates from misdigested casein and gluten, gliotoxins, immunotoxins and others. But, most of them we still don’t know much about. We can only guess which ones make our children autistic. We don’t know how all these toxins interact with each other in our children’s bodies and what results from these interactions.
So, what do we do? How do we lift off this toxic load from our children’s bodies to allow them to develop and function properly?
The first and most obvious thing to do is to remove the main source of toxicity, which means cleaning up and healing the gut. In the previous issues of The Autism File I have described the diet and supplementation, which I believe to be appropriate for autistic children. The major purpose of this nutritional programme is to restore normal gut flora, which our children do not have. The diet and beneficial bacteria in a probiotic such as Bio-Kult help to break down and eliminate compacted putrefaction from the child’s digestive system, re-establish appropriate gut flora and heal the gut lining. In my clinic there are in excess of a hundred children on this nutritional programme, doing very well, and hundreds more who’s parents have followed the advice in my articles without a formal consultation.
However, removing the major source of toxicity is not enough. What do we do with all the toxins stored over the years in our children’s bodies? What do we do with all the heavy metals, which these children test positive for?
In recent years a new treatment has emerged – chelation of heavy metals with chelating drugs, mainly DMSA and Alfa-Lypoic Acid. It is a group of drugs initially used in the army for treating acute exposure to heavy metals and other toxic substances. It is a hot topic at the moment within the circles of parent groups of autistic children. There are a number of practitioners, mainly in the USA, who will administer these drugs to autistic children and who claim that there are benefits from this treatment. We hear stories from parents who feel that chelation has helped their child. However, there are number of issues here which a lot of people, including me, do not feel comfortable about. Chelating drugs are drugs. Like any drug they come with side effects and complications. These are not benign substances. I have great concerns at the idea of using these drugs without direct local medical supervision, let alone without regular blood monitoring. Let’s have a look at some known problems.
1. DMSA and other chelating drugs cause dose related bone marrow suppression, which manifests as neutropenia and thrombocytopenia, which can affect blood clotting and blood immune response to infections and other toxins. Children, who are on a chelation programme have to have their blood composition monitored on a regular basis. In some children this reaction was shown to be serious enough to discontinue chelation.
2. Chelating drugs cause an explosion of pathological fungal and bacterial growth in the gut, probably due to the immune system suppression. That is why doctors who practice chelation advise their patients to deal with their gut dysbiosis first before trying to chelate. Anybody who has any experience with treating gut dysbiosis know how difficult it is to deal with it. Autistic children have gut dysbiosis as their most basic and primary pathology and with all the experience in treating it we still can not say whether you can completely get rid of it.
3. Apart from taking out heavy metals chelating drugs bind essential minerals as well and take them out of the body. They chelate zinc, for example, that is why zinc has to be supplemented in very high doses prior and during chelation. However, doctors who have an experience with supplementing zinc know that it has a very complex absorption mechanism, which requires normal stomach acidity. Autistic children do not have normal stomach acidity, which impairs absorption of all that supplemented zinc. On top of that we know that autistic children are already deficient in this essential mineral quite severely. Apart from zinc, chelating drugs chelate other essential minerals, which our children are already deficient in, like magnesium, molybdenum and others. That is why chelation protocols include very heavy supplementation with a large number of different nutrients.
4. Children on chelating drugs show high amounts of enzymes called transaminases in their blood, which is an indication of liver damage, specifically damage to hepatocytes (liver cells).
5. Chelating drugs are contraindicated in people with any renal problems because they have a damaging effect on kidneys. Kidney function as well as liver function has to be regularly monitored during chelation.
6. During chelation a long list of side effects are reported by the parents of autistic children: regression in autistic symptoms, anorexia, fatigue, irritability, nausea, sleep disturbances, diarrhoea, flatulence, macular-papular skin rash. In some cases such serious complications were observed by doctors as Stevens – Johnson Syndrome (severe toxic reaction with high fever, diarrhoea, polyarthritis, erosive skin rash, myalgia, pneumonitis; usually treated with steroid medication ), heamolysis (red blood cells destruction), as mentioned above serious neutropenia (low count of blood cells, called neutrophyls, which are involved in immune response) and thrombocytopenia (low count of thrombocytes, which are blood cells mainly responsible for blood clotting).
7. A number of children are reported to be better while taking chelation drugs, but regress back to the previous state as soon as chelation stops. One explanation for this phenomenon may be that children just re-accumulate heavy metals from the environment as soon as the chelation stops, because their own detox system is unable to deal with these metals.
There is no hard or soft data available yet that chelation really works, only anecdotal evidence. There are a few studies on the way, which are trying to assess any improvements from chelation, but the success rate is still unknown. If children do improve after chelation, we do not know yet to what extent they improve to justify putting your child through all the risks and side effects of this treatment, not to mention the expense.
So, what do we do about all these heavy metals and other toxins lurking in our children’s bodies? We can’t just forget about them. Well, there is a time proven way of detoxifying, taking out of the body not just heavy metals but a lot of other poisons without any side effects or harmful complications. And a very tasty way too. Children love it! This way is JUICING. Thousands of people all over the world freed themselves from the most deadly diseases with juicing, dozens of books have been published on this subject full of testimonies and hundreds of wonderful recipes. Some very big names in natural medicine strongly advocated juicing and used it actively in treatment of their patients – people like Dr. Gerson and Dr. Norman Walker for example. Hundreds of scientific studies have been published on health benefits of fresh raw fruit and vegetables. Juices provide all the goodness from these fruit and vegetables in a concentrated form and in large amounts. For example to make a glass of carrot juice you need a pound of carrots. Nobody can eat a pound of carrots at once, but you can get all the nutrition from them by drinking the juice. On top of that juicing removes the fibre, which impairs absorption of many nutrients in fruit and vegetables. The digestive system has virtually no work to do in digesting juices, they get absorbed in 20-25 minutes, providing the body with a concentrated amount of vitamins, minerals, very valuable phytonutrients, enzymes in a natural form which the body can recognise and utilise efficiently. With juicing you can consume kilograms of fresh vegetables and fruit every day in the most digestible and pleasant form. A lot of autistic children would not eat fresh vegetables and fruit due to their texture. Drinking juices can solve this problem very efficiently. A lot of autistic children would not drink enough liquids either. Juices, being so tasty, can provide a good solution to this problem too. Drinking at least 2 cups of freshly extracted juice will provide your child with all the essential vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc and other minerals, amino-acids and lots more nutrients, which autistic children are deficient in. A combination of pineapple, carrot and a little bit of beetroot in the morning will prepare your child’s digestive system for the coming meals, stimulate stomach acid production and pancreatic enzymes production. A mixture of carrot, apple, celery and beetroot has a wonderful liver cleansing ability. Green juices from leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, parsley, dill, carrot and beet tops) with some tomato and lemon are a great source of magnesium and iron and good chelators of heavy metals. Cabbage, apple and celery juice stimulates digestive enzymes production and is a great kidney cleanser. There is an endless number of healthy and tasty variations you can make from whatever fruit and vegetables you have available at home.
What about fibre? Drinking juices doesn’t mean that you stop eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Your child should carry on eating fruit and vegetables as usual. Treat the juices like a supplement of concentrated amounts of nutrients in a glass. They should be taken on an empty stomach 20-25min before food and 2-2,5 hours after a meal.
But can’t we just buy juices in the shops? The answer is a big NO!. Juices in the shops have been processed and pasteurised, which destroys all the enzymes, most vitamins and phytonutrients. They are a source of processed sugar which will feed abnormal bacteria and fungi in the gut. In freshly extracted juice the natural sugars are balanced with enzymes, minerals, and other nutrients which turn them into energy for the child. When you make your juice at home you know what you put into it, you know that it is fresh without any contamination and oxidation, and you can have great fun by mixing different fruit and vegetables together, making different tasty combinations. There is a large number of books on juicing with wonderful recipes for every health problem and every occasion. A simple and good introduction to juicing you can find in a book “Juicing for Health” by Caroline Wheater, £ 6.99 through www.amazon.co.uk .
So, what do you need to start juicing? You need a lot of fresh, preferably organic fruit and vegetables and a good juicer.
Triturating juicers operate at a slow speed with much less exposure to air. They have a high nutritional rating because they slowly crush the fruit or vegetable, ripping open the cell membranes and exposing the nutrients for extraction. They are more expensive than centrifugal juicers, but extract far more juice and nutrients.
In my opinion, a very important point in choosing a juicer is how easy it is to use and how easy it is to assemble, disassemble and clean. If your juicer is a pain to use and a pain to clean then you probably won’t use it. In my experience the second group of juicers is the most practical one. They are a pleasure to use, very easy to assemble and clean. The juicer which we use in our family is called the Samson Multipurpose Juice Extractor. You can extract juices from fruit, vegetables and wheat grass with it, make ice-cream and fruit purees, make noodles and pasta, mince seasonings and pate, grind coffee, nuts and seeds. My children love making their own juices, mixing different combinations of fruit and vegetables. It amazes me sometimes what flavours children will tolerate when they have mixed it themselves.
On a final note it is important to reduce the environmental toxic load on your child’s detoxification system as much as possible. Try to keep your house as chemical free as possible by using minimal amounts of domestic cleaning chemicals, paints, carpet pesticides and other toxic substances. Try not to use any personal care product on your child. They all contain harmful chemicals which absorb very efficiently through children’s’ skin loading their detox system with more work to do. This means no bath and shower soaps and bubbles, no shampoos. Their hair can be washed in a centuries old folk way with an egg yolk. Separate an egg yolk from the white and rub on wet hair, rinse and you will have perfectly clean and shiny hair. Generally children’s’ hair doesn’t need much washing, particularly short hair. In cases of severe allergy to eggs or when you can’t do without a shampoo get one from a health company without a harmful substance, called Sodium Lauryle Sulphate. Most toothpastes contain this substance as well. You can get some shampoos, toothpastes and other personal care products without harmful chemicals from a number of companies:
2. Logona UK. Tel: 01986 781782, www.logona.co.uk
3. Country life. Tel: 020 8614 1411, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Amalgam Blocker Toothpaste. Best care Products, Tel: 01342 410303, www.bestcare-uk.com This one is suitable for adults and children with amalgam fillings.
5. Samson Juice Extractor. Tel: 01353 723234
To assist elimination of toxins through skin, give your child a bath every night before bed. Instead of bath soaps, add a cup of cider vinegar to the bath, it will help to normalise the pH of the skin and encourage appropriate skin flora, as well as assisting the detoxification process. On alternate days add a cup of Epsom Salt to the bath, which will also assist in the detoxification process. Air your house regularly and let your child spend as much time as possible in the fresh air.
Washing powders and liquids all stay in the fabric of your child’s clothes, bedding and towels and also contribute to the toxic overload. A good solution to this problem appeared on the market recently, called Eco-balls. These are three plastic balls which you put inside of your washing machine together with the laundry. They ionise the water and allow it to wash your clothes without any laundry detergents and fabric softeners. It sounds too good to be true, but they work very well. You can get them from Ecozone, phone 020 8662 7200, www.ecozone.co.uk . When you get Eco-balls, it is a good idea to go through all your child’s bedding, towels and clothes and wash out accumulated detergents by putting them through 1 -2 washing cycles with Eco-balls. A similar product can be obtained from a company, called The Healthy House, www.healthy-house.co.uk , Tel: 01453 752216.
In conclusion I would like to say that detoxification has to be an essential part in helping an autistic child. Most parents understand that very well and try to do their best. Yet in our desire to help our children we have to keep in mind that for every procedure involving potent drugs there are much safer natural alternatives. It is always worth trying those first. But, if you decide to do chelation make sure that you have local medical supervision with regular blood tests to monitor any changes in blood composition as well as liver and kidney function in your child. You also have to keep in mind that chelation will not address all the toxicity problems in your child. An autistic child has a detoxification system which does not function well because it is starved of nutrition and overloaded with work. To restore and build a strong detoxification system we have to deal with the gut problem, reduce general toxic load and provide good nourishment, which is easy for the body to absorb and assimilate. Juicing can be a very efficient source of nourishment and powerful natural detoxifying substances. A real intensive care for the overtaxed detox system of an autistic child.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD