OPTIMISM ABOUT AUTISM
By Dr. John Gannage, MD
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 needed to conceptualize autism as a disease template from which to explain many of our modern illnesses, and apply to it the methods I was using to address other chronic conditions with a toxic-immune component. I needed to learn that practitioners in Baton Rouge consider autism a unique form of chronic mercury poisoning, and treat it accordingly. I needed to know about glutathione, glutamate levels and gluten metabolites; about autism case management, casein metabolites and carnosine. I came to bear witness that the ability to dramatically improve the life (and remove the label) of an autistic child has such 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 went from speaking an eight to 10 single word vocabulary to nothing. He 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 administered 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 had loose stools regularly.
Nutritional Medicine and Chelation
His informed parents had already started the child on probiotics, essential fatty acids, B vitamins and other supplements prior to his visit with me. On 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, an anti-fungal preparation was recommended, and immune function regulated through medication as well.
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 proceeding, 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 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 lipoic acid.
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, mineral levels, and liver and kidney function, heavy metals, 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, T.at age 6 is fully integrated in the regular school system, complete with developing personality, humour and normal communication. He, in fact, attends a new school where none of the staff are aware that he was ever diagnosed with autism.
Predictions: Future Prevention and Medical Treatment of Autism
I am optimistic that in the future:
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.
Privacy Disclosure: The parents of T. provided consent to publish the Case Study.
Dr. Gannage practices Integrative Medicine in Markham, Ontario