Environmental Factors and Autism
Autism (and a host of other pediatric and adult diagnoses these days), is directly the result of the environment. Now this environmental trigger or combination of factors can be the lack of a key nutrient (see my blogs on Vitamin D, B-12, and folate) which all affect the methylation cycle that is mentioned in the article below, or the direct effect of a toxin (think aluminum or mercury or pesticides or endocrine disrupters like flame retardants and plastics, like BPA). When you hear that there is a genetic link to autism or most other disorders, what really should be said is that they have found the epigenetic mechanism by which this or that environmental factor may be triggering the disease or disorder.
Methylation is the most critical pathway for turning genes on or off, and as such will likely be the key area through which environmental toxins, triggers, and nutritional deficiencies have their negative effects on us. As this article points out, these “genetic defects” are not static but can be reversed if you can determine the environmental cause. So you see your genetics (even for identical twins, as in this study) is really all about environmental toxins or nutrient deficiencies that put your methylation cycle at risk.
This is very exciting news, because, unlike the conclusion that now we can find drugs to treat these conditions, I say now we can determine the missing nutrients and discover which toxins to avoid. I highly recommend living as toxin free of a life as you can. Those with challenged methylation and other biochemistry may not be able to get rid of toxins as well as others. I think it is safe to say that our world has become toxic enough that no one is spared. It’s just a matter of how toxic each of us have become and how well our biochemistry allows us to get rid of those toxins.
When discussing this toxin issue with parents and my teen patients with ADD, ADHD, or on the autism spectrum, I ask them to imagine their body is like a bucket. Into this bucket will go marbles of all different colors that represent toxins, lead, mercury, pesticides, plastics, etc. Some people can remove such toxins by the handful, so their bucket never fills with toxins and they can eat junk, get all the vaccines, drink from or microwave in plastics, eat from tin cans, eat fish, get mercury (silver) fillings in their cavities, take too many antibiotics and not take any supplements and still be just fine. For some of us, maybe we can take out only one marble a day because our biochemistry and methylation cycles are compromised either by genetics or unfortunate circumstances like a GI track (gut) full of bad bacteria. A fraction of the dangerous behaviors outlined above will cause our bucket to fill with toxins resulting in brain defects and the symptoms we call ADD, ADHD, Autism spectrum, anxiety, and so on.
So, when you hear something is genetic, hear instead that there is an environmental toxin or nutrient deficiencies that you can do something about to change your child’s symptoms and even remove the diagnosis in many cases.