autism and maternal nutrients

Autism and Maternal Nutrients: An Unrecognized Connection

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Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behavior. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child’s life. Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), although classified as a distinct entity, probably represents “variations on a symphonic theme”. On February 22, the School of Public Health, Columbia University reported a study that women actively infected with genital herpes during early pregnancy had twice the odds of giving birth to a child later diagnosed with ASD. Researchers for the Kaiser Permanente health-care group examined the medical records of 594,638 children. The lead author reported that, of 6,255 who had been diagnosed with autism, 37% had experienced complications during pregnancy or delivery. Issues during birth, such as oxygen deprivation, increased the risk by 10%. Infants born to mothers who had pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy-related complications had a 22% greater risk. For those who experienced complications both before and during delivery, the risk increased by as much as 44%.

Preeclampsia, Vitamin B1 Deficiency, and Autism

The reference above to pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy -related complications caught my attention. About two years ago, I received a three-page letter from an extremely frustrated specialist in OB/GYN by the name of John B. Irwin. He also enclosed what I consider to be an extremely important book that has almost certainly been ignored by the medical profession. He opened his letter by saying “I am writing to you because I have found another mortal being who is interested in the biological activities of thiamine” (vitamin B1). In his letter he mentioned that for 25 years, during his retirement he had been concentrating on the use of megadose thiamine (100 mg/day) in pregnancy. He had hired himself out to the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to improve on their system of obstetrical care. His first job was to attend a meeting with a group of island doctors who were all American Board-Certified in OB. Having heard of Dr. Irwin’s interest in thiamine they introduced him to a young woman in the 36th week of pregnancy. She had severe preeclampsia, heart disease and early signs of premature separation of the placenta. Spontaneous labor and delivery would most likely cause loss of mother and infant and it was impossible to lay her flat for cesarean section because of her difficulty in breathing. In short, the island doctors were testing him. In a private huddle “the doctors apparently decided that if the patient died while they were holding me up, they would be found solely guilty, so with anger, sneers and audible comments they told me to go ahead” by using a 100 mg pill of thiamine daily she was cured in six days, sleeping flat and hiking the long halls of the hospital for exercise to shake off her prolonged immobilization. He delivered a 3 lbs. 12 oz. infant with a normal Apgar score. Dr. Irwin started clinic patients on mega-thiamine and this prevented development of every type of toxemia completely, including eclampsia, preeclampsia, intrauterine growth retardation, premature delivery and gestational diabetes. I would certainly suggest that this book would be compulsory reading for anybody who contemplates pregnancy or is pregnant: The Natural Way to a Trouble-Free Pregnancy: The Toxemia/Thiamine Connection.

 Vitamin D Deficiency and Autism

Children who are, or who are destined to become, autistic have a lower vitamin D level at birth and at age 8 compared to their unaffected siblings.  Two studies found that high-dose vitamin D improves the symptoms of autism in about 75% of autistic children. A few of the improvements were remarkable. The vitamin D doses used in these children were as much as 300 IU/KG body weight/day to a maximum of 5000 IU/day. These doses may be surprising to some readers but there have been tremendous advances concerning the role of vitamin D in the human body. It is not a vitamin in the true sense since it is manufactured in the skin by exposure to sunlight.

In Utero Nutrient Deficiencies 

The infant in utero is completely dependent on nutrients supplied by the mother. It has been shown that some cases of autism are induced in pregnancy and are a direct reflection of the mother’s overall health. Folic acid supplementation was shown to prevent neural tube defects in the infant and we now have evidence for the importance of sufficiency in vitamin D and vitamin B1, adding to the preventive obligations in prenatal care. We have become used to the idea that a given disease such as autism has a specific cause. When we find that two different vitamin deficiencies give rise to the same disease, we have to explain the connecting link.

Biochemical Lesions

In 1936, Sir Rudolph Peters published his studies on thiamine, spearheading the research that led to our better understanding of the complexities of oxidative metabolism. He formulated the idea of a “biochemical lesion”, indicating that a breakdown within cells is due to a failure in chemistry. Since both of the vitamins depicted here are critical in the normal function of all our cells, particularly those of the brain, we can suggest that autism is caused by variable biochemical lesions, any and all of which produce dysfunctional cells. The symptoms generated are a result of how many cells are affected by the biochemical lesion and the effect that has on function.

The Critical Role of Nutrition During Pregnancy

Cellular chemistry cannot function properly without a huge series of nutrients that we must ingest every day. It is no longer sufficient to make a clinical diagnosis in descriptive terms. I suggest here that a constellation of symptoms may have 5 or 10 different biochemical lesions. On the other hand, a single biochemical lesion may project itself in 5 or 10 different ways, producing a variable constellation of symptoms, depending upon the distribution of the change in biochemistry. It indicates that we must look a lot harder for evidence of nutrient deficiency as the potential underlying truth. Is it possible that the mother would not succumb to genital herpes, or if she were infected, not perpetrate havoc on her yet unborn child if her body chemistry was in an ideal state?

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Derrick Lonsdale M.D., is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN), Fellow of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (FACAM). Though now retired, Dr. Lonsdale was a practitioner in pediatrics at the Cleveland Clinic for 20 years and was Head of the Section of Biochemical Genetics at the Clinic. In 1982, Lonsdale joined the Preventive Medicine Group to specialize in nutrient-based therapy. Dr. Lonsdale has written over 100 published papers and the conclusions support the idea that healing comes from the body itself rather than from external medical interventions.

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