Autism: Helping Children Reach Their True Potential

I first met David when he was about nine years old.  I had spoken with his mother at an autism conference and she told me that David had been treated by five or six doctors, but with very little success.

I saw that David was struggling.  He had great trouble making eye contact and his expressive speech development was significantly behind that of others his age.  He was obviously quite intelligent, but he was also hyperactive and seemed to have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as well.

The first thing I thought when I saw David was “Low thyroid.”  Strikingly, many autistic children have subclinical hypothyroidism—levels of thyroid hormone that don’t read as “low” on standard conventional medical tests but that appear low on the more accurate TRH test that I use.

These low levels of thyroid hormone disrupt a child’s ability to focus, relate, and manage their behavior.  Over the past decade, I’ve honed my expertise in the treatment of autistic children, partly because of my ability to offer fine-tuned, personalized diagnoses and treatments for an under-performing thyroid.

Indeed, all of David’s other doctors had completely missed the impact the thyroid had on David’s  condition.  They had also missed the disturbingly high levels of inflammation in David’s brain—another common factor in autism.

Inflammation is an immune-system response to a perceived threat to the body—often the result of poor diet, ongoing infection, stress, or hormonal imbalance, including low thyroid.  Inflammation is a risk factor for many conditions, including anxiety, depression, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, cancer, dementia—and autism.

It took some doing to determine the right level of thyroid hormone for David but once we found it, the improvement was significant and immediate.  Meanwhile, I worked on reducing the inflammation with both oral and intravenous treatments of natural anti-inflammatory compounds:  phenylbutyrate, luteolin, quercitin, n-acetylcysteine (NAC), carnisine, galantamine, and an herb known as “lion’s mane.”

Within a year and a half, David’s function had improved so greatly that he was actually able to join a mainstream classroom.  His parents were overjoyed and so was I.  I have great love and compassion for my autistic patients and a deep desire to help them so they can express their true potential.  With David, as with many other children, my understanding of how the body’s systems interact with one another and affect overall function had allowed me to succeed where other doctors had failed.

Understanding Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder that is fast becoming a modern epidemic.  Up to 1 out of 44 boys is affected by it—for some reason, the disorder strikes far fewer girls.

We don’t completely understand what causes autism or how it develops.  It seems clear that many different factors—a veritable web of causes—is at play.  Each child may have his own individual set of causes—factors that interact with one another in various ways to produce the same general set of symptoms.  As a result autism, more than many other disorders, calls for the type of personalized medicine that we specialize in at the Kellman Center—individualized treatments targeted to the specific needs of each patient.

By the time a child develops autism he is almost certainly struggling with dysfunction in four of the body’s major systems: gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine (hormonal), and immune.

Genetics definitely plays a role in autism, and we can even speculate that without a genetic predisposition, a child won’t develop this disorder. However, we can do a lot to keep the disorder from developing, and if it has developed, we can do a great deal to reverse it.  David’s story, along with the stories of many other patients, is eloquent testimony to the way diet, nutritional supplements, hormonal balancing, and other treatments can restore brain function.

Autism: An Environmental Crisis

Whenever a genetically based disorder grows quickly within a short span of time, we have to ask why? Since our genes haven’t had time to change in only a few years, something in our environment must be triggering an underlying genetic possibility that previously lay dormant.

In my opinion, the autism epidemic is growing in response to environmental factors, including the overwhelming number of endocrine disrupters: these are toxins that behave as if they were hormones, thereby disrupting the body’s hormonal balance.  This hormonal disruption then throws other systems off balance.

Just as the outer ecology suffers under its toxic burden, so does our inner ecology.

The microbiome, the community of trillions of bacteria that live within us, governs many of the functions of our body and brain.  An imbalanced microbiome can produce a wide variety of disorders, including anxiety, depression, brain fog—and autism.

The microbiome, in turn, is under attack from the toxic burden in the environment, as well as poor diet, emotional stress, and a host of other factors.  The environmental problem is especially important.  As our planet’s ecology grows more and more toxic, the youngest and oldest among us are most vulnerable to its ravages, resulting in autism among the young and dementia among the old.

What About Vaccines?

There is a small but significant cohort of children whose immune systems simply can’t handle the effects of a standard vaccination.  However, most autistic children did not develop the disorder in response to a vaccine, and many healthy children can survive vaccines without becoming autistic.

Once again, we need to maintain an individualized approach.  Vaccines can be part of the web of causes that make a particular child develop autism—but so can an imbalanced microbiome, which helps regulate the body’s response to environmental toxins, and many other disruptors.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Leaky gut

Imbalanced microbiome

Various types of thyroid imbalance

Genetic variations, including in the MTHFR, GMST1, and COMT1 genes

Factors That Can Help Trigger Autism

One of the reasons I’ve become expert in developing a functional medicine approach to autism is because of my long experience treating ailments of the gut.

The gut is really a second brain. If our minds and bodies are to function optimally, we need excellent communication between the gut and the brain.  Children with gastrointestinal or microbiome issues lack this gut-brain communication and might develop neurological disorders as a result.

The Thyroid

I was among the first to identify the role that low thyroid hormone plays in autism, and I remain virtually the only U.S. physician who can adequately diagnose thyroid imbalance, thanks to my use of the TRH test.

A standard thyroid test on an autistic child could indicate completely normal levels of the hormone. Certainly this was the case with David.

My TRH test, however, does detect low thyroid that is invisible elsewhere, as I described in this article as I explain in this video. The thyroid signaling system is incredibly complex, far beyond what most of us are taught in medical school.  Both environmental toxins and a condition known as nonthyroidal illness syndrome (NTIS) can trigger a set of chain reactions that ultimately lead to autism.

Treating Autism

At the Kellman Center, we rely primarily upon evidence-based natural compounds to improve a child’s metabolism and hormonal responses.  We aid in the child’s ability to detoxify environmental poisons and to metabolize various hormones that can disrupt the entire body.  We also focus on reducing oxidative stress and healing inflammation.

Our treatments are so effective because they are based on our unique tests for biomarkers which let

us know very precisely what specific type of autism a child has developed.  A treatment that might work wonders for one child could be of very little use to another child.  We need to look very closely at each child’s presenting symptoms and test results in order to devise a specific and helpful treatment plan.

My individualized work in this field has made me one of the leading experts in a functional medicine approach to autism.

Some Possible Treatments for Autism

  • Intravenous treatments with glutathione, phosphatidyl choline, and other detoxifiers, as well as cerebrolysin, a German compound that improves brain function…
  • Injections of methyl B12, TMG, high dose folinic acid, and methyl folate
  • Hyperbaric oxygen treatments
  • A gluten-free and casein-free diet (Casein is the protein found in dairy products)
  • A “specific carbohydrate diet” (SCD), free of the carbohydrates that are most stressful on the gut
  • Support for the microbiome
  • Support for the thyroid
  • Support for the mitochondria, the portion of the cell that generates energy
  • Neurological rejuvenation:  using evidence-based natural compounds to improve brain function
  • Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, especially in the brain
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Treatment with the biomat, a device to restore gut function with infrared light

Exciting Results and a Future of Hope

One of the most satisfying aspects of my practice is the treatment of autism.  It is so gratifying to help a child break through his or her barriers and begin to progress.  The children we treat often see tremendous recovery, sometimes even being able to thrive in a mainstream classroom.

Of course, not every child is able to achieve this level of success.  But thanks to our unique approach within the community of functional M.D.’s who treat autism our results are outstanding, and we are able to offer to many children and their families an exciting future of hope.