The Autism Conundrum

One of the things that has always struck me is how few people in the “healthcare” system are alarmed about the skyrocketing Autism rates.  Recent research shows that the risk for autism is now 1 in 88 kids!  In some states, the rate can be as high as 1 in 47!  The question remains, why?

The argument has been made that autism is due to childhood vaccination as the rates of autism seem correlated with the application of childhood vaccines.  While vaccines do demonstrate some questionable efficacy and their long term toxic effects remain an enigma, there does remain much debate as to whether or not vaccination directly contributes to autism or not.  Vaccination alone, however, also doesn’t explain how you can have multiple children from the same family with the same vaccine exposure but only one gets autism.  Many other sources will say they simply don’t know what’s causing the alarming autism numbers.

When it comes to autism, we invest a lot of time looking for a singular, simple solution to a complex problem.  Unfortunately, there is very little research on general toxic exposures and their effect on autism rates.  While study after study is done on the effects of vaccines we give our kids and their relation to autism, very little relative research has been done to evaluate our daily regular toxic exposure and its effect on our long term health and the health of our kids.

Your body is constantly bombarded by toxins from the cleaning products we use to the chemical medications we consume.  To complicate matters, everyone’s exposure may be different based on their level of lifestyle, awareness, steps taken to limit exposure, and knowledge about the toxic effects of chemicals on the body.  Too often, we just assume the chemicals we are exposed to are safe because there is not enough research done documenting the long term or lifelong effects of our exposure.

When you take a look, however, at the average American’s exposure, the question as to why Autism is on the rise becomes less of a mystery.  For example:

1.      Prior to getting pregnant, the average American female gets very little exercise and eats a relatively poor diet that includes all sorts of chemical food additives that affect her body both short and long term.  As a casual social consumer of alcohol, she may also be causing small amounts of toxic damage to her liver.  It may be even worse if she is a social smoker.  Oblivious to the toxic effects, she microwaves her food in plastic and has an array of chemical exposures during the day from car exhaust to perfumes to cleaners.  She has allergies and suffers from migraine headaches so takes allergy medication and ibuprofen, both of which have to be processed by her body.  She also consumes diet soda because that is “healthier” for her.  Her future children will, of course, depend on the health of their mother for their own healthy development inside her.

2.      She discovers she pregnant after missing her first menstrual cycle.  Of course, she immediately stops her active alcohol consumption.  The problem is, she’s been to 3 dinner parties since conception, in which she’s consumed alcohol and has been exposed to second hand smoke.  She continues to microwave her food in plastic containers, eat food full of chemical food additives, and drinks diet soda (artificial sweetener is toxic to your nervous system), unaware they all contain potential toxins.  She consults with her obstetrician about her pregnancy and is given medication for a some hives she developed.  Much of the chemicals she is ingesting will cross the placenta and affect the fetus in micro-doses in the uterus.

3.      Ultimately, after 9 months of variable exposure, she has a baby girl who uses  a plastic pacifier, drinks out of a plastic bottle and is smothered in chemicals from diaper rash lotions to the medication she is taking for her reflux.  She also gets her typical round of childhood vaccinations that are a chemical soup of everything from mercury (a neurtoxin) to formaldehyde (a carcinogen) injected directly into the blood stream.  She eats processed baby foods and drinks baby formula (which is not food by the way).

4.      Around a year later or so, her mother starts to realize that her daughter is not reaching the developmental milestones that she should be.  Ultimately she finds out her daughter is autistic.

Talking with patients in my office and the public at large during and at health screenings or events, I’ve found that that average American has absolutely no idea how bathed we are in toxins almost continuously.  That’s a big change from 100 years ago and an even bigger change from the environment that shaped our genetics.  Some research even suggests that our stresses and toxic exposures may be affecting our genetic code long term and permanently.

So, why do some kids develop autism while others do not?  Why do two children from the same family have different outcomes?  There may be many answers for this:

1.      Perhaps with the first child, the mother was younger and healthier, with less toxic exposure.

2.      Maybe one of the pregnancies was planned while the other was a surprise, so the mother prepared differently prior to the pregnancy and during that critical, initial first trimester.

3.      Perhaps alcohol consumption or smoking habits have changed between children.

4.       She may be taking more or less medication with a second child.

5.       Her lifestyle may have changed drastically in other ways between children.

6.       Maybe she’s grown smarter with a new pregnancy and limits her toxic exposure by educating herself.

7.       Perhaps she’s applied lessons from her first child to the second child, correcting mistakes and implementing better choices.

Autism is a complex problem with no simple solution.  The only plausible solution seems to be identifying and eliminating the potential chemical exposures the mother and child have early in development.  We also need to get serious about what health is and what it is not.  The good news is, for parents of autistic children, autistic kids in my office respond amazingly well to chiropractic care, in improving their sensory acclimation by removing obstruction to normal nervous system function.  It’s no cure by any means, but they should be getting adjusted.