Functional Medicine: A Perfect Approach for Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Dr. Amy Davis, MD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has risen dramatically over the last 25 years and the cause remains unclear. It appears there is a genetic predisposition or inherited weakness that is paired with environmental triggers that create ASD. Each child is unique in their genes and environmental influence and their treatment should reflect this. In my experience I have found that there are multiple underlying medical concerns that must be addressed if a child has the potential to recover. Early intervention improves the outcome. Covering up the symptoms with prescription medications alone ignores the underlying and treatable issues which then persist.

Functional medicine is a perfect match for working with ASD by treating the underlying factors that are interfering with the healing process. Typical core issues include:

  • Poor digestion and processing of foods
  • Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Food Sensitivities and intolerances
  • Environmental Allergies
  • Immune Dysregulation and Inflammation
  • Persistent pathogens – virus, bacterial, fungal
  • Impaired ability to detoxify
  • Toxic Burden
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • Autonomic dysregulation which creates an irritable nervous system that stays in “fight or flight mode”

Because of the underlying core issues children with ASD may also have eczema, asthma, diarrhea, bloating, abnormal stools, constipation, dark circles under eyes, developmental delays, processing problems, low tone, poor coordination, poor growth, sleep disruption, decreased need for sleep, fatigue, hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, heat intolerance, frequent infections and more.

Healing begins when you consider what creates the symptoms. In the case of Autism, healing begins in the gut. It is often said you are what you eat but more accurately you are what you eat, digest, absorb and assimilate.

Get Started with the 5-R Program

  • Remove offending foods. Consider a food elimination diet to identify the culprits. Food is fuel and a developing child needs lots of rich nutrients to grow and develop optimally. Provide lots of vegetables and fruits which are rich in phytonutrients.
  • Replace digestive enzymes and bile acids to support digestion and absorption.
  • Reinoculate with beneficial bacteria using pre and probiotics, fermented foods and soluble fiber.
  • Repair the lining of the gut by supplying key nutrients like glutamine, zinc, fish oil and antioxidants.
  • Rebalance lifestyle choices – sleep, exercise and stress all affect the GI tract.

Using Functional Medicine methods I can help you navigate the complex issues associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders to help restore balance and healing.

Best of Health!

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