Causes and Symptoms of Autism
Autism is not just a single disease but can be caused by a range of genetic and environmental factors. Autism appears
to be caused by the combination of faulty DNA and something in the physical or social environment of an affected child
after birth. The genetic cause is known for only about 15 percent of autism cases.  The mutations that cause
fragile X syndrome and Rhett's syndrome result in autism. But unlike diseases such as cystic fibrosis, the vast majority
of autism cases can't be traced to a single mutation. Instead, a growing number of different genes have been linked to a
growing percentage of autism cases. 
Scientists believe the strength of synchronization between functionally related areas in the right and left hemispheres
may be a measure of how well the brain is working. Researchers have discovered their brain activity appears to be out
of sync at a very early stage. [Reuters, June 22, 2011]
Autism spectrum disorders include a range of poorly understood brain conditions, from the mild Asperger's syndrome to
more severe autism characterized by poor social interaction, impaired communication and repetitious behaviors. 
Autism symptoms emerge at an age when the developing brain is refining the connections between neurons in response
to a child's experience. 
Whether or not certain important genes turn on is thus dependent on experience-triggered neural activity. Disruption of
this refinement process may be a common mechanism of autism-associated mutations. 
Target for Therapies
Many of the mutations did not result in missing or damaged genes, but simply turned them off. This means that we would
not need to replace the gene, if we could only figure out how to reactivate it, perhaps with medications.
Diet and Nutrition
There is increasing interest in the use of gluten- and casein-free diets for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Gastrointestinal symptoms are described in 9-54% of autistic children, among which most common are: constipation,
diarrhea and abdominal distension. [Wasilewska J et al Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2009 Jul;27(157):40-3.]
Here is a story telling us how diet (or nutrition) improves the symptoms of an Autistic boy. In this case, various therapies
were introduced to a 5-month-old boy with autism, growth and developmental retardation. This boy also experienced
gastrointestinal problems such as frequent post-prandial vomiting and severe constipation. At the age of 42 months, the
boy was subjected to a gluten and casein-free diet. Soybean milk and rice were substituted for cow's milk, bread and
noodles. After 2.5 months, interpersonal relations including eye to eye contact and verbal communication improved. At
5.5 months the boy was capable of playing and sharing toys with his sibling and other children, behavior noted to be
closer to that of an unaffected child. In addition, the decreased frequency of postprandial vomiting led to a significant
increment in body weight, body height and vitality after 11 months on the diet. [Hsu CL et al Chang Gung Med J. 2009
However, gluten-free or casein-free diets have thus been tested in controlled studies, with contradictory results. With
such diets, some studies show symptom regression but others report negative side effects, essentially protein
Some autistic children lack some amino acids such as glutamic or aspartic acids, deficiency of these amino acid would
create autistic symptoms. But, some authors considered that these deficits are attributed to nutritional deficits caused by
the food selectivity of children. Anyway, vitamin B6 improved autistic signs in some cases. However, these results still
remain debated. [Hjiej H et al, Encephale. 2008 Oct;34(5):496-503.]
International Child Development Resource Center
Rossignol DA. at International Child Development Resource Center performed a systematic literature search of
electronic scientific databases to identify studies of novel and emerging treatments for Autism, including nutritional
supplements, diets, medications, and nonbiological treatments. Three grades of treatments are presented:
Grade A treatments for ASD (> 2 randomized controlled trials):
melatonin, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, naltrexone, and music therapy.
Grade B treatments (> 1 randomized controlled trial or 2 nonrandomized controlled trials):carnitine, tetrahydrobiopterin,
vitamin C, alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, immunomodulation and anti-inflammatory
treatments, oxytocin, and vision therapy.
Grade C treatments (> 1 nonrandomized controlled trial)
carnosine, multivitamin/mineral complex, piracetam, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B6/magnesium, elimination
diets, chelation, cyproheptadine, famotidine, glutamate antagonists, acupuncture, auditory integration training,
massage, and neurofeedback.
[Rossignol DA. Ann Clin Psychiatry. 2009 Oct-Dec;21(4):213-36. ]
Natural Therapy - Supplements and Herbs?
Autism is accompanied by a central serotonergic hypoactivity and that the latter could play a role in the pathophysiology
of autism. L-5-hydroxytryptophan administration to autistic youngsters increases the blood concentrations of serotonin
in patients but not in the case of controls. [4,5] The effect of 5-HTP supplements on Autism is still unclear. Do not
supply 5-HTP to an Autistic kid without doctors' consultation.
Comments on Health Supplements
Fish oil, Kava root, or even growth hormone for Autism have been promoted by some marketers. However, clinical
supports for these suggestions are too limited (or even none). Discuss with your doctor before providing any
supplements to an autistic kid.
Copper and Zinc
Plasma from 102 autistic individuals, and 18 controls, were tested for plasma zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu). It was found
that Autistic individuals had elevated plasma levels of copper and Cu/Zn and lower, but not significantly lower, plasma
Zn compared to controls. 
 Autism gene search turns up hope for treatmentReuters Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:48pm EDT LAURAN NEERGAARD Genes from Middle East families yield
autism clues Associated Press Jul 10 2008  Autism Cause: Brain Development Genes? Genes Missing in Autism Needed for Learning-Triggered Brain Growth
WebMD Health News July 10, 2008  Croonenberghs J, Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2007 Aug;28(4):449-55.]  Croonenberghs J, Life Sci. 2005 Mar
25;76(19):2171-83.]  Russo AJ, et al, Plasma copper and zinc concentration in individuals with autism correlate with selected symptom severity. Nutr Metab
Insights. 2012 Feb 28;5:41-7
Autism herbs, supplements, vitamins, natural treatment, alternative therapy and information -
updated on July 26, 2013
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