Q My 18 month old nephew has been diagnosed with autism. My sister wants to know if there are any nutritional approaches that might help.
A Evidence suggests a strong link between the state of the gut and autistic symptoms. Tailoring nutrition – both food and supplements – can help as part of a combined approach. But it varies widely with individuals so please consult a qualified and experienced health professional first, such as your GP, a registered dietician or nutritional therapist (try the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy, bant.org.uk).
Summary of treatments: Professor James B Adams of Arizona State University, whose daughter is autistic, researches into biomedical causes of autism and how to treat it, including nutritional deficiencies, mercury toxicity and gastrointestinal problems. See his Summary of Biomedical Treatments for Autism, autism.asu.edu/Additional/Summarybiomed07.pdf
Exclusion diet: the Autism Research Unit at the University of Sunderland (now Espa Research, espa-research.org.uk) has researched gluten and/or casein-free (GFCF) diet for autism and related conditions. This excludes wheat and other gluten-containing grains, and milk products containing the protein casein, also found in processed foods. If gluten and casein aren’t completely digested (a problem with some autistic children), they may produce opioid compounds, similar to morphine, which can have a profound effect on the brain. The GFCF diet has helped some children and adults with autism. NB This must be done with a health professional.
Artificial additives, colouring and sweeteners: these may affect behaviour; some parents have found an organic, whole food diet helps.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids: supplementing with these fats, which are vital for brain and body functioning for everyone, may help. As well as eating oily fish and other omega-3 rich foods, try a supplement such as Eskimo Kids Natural Fish Oil by Cardinova £10.25 for 105ml from Victoria Health.
Probiotics: according to Professor Glenn Gibson of Reading University, autistic people tend to have a high level of the ‘bad’ gut bacteria called clostridia. In research, he found that a probiotic containing lactobacillus plantarum helped. Try L Plantarum Probiotic by Quest Vitamins, £9.49 for 45 capsules. (Open up the capsule and put contents in water or juice for little ones.) Older children and adults would benefit from Multibionta Vitality, £6.77 for 28 one-a-day tablets.
And pre-biotics: Prof Gibson also recommends eating pre-biotic foods, which help probiotics thrive, including bananas, and – for older children/adults – raw garlic and chicory.
Boots Made for Walking
A colleague whose boyfriend is a big fan of striding out on country walks says she’s been keeping up a lot better since swapping her trainers for New Balance 1000 Multi-Sport Boots made from water-resistant suede with a super-sturdy sole and cushioned ankle support. ‘It’s made a huge difference to my energy and motivation plus the soft lining keeps my feet cosy and warm – and they look pretty stylish too! I cant wait to get out there now.’ New Balance all-weather 1000, £70, from: shopnewbalance.co.uk For great walks near you and groups nationwide, contact the Ramblers Association, ramblers.org.uk
Skincare Clinic – warts
A reader asks how to treat her teenage grandson’s warts, ‘which look like mini-cauliflowers’. Pharmacist Shabir Daya advises: ‘Warts are caused by viruses, specifically HPV. They often come with a lowered immune system, which would normally destroy viruses and infections.
I recommend applying Manuka Paint by Kiwi Herb, once daily to the region; it contains manuka and horopito extracts which help destroy the warts without damaging surrounding skin.
Also take L-Lysine by Lamberts, one tablet twice daily on an empty stomach. It’s an amino acid that blocks arginine, the “food” for the virus. It’s completely safe and has some immune-enhancing properties. Manuka Paint, £8.99 for 20ml, L-Lysine, £8.50 for 120 tablets, both from Victoria Health (see below).
The hypo-wallet is a handy adjunct for people with diabetes, containing fast acting carbohydrates in specifically formulated doses, plus a treatment card telling people around them what to do if they have a ‘hypo’ (low blood sugar). All products in the wallet are free of caffeine, artificial additives and suitable for vegetarians/vegans. Diabetes expert Professor Charles Clark calls it ‘a very good concept…an inexpensive way of providing peace for mind for patients and their relatives’. £4.99 from Victoria Health.
Book of the Week:
Self Compassion by Kristin Neff (pub Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99)
Many of us spend a lot of mind time criticising and judging ourselves (as well as others). The subtitle to psychologist Kristin Neff’s enlightened book suggests ‘Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind’. In a world where we’re continuously urged to aim for perfection, it’s hard to accept that doing our best really is good enough. But the advice in this book could help us all relax, accept life as it is and be kind to ourselves. Which helps everyone.