By Dr. Mercola
It’s official. Even the conservative US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states the latest stats show one in 50 US kids now has autism.
This is a startling increase from their 2007 data, which showed one in 88 children with the condition. Boys are also four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism as girls, according to the new data. The CDC attributed the steep increase on improved diagnoses, particularly in older kids, noting:
“Children who were first diagnosed in or after 2008 accounted for much of the observed prevalence increase among school-aged children (those aged 6–17).”
Even if this is true (and this is the same rationale they used to explain the last noted increase), the deeper implications behind this rising trend are being downplayed by the media, or worse, entirely ignored. The latest statistics mean that between 3-4 percent of US boys now have autism, and the rate is growing …
Consider that about 15 years ago, 1 in 10,000 kids had autism. Ten years ago it was 1 in 1,000, then 1 in 150, 1 in 88 and now 1 in 50.1 This means there’s one child with autism on just about every school bus (one school bus holds about 50 kids). This is beyond tragic and a shocking testimony to the accumulated insults that our modern health care system and lifestyle have on the developing fetus.
Are Genes Really to Blame for Autism?
It’s long been known that boys have a greater risk for developing autism than girls, a trend that’s often blamed on mutations in genes on the X chromosome, which only affect boys.
Some have even gone so far as to say that genetics account for 90 percent of a child's risk for autism. However, research from Stanford University using identical twins suggested otherwise.2
Since identical twins share nearly the same DNA, if there were an important genetic component to autism, then if one identical twin has autism, so should their identical sibling in the vast majority of cases.
But, when researchers completed diagnostic assessments on 192 twin pairs, they found fraternal twins were more likely to share an autism diagnosis than identical twins. Fraternal twins share only 50 percent of their DNA, which means something else is probably responsible for the double diagnosis -- and researchers suspect environmental factors are likely to blame.
The majority of autism cases do appear to result from the activation, or "expression," of a number of different genes, along with multiple epigenetic and environmental factors that interact to produce the traits of autism.
What Environmental Factors are Linked to Autism?
Science is increasingly showing us just how malleable our genes are — they continuously respond to their environment, meaning, your body and everything you put into and onto it. The possible environmental factors for autism are incredibly diverse. The following is just a short list of examples:
- Vitamin D Deficiency: This is a simple and inexpensive factor to eliminate. It is simply inexcusable to be vitamin D deficient when you are pregnant. There is also a link between rampant vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women and the proportionate jump in autism, which has been highlighted by Dr. John Cannell.3 The vitamin D receptor appears in a wide variety of brain tissue early in the fetal development, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. You can only imagine what happens to the fragile, developing nervous system of an infant or young child if insufficient vitamin D is present to support neurodevelopment.
- Electromagnetic fields: Work by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt suggests there are distinct correlations between a woman's exposure to electromagnetic fields during pregnancy and her child's neurological functioning. He found that if you sleep in strong electromagnetic fields during pregnancy, your child will likely begin to exhibit neurological abnormalities within the first two years of life, such as neurological dysfunction, hyperactivity, and learning disorders.
In 2007, this theory received additional support from a study published in the Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine.4 It presented the theory that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from cell phones, cell towers, Wi-Fi devices and other similar wireless technologies may work in conjunction with genetic and environmental factors, becoming an accelerating factor in autism.
After more than five years of research on children with autism they found that EMR negatively affects cell membranes, encouraging heavy metal toxins, which are associated with autism, to build up.
- Mercury toxicity: It is already an established fact that exposure to mercury can cause immune, sensory, neurological, motor, and behavioral dysfunctions -- all similar to traits defining, or associated with autism. Mercury pollution is widespread from the burning of fossil fuels, but the use of thimerosal-containing vaccines (still used in annual flu shots) and dental amalgams — both of which contain mercury — also cannot be overlooked as major sources of individual exposure to this neurotoxin.
- Vaccines: A 2011 review of the peer-reviewed published studies on autism (going all the way back to 1943) revealed numerous documented cases of autism caused by encephalitis following vaccination.5 There are many potential vaccine-related culprits, including the use of toxic adjuvants, the presence of human DNA in vaccines, and the increasing number of vaccines given in a short period of time, any one of which could induce autoantibodies to be formed that may attack self-structures such as the myelin that coats the nerves, disrupting neurological development and function.
- Phthalates: Research from 2009 discovered that infants who lived in homes with vinyl floors were twice as likely to have autism five years later, compared to those with wood or linoleum flooring. Vinyl floors can emit chemicals called phthalates, which are widely used plastic softeners found in much more than just vinyl flooring. Hairsprays, perfumes, cosmetics, toys, shower curtains, wood finishers, lubricants, certain medical devices and more all contain phthalates. Researchers have suggested the chemicals may contribute to autism by disrupting hormones not only in small children but also in the womb.
The Autism-Gut Connection You May Not Have Heard About
Neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recently shared a common thread that may be linking these and other environmental factors together, namely brain toxicity stemming from gut toxicity, otherwise known as Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). She cured her own son of autism using an all-natural treatment involving dietary changes and detoxification, and her hypothesis is in my view one of the most relevant.
In her research, Dr. Campbell-McBride discovered that nearly all of the mothers of autistic children have abnormal gut flora, which is significant because newborns inherit their gut flora from their mothers at the time of birth. Establishing normal gut flora in the first 20 days or so of life plays a crucial role in the maturation of your baby's immune system. Babies who develop abnormal gut flora are left with compromised immune systems, putting them at higher risk for suffering vaccine reactions.
If your baby has suboptimal gut flora, vaccines can become the proverbial "last straw" — the trigger that "primes" his/her immune system to develop chronic heath problems.
How to Prevent GAPS
In short, there is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development — a condition Dr. Campbell-McBride calls Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS). The best way to prevent GAPS is for the mother to avoid all antibiotics and birth control pills prior to conception and then by breastfeeding and avoiding the use of antibiotics during (intrapartum) and after delivering. This is because they destroy the balance of gut flora and promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
Fortunately, it's possible to rather inexpensively identify GAPS within the first weeks of your baby's life, which can help you make better-informed decisions about vaccinations, and about how to proceed to set your child on the path to a healthy life.
The entire process for identifying children who would be at risk for developing autism from a vaccine is described in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, but to sum it up, in her practice she starts out by collecting a complete health history of the parents, and their gut health is assessed. Then, within the first few days of life, the stool of the child can be analyzed to determine the state of her gut flora, followed by a urine test to check for metabolites, which can give you a picture of the state of your child's immune system.
These tests are available in most laboratories around the world and cost a very reasonable amount, about $80 to $100 per test -- peanuts compared to the incredible expense of treating an autistic child once the damage is done.
In my view, it is absolutely VITAL to perform this analysis BEFORE you consider vaccinating your child. If the test results are normal the likelihood of autism after vaccines is dramatically reduced. As Dr. Campbell-McBride states, she has yet to find an autistic child with normal bowel flora. If you find that your baby has abnormal gut microflora, or begins to develop symptoms of autism a year or two later, the GAPS program should be started immediately, as the younger the child is when you start the treatment, the better the results. The child should not be given any vaccines until their microflora tests normal; that is, assuming you choose to vaccinate at all.
If you want to know what is “normal” behavior for a developing child, and what may indicate signs of autism or another delay, the CDC has a milestone chart online for ages two months to five years.6
Reducing Your Child’s Toxic Burden is Crucial to Preventing Chronic Diseases Like Autism
Autism is a complex condition with many contributing factors and it takes a multi-faceted approach to treat it. We're now also beginning to understand it requires a multi-faceted approach to prevent it. This includes avoiding as many dangerous chemicals as possible, which makes listing the do's and don'ts virtually impossible. As a general rule, eating whole organic foods will go a long way, as that automatically cuts out processed foods and related chemicals, genetically engineered foods and artificial sweeteners.
Also be careful with the personal care products you use, as well as your household cleaning products and home building materials and furnishings ... Opting for "green" and/or organic alternatives will help reduce many of the toxins most people encounter on a daily basis. Do whatever you can to establish a toxin-free environment for your whole family, and then establish a detoxification program. Please remember hidden toxins like mold and fluoride. The book Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call, by Dr. Doris Rapp, is an excellent resource if you're unsure of how or where to start. Other helpful tips for tackling autism include:
- Lower the EMF burden in your home, especially in your bedrooms.
- Carefully review the vaccination issue, including the conventional vaccination schedule, and know that in most US states you still have the right to opt out of vaccines.
- Avoid pasteurized milk; it's an absolute imperative to the treatment of autism. Those managing this illness without restricting milk are deceiving themselves. This includes all milk products, such as ice cream, yogurt and whey. Even natural flavorings in food must be avoided unless the processor can guarantee that caseinate is not included.
- Completely eliminating sugar/fructose, juice, soda, French fries and wheat (pasta, bagels, cereal, pretzels, etc.) is also highly recommended.
- Get proper sun exposure. It is my personal belief that vitamin D deficiency in conjunction with damaged gut flora may be two of the most significant contributing factors to autism. Optimizing your vitamin D levels and your gut flora during pregnancy may be the most important prevention strategies discovered to date.
Tell the White House It’s Time to Take Action Against Autism
Today the autism rates are one in 50. What are we waiting for to start looking for real answers about this devastating condition? For rates to rise to one in 30 or one in 15?
We must tackle this problem from all angles, and the Autism Action Network has launched a campaign urging the US government to finally take action against autism. You can join in via this Take Action Link to send an email to the President, your two United States Senators and your member of the House, letting them know that it’s time to acknowledge there’s a problem and start taking the autism epidemic seriously.