Recovery From Autism ~ A Success Story: Using Detoxification and NutritionDr. John Gannage, MD December 1, 2010
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the March 2006 issue of Vitality. It has since been updated and expanded, and is being re-released here.
As a conventional family doctor, I had many times felt helpless when attempting to assist patients with chronic illness. To see the continued suffering of patients and not have enough tools to make a significant difference, despite years of medical training, was frustrating and in need of correction.
Nowhere was this felt as intensely as in management of autism and related conditions. Thankfully, after more years of continuing education and application of principles not taught in medical school, I now gain immense satisfaction in offering services to autistic children and their families, given that I have determined, as have other CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) doctors, that a difference can and has been made.
I came to conceptualize autism as a disease template from which to explain many of our modern illnesses, and applied to it the methods I was using to address other chronic conditions with a toxic-immune component. And I came to learn that Dr. Woody McInnis et al (authors of Autism: A Unique Type of Mercury Poisoning) consider autism a unique form of chronic mercury poisoning, and treat it accordingly. Over time, I was exposed to research about glutathione, glutamate levels, and gluten metabolites; about autism case management, casein metabolites, and carnosine. Ultimately, I came to bear witness to the fact that the ability to dramatically improve the life (and remove the label) of an autistic child has a profound impact on not only the patient, but also the patient’s family and community.
Applying principles of integrative medicine, including nutrition-based therapies, in fact extends the positive impact to all levels of society, given that improvements in the condition relieve many burdens. The approach is integrative, comprehensive, and can be complicated – any management scheme should never be more burdensome to patient and/or family than the illness itself – but I’ve seen firsthand that parents can apply these therapies with favourable outcomes and, in the end, major benefit. The following case illustrates that point:
I first met T. in December of 2002, when he was three years, two months old. A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) had been made eight months prior. His parents – attentive, knowledgeable, supportive, and cooperative – provided a clear history of regression in speech development at age 18 months, after the DPTP vaccine and influenza vaccine were administered two weeks apart. The boy had gone from speaking an eight to 10 single word vocabulary – to not speaking at all.
T. had self-stimulatory behaviour, was striking his father repeatedly, showed hyperactivity, and used grunting for language at the time of his visit. T.’s parents requested an unconventional medicine approach to their son’s illness, and consented to the use of complementary therapies ad-ministered through my office.
T. was born by C-section, and had a twin sister with normal development. He had many ear infections, and had received four courses of antibiotics. He also had multiple bouts of bronchitis, and cradle cap (scalp fungal infection). He experienced loose stools on a regular basis.
NUTRITIONAL MEDICINE AND CHELATION THERAPY
His informed parents had already started the child on probiotics, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, and other supplements prior to his visit with me. At the first meeting, we interactively outlined a plan for management, with a focus on biological, nutrition-based medicine. The first phase was to assess (by history, exam, a urine organic acid profile, and live blood analysis) and correct yeast-related abnormalities. A gluten-free, casein-free, sugar-free diet was prescribed.
With bowel function improved, we moved to phase two: heavy metal toxicity assessment and treatment. Simultaneously, a 2 week prescription of the anti-fungal preparation Fluconazole was recommended, followed by botanicals including grapefruit seed extract, garlic, and the homeopathic Fungisode from Genestra. Immune function was also regulated, using Imunovir.
In March 2003, T.’s parents consented to a provocative urine toxic elements test, which showed very elevated mercury excretion. The parents requested regular visits for chelation therapy, and nutrients for glutathione support (the organic acid test indicated low levels) were issued. (Glutathione is a naturally produced antioxidant that assists in the removal of mercury, PCBs, PBBs, and other chemicals.)
By May 2003, language development was progressing, with less prompting and more spontaneity, and toilet training was better, with much improved stool consistency. The parents reported “dramatic changes,” including increased play interaction.
By June 2003, his IBI (Intensive Behavioural Intervention) therapists “could not believe the improvement” in speech and general development. Transdermal glutathione and carnosine (a nutrient with reported benefits for speech development in ASD) were suggested, and checks on fungal activity continued, with intervention as required.
In September 2003, the parents noted major improvements in language acquisition, and a repeat urine toxic metals test showed almost normal levels. He was switched to a solely oral metal excretion program, which included a combination of DMSA with lipoic acid from a compounding pharmacy (Smith’s), used on a 3 day on, 11 days off rotation with close monitoring of lab parameters and mineral status.
By December 2003, a psychological assessment was performed by a developmental disabilities specialist, who noted “considerable improvement in his ASD characteristics,” and that, “he is much less likely to display hyperactivity.”
Routine follow-up testing for cell counts, heavy metals, mineral levels, and liver and kidney function occurred from the outset, with continued surveillance through 2004 during application of the supplementation program. By November 2004, T. no longer qualified for government funding, since autism was “no longer a diagnosis in writing,” according to his parents. T.’s parents were ecstatic with the overall outcome.
Currently, at age six, T. is fully integrated in a regular school and not requiring any extra assistance. He communicates normally and easily, with his humorous, interactive personality in full bloom. There are no longer any signs of autism, cognitively or socially. In fact, the teachers at his new school are not even aware that a diagnosis of autism once applied to him. Medically, the diagnosis has been removed.
Predictions: Future Prevention and Medical Treatment of Autism
I am optimistic that in the future:
· Physicians will manage autism spectrum disorders using nutrition, not psychiatry.
· Management will focus on environmental contamination and causation.
· Management will be directed toward meeting the brain’s nutrient requirements, from both a treatment and protection perspective. Of utmost importance is supporting the production of glutathione. This can be achieved with a low carbohydrate diet and a broad spectrum amino acid supplement; the use of NAC, while monitoring for gut dysbiosis; the use of vitamin C, lipoic acid, and selenium as antioxidants; the support of the methylation cycle using methylcobalamin (mB12), folic acid, and B6; and the general use of omega-3 fatty acids. Oral glutathione in lipoceutical form can also be used – again watching for yeast overgrowth in the intestine.
· Food intolerances, genetically predetermined or not, will be widely recognized as a contributor to dysfunction and will be routinely tested. Accordingly, an individualized diet will be prescribed, eventually based on genetic testing. The four most common food intolerances are wheat and gluten products, dairy, soy, and eggs – I suggest testing, since avoidance of healthy foods like organic eggs would not be recommended unless deemed necessary by allergy testing.
· Doctors will have been trained in medical school about the toxic effects of mercury and other heavy metals.
· Tests will be used to assess toxin levels, and metal mobilization and excretion therapies, including chelation, will be widely available in the offices of physicians.
· Nutrients like glutathione will be tested and used as a standard part of treatment.
· Non-food neurotoxins, such as MSG and aspartame, will no longer be permitted in a child’s diet.
· Fermentation as an underlying process in chronic illness, including autism, will be recognized, such that patients who inform their physician about the health hazards of increased fungal activity in their tissues will be assisted, rather than dismissed.
· Vaccine injury will be better studied, reported and disclosed, and genetic information will be available to concerned parents about the risk of specific vaccines to their child based on a prior understanding of individual gene-based susceptibility.
· The effects of radiation will be better understood and better publicized, so that children and fetuses will not be subjected to their harmful effects.
· Doctors will understand the nuances of generationally accumulated toxicity, as well as the susceptibility of the developing fetus to contaminants transmitted through the placenta.
· Parents will understand the importance of healthy germ cells before conception, and receive help from their doctor on how to detoxify themselves before a sperm fertilizes an egg.
· Essential fatty acids will be routinely supplemented as an aspect of good prenatal care, for the benefit of mother and fetus. Essential fatty acid blood levels will be scheduled prenatally. Cod Liver Oil is one good source of EFAs, with dose dependent on the state of liver function (as determined by Live Blood Microscopy, for example).
· Dentists will be better informed about how their professional activity impacts directly on the entire organism (and an organism’s offspring). A fetus concentrates mercury up to eight times what the mother does. To be safe, enlist the services of a dentist who practises biological or mercury-free dentistry.
· All practitioners will understand that early diagnosis leads to earlier application of nutrition-based therapies and biological medicine. They will know that the “window of opportunity” for most effective treatment (ages two to five) can’t be allowed to pass.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article includes the opinions of Dr. Gannage and is for educational purposes only. One should always seek personalized advice from a qualified practitioner before making the dietary and behaviour changes listed, as the needs and medical status of individuals are highly variable. Dr. Gannage is not responsible for any adverse events that might occur from application of any of the therapies outlined in this article.
Dr. John Gannage is a licensed physician who practises Integrative Medicine in Markham, Ontario. He earned his Medical Degree from the University of Toronto. Dr. Gannage recommends therapeutic lifestyle programs and various detoxification strategies to assist in the management of chronic health problems. His services include nutrition counselling, vitamin infusions and chelation therapy. For more information, phone (905) 294-2335, or visit his website www.integrative-medicine.ca