The new theory of autism is that it is a whole-body disease and not just a brain disorder. Autism, which is said to be linked to autoimmune illness and disorders of the GI tract, may also cause abnormal enzyme function, and thus inadequate digestion and nutrient absorption. Most of us already have observed that many kids with autism have very particular tastes in foods, preferring to eat the same things repeatedly and refusing to try anything new. So right from the start, these children are often at a nutritional disadvantage. But even if they did have a healthy diet, their cellular biochemistry has been said to be abnormal, preventing vitamins and minerals from being utilized appropriately by the body.
Vitamin deficiencies can cause or exacerbate widespread medical and neurological problems. Thus, it is important that in treating children with autism we replace what they are missing nutritionally. This is just common sense. The trouble is that it’s difficult to determine how much of each vitamin or mineral supplement should be administered. Dosing should be done under the direction of a physician specializing in the treatment of autism, or a nutritionist working in conjunction with other experts who are treating the whole child.
The following are some important nutrients and vitamins which autistic children may need supplemented:
- Vitamin A (Activates the immune system, supports immune memory, protects against viruses, and is critical for vision, sensory perception, paying attention, and language processing.)
- Vitamin B1 (Plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism, antioxidation, and biosynthesis of nucleic acids and neurotransmitters.)
- Vitamin B2 (Necessary for the building of healthy DNA.)
- Vitamin B3 (May have positive effects on cerebral blood flow.)
- Vitamin B6 (Some autistic children with excitotoxic damage to brain cells may have a vitamin B6 deficiency.)
- Vitamin B12 (Deficiencies can cause problems with mental functioning including confusion, slow thinking, forgetfulness, and even psychotic episodes.)
- Vitamin C (Numerous physical problems develop with a deficiency, including weakness, pain, swelling, rash, fatigue, bruising, and gum disease.)
- Vitamin D (Helps transport calcium to the cells, among other benefits.)
- Vitamin E (An important antioxidant that scavenges free radicals.)
- Folic Acid (Deficiency has been associated with numerous neurological problems.)
- Vitamin K (Helps regulate blood coagulation.)
- Zinc (Important for brain development and supports the immune system.)
- Magnesium (Deficiency can decrease blood flow to the brain and cause symptoms like sound sensitivity.)
- Calcium (Helps build teeth and bones.)
- Selenium (Important for immune function and critical for pancreatic function.)
- Molybdenum (Supplementing can help decrease urinary wasting of important proteins.)
- Omega Fatty Acids (Linked to many facets of neurological health.)
- Essential Amino Acids (Some autistic children on specialized diets may be lacking in these important nutrients.)
Parents who feel at a loss with how to help their autistic children, wondering whether they should try different diets such as gluten-free or casein-free, might consider starting first with vitamin supplementation. Some parents have reported marked improvement in their child’s behavior and overall health. IMPORTANT: Vitamins in high doses can be extremely toxic. Do not dose your child with vitamin supplements without consulting with your child’s physician. A doctor specializing in autism is going to be much more capable of suggesting adequate doses and understanding the particular medical concerns these children have. There is also a potential for harm when autistic children are put on specialized diets without the involvement of a doctor or nutritionist. For example, severe protein deficiencies are sometimes seen in these special-diet kids, making problems worse.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.
Also, the HEALTH blog has a number of great articles on vitamins. Click here.