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The most important strains are Lactobacillus Acidophillus and Bifidobacter. Saccharomyces boulardii while technically a yeast, not a bacteria, is another important strain that should be present in the gut, particularly if low levels of Secretory IgA (SIgA) are found in a saliva test. Supplement with digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes provide assistance by helping to break down food making the nutrients more available for absorption and relieving the strain on the digestive system while it recovers. The amino acid glutamine is an important gut healing nutrient but may be contraindicated in autism because some autistics have protein deamination problems leading to production of ammonia which doesn’t mix well with glutamine.

There is much overlap between ADH/hyperactivity and autism, so for autistic children who show signs of hyperactivity, improving blood sugar balance is a must. Dietary studies consistently reveal that hyperactive children eat more sugar than other children 4 . Other research has confirmed that the problem is not sugar itself but the forms it comes in, the absence of a well-balanced diet overall, and abnormal glucose metabolism. A study of 265 hyperactive children found that more than three-quarters of them displayed abnormal glucose tolerance, – that is, their bodies were less able to handle sugar intake and maintain balanced blood sugar levels. In any case, when a child is regularly snacking on refined carbohydrates, sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, juices and little or no fibre to slow the glucose absorption, the levels of glucose in their blood will seesaw continually and trigger wild fluctuations in their levels of activity, concentration, focus and behaviour. These, of course, will not help any child’s brain function. Search our evidence database and enter ‘sugar’ and ‘autism’ into the search field for a summary of studies that demonstrate the effect of blood sugar imbalance on autism.

Diabetes medication should be closely monitored since dosages may need to be lowered. Key Action: Cut out sugar and all sources of sugar. Eat only unrefined carbohydrates and ensure these are combined with protein and plenty of fibre to further slow the sugar release. Deficiencies in essential fats are common in people with autism. Research by Dr Gordon Bell at Stirling University has shown that some autistic children have an enzymatic defect that removes essential fats from brain cell membranes more quickly than it should. This means that an autistic child is likely to need a higher intake of essential fats than the average. And it has been found that supplementing EPA, which can slow the activity of the defective enzyme, has clinically improved behaviour, mood, imagination, spontaneous speech, sleep patterns and focus of autistic children. Search our evidence database and enter ‘omegas’ and ‘autism’ into the search field for a summary of studies that demonstrate the effect of essential fats on autism. Rarely causes loose stools in sensitive individuals if you start on too high a dose. Essential fats may have a ‘blood-thinning’ effect and should not be mixed with ‘blood thinning’ medication. Key Action: Eat fish at least twice a week, seeds on most days and supplementing omega 3 fish oils. Look for a supplement that contains EPA, DHA and GLA. The best fish for EPA, the type of omega 3 fat that’s been most thoroughly researched are: mackerel (1,400mg per 100g/3oz), herring/kipper (1,000mg), sardines (1,000mg), fresh (not tinned) tuna (900mg), anchovy (900mg), salmon(800mg), trout (500mg). Tuna, being high in mercury is best eaten not more than twice a month. Flax seeds are so small they are best ground and sprinkled on cereal. Alternatively, use flax seed oil, for example in salad dressings. While technically providing omega 3 only about 5% of the type of omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) in these seeds is converted in your body into EPA. We have known since the 1970s that a nutritional approach can help autism, thanks to the pioneering research by Dr Bernard Rimland of the Institute for Child Behaviour Research in San Diego, California. He showed that vitamin B6, C and magnesium supplements significantly improved symptoms in autistic children. In one of his early studies back in 1978, 12 out of 16 autistic children improved, then regressed when the vitamins were swapped for placebos 9 . In the decades following Dr Rimland’s study, many other researchers have also reported positive results with this approach. Still others have, however, failed to confirm positive outcomes with certain nutrients. For example, a French study of 60 autistic children found they improved significantly on a combination of vitamin B6 and magnesium, but not when either nutrient was supplemented alone 11 .

This study shows how important it is to get the balance of these nutrients right. B6 in particular may help, in part because many children with autism or learning difficulties have pyroluria, a condition in which, for genetic reasons, high levels of compounds called kryptopyrroles are excreted in the urine, causing a deficiency of zinc and vitamin B6. All children on the autistic spectrum should be screened for pyroluria.

This involves a simple and inexpensive urine test for kryptopyrroles and supplementing with appropriate levels of B6 and zinc, which have brought about remarkable improvements. Paediatrician Mary Megson from Richmond, Virginia, believes that many autistic children are lacking in vitamin A.

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