By Dr. Mercola
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that 1 in 88 children in the U.S. are now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)i .
The number represents a 23 percent increase in the last two years and 78 percent in the past five years.
But that was just the average—the numbers were much greater for Hispanics (110 percent) and black children (91 percent).
The study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reportii , also found that ASDs are nearly five times more common among boys than girls.
Broken down, the numbers equate to 1 in 54 boys with ASDs, and 1 in 252 girls. The updated estimates are based on data collected in 14 American communities during 2008.
These communities comprised over eight percent of all American 8-year-olds that year. Interestingly, the number of children with ASDs varied widely from site to site.
The highest prevalence was found in Utah, where a staggering 1 in 47 eight-year-olds were identified with some form of ASD.
New Jersey was also far higher than the average, with 1 in 49iii . What's really going on here?
WHAT is Causing the Skyrocketing Increase in Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Personally, I don't see how anyone can look at a 78 percent increase of any health problem in a mere five years without snapping to attention. Prior to the CDC's announcement, the Canary Party, a citizens' action group on autism, rightfully predicted that the CDC would downplay the seriousness of these latest statistics.
On its new autism webpage, the CDC state they suspect some of the increase "is due to greater awareness and better identification" among some of the children.
But even taking that possibility into consideration, the statistics are truly shocking. How can one in 88 American children have some form of autistic disorder? In a normal, healthy environment, that just shouldn't happen. And the fact that it IS happening demands our immediate attention. Something is going very wrong, very fast...
While many are focusing their efforts on nailing down one culprit or another—vaccines being the perfect example—I believe taking such a narrow-minded approach can be extremely counterproductive. In my view, what we're seeing here is the culmination of what amounts to a perfect storm...
Research is now clearly showing that environmental factors play a primary role in the epidemic of autism spectrum disorders. But which environmental factors are to blame?
While vaccines have borne the brunt of people's suspicions, there's plenty of evidence suggesting there are multiple factors at play. The factor that prevents us from writing vaccines off as being harmless is the fact that toxic overload appears to be at the core of the problem, and many vaccines do indeed contribute to a child's overall toxic load. So while it's probably unreasonable to blame vaccines alone for the rapid rise in autism, it would be just as unreasonable to ignore their impact, and continue on with the one-fits-all vaccination policy as if everything is a-okay.
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. But 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... Furthermore, there's no shortage of evidence that toxins of different sorts can wreak havoc with brain function. Add to this the more recent findings that your gut is profoundly influential for brain health, and a picture of toxic overload combined with inadequate nutrition comes into clear view.
Why We Must Insist on Invoking the Precautionary Principle
If multiple toxic exposures and poor nutrition is to blame, then trying to tease out "the" primary culprit will get us nowhere. I believe we must tackle the issue of ASD with a much wider aim, and that is to reduce ALL toxic exposure and improve nutrition. This tactic includes but is not limited to reducing the vaccine load, especially in the US where children receive the most vaccines of any country on the planet. I believe it's imperative to invoke the precautionary principle with respects to vaccines, and, at the very least, allow people to opt out if they so choose.
While vaccine advocates tend to stress the importance of so-called "herd immunity," saying the vaccine will not work unless the majority is vaccinated, there's a great price to pay by forcing everyone into a one-size-fits-all mold.
Not only are some children at greater risk for vaccine damage than others (which I'll review in a moment), but we also eliminate the ability to evaluate the health risks of vaccinations if no one is allowed to opt out. We NEED to conduct comparison studies to evaluate the health outcomes of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children, yet such studies are not done. An oft-cited reason for that is that it would be unethical to not vaccinate certain children... But this is not really a reasonable excuse today, as many parents want to opt out of one or more vaccines for their children.
Environmental Factors that May Play a Role in Autism
When looking into the possible environmental factors for autism, they are incredibly diverse. The following is just a short list of examples:
- 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 Medicineiv . 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, allowing heavy metal toxins, which are associated with autism, to build up.
To learn more about the science of HOW electromagnetic radiation affects and harms your body, please review this previous article featuring Dr. Martin Blank.
- 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 and dental amalgams—both of which contain mercury—also cannot be overlooked as major sources of individual exposure to this neurotoxin
- Vaccines: A 2011 reviewv 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. 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
- 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
- Vitamin D Deficiency: 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 Cannellvi . 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
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 elegant.
GAPS: An Elegant Explanation of the Roots of Autism
Dr. Campbell-McBride is convinced that autistic children are born with perfectly normal brains and sensory organs, but that abnormal gut flora, passed on from their mother and father, leads to devastating gut and brain toxicity. In children with Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), toxicity flowing from their gut throughout their bodies and into their brains, literally clogs the brain with toxicity, preventing it from performing its normal function and processing sensory information.
Total Video Length: 1:13:21
But what leads to such devastatingly abnormal gut flora?
Dr. Campbell discovered that a large percentage of mothers of autistic children were bottle-fed. Then, as they received many courses of antibiotics throughout their childhood, they developed increasingly worse abnormalities in their gut flora, which in turn was passed on to their children. Add to that a diet of processed foods and the use of birth control pills, and the damage to a woman's gut flora deepens even further, and each generation quickly gets worse and worse, unless active remediation is undertaken. According to Dr. Campbell-McBride:
"Many of these modern factors created a whole plethora of young ladies in our modern world who have got quite deeply abnormal gut flora by the time they are ready to have their first child."
Vaccination Policy is Oftentimes the "Straw that Breaks the Camel's Back"
Dr. Campbell-McBride's book Gut and Psychology Syndrome contains an entire chapter outlining what health care professionals need to do to improve the vaccination strategy, because the standard vaccination protocol is bound to damage GAPS babies.
"It's a matter of the last straw breaking the camel's back. If the child is damaged enough, the vaccine can provide that last straw. But if it doesn't provide that last straw in a particular child, then it will get the child closer to the breaking point."
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, 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 $80-100 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. For more information about the GAPS Nutritional Program, including the two types of GAPS diets, and the importance of fermented foods, please review this previous article.
Thoughts on Reversing the Trajectory of Autism Spectrum Disorders
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. Hopefully, more people will begin to take Dr. Campbell-McBride's information to heart and put it to practice so that more children may be spared from the get-go. But even that's not going far enough. We must tackle this problem from all angles, and that also includes:
- Reduce your and your child's toxic burden: This includes avoiding as many dangerous chemicals as possible, which makes listing the do's and don'ts virtually impossible. There's just too many. As a general rule though, 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.
- 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 U.S. states you still have the right to opt out of vaccines.
- Avoid pasteurized milk; it's an absolute imperative to the treatment of autism. Anyone managing this illness without restricting milk is 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.
- Complete elimination of 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 appears to be the most important prevention strategies discovered to date.
- i Centers for Disease Control March 29, 2012
- ii Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008, March 30, 2012 / 61(SS03);1-19
- iii ADDM Report 2012
- iv Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. Vol. 26 No.2 (August 2007) pages 3-7
- v Journal of Immunotoxicology 2011; 8(1): 68–79
- vi The Vitamin D Council, Patient friendly summary on autism