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A Biomedical Approach to Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month and with that, I thought it would be informative to explain the approach I take when assessing and treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Autism in the western world has seen dramatic increases over the past decades. In the early 1990s the estimated rate of ASD was 1 in 2500, compared to the last census in 2016 which estimated the rate at 1 in 54, according to the CDC in the United States. Recent estimates have it at 1 in 30!

Common Symptoms of Autism (ASD)

While the symptoms of ASD can be extremely varied and complex, there are some common themes that often present including:

Language – delayed language, loss of language, nonsensical words, difficulty communicating with others.

Eye contact and non- verbal cues – difficulty with making eye contact with others as well as reading facial expressions/emotions.

Repetitive behaviours – rocking, spinning or flapping behaviours of hands and arms as well as repetitive patterns with playing with toys (lining up toys, spinning wheels over and over etc.)

Ritualistic behaviours – including eating the same foods, watching the same programs, and having challenges with change in routine.

Self injury – although not as common, head banging, biting, scratching and excessive rubbing of skin can be part of the ASD picture.

Biomedical treatment for Autism

This approach was first designed by Dr. Bernard Rimland MD in the 1960s and is defined as..

“The purpose of biomedical treatment is to optimize the physiological factors that impact brain function and development. These include nutrition, metabolic status, immune function, environmental factors, and others.”

This approach is not a one size fits all and fosters an individualized approach for both testing and treatment.

With this in mind, there can be two autistic patients that are of the same age, gender etc., presenting with the same set of symptoms, but for completely different reasons. Let me explain..

In a biomedical approach, we seek to uncover what may be at some of the root causes with respect to the presentation of autism. This can include areas such as:

  • Allergies – often undiagnosed to foods or environment
  • Dysbiosis – occurring in the digestive system, a low grade or more serious infection of things like candida yeast, e. coli, clostridium and beyond
  • Genetic – looking more deeply into potential genetic links for ASD concerns. For example, a genetic issue with the gene MTHFR can be involved and is often not routinely tested.
  • GI inflammation – everything from profuse diarrhea to significant constipation can occur.
  • Immune – investigating immune markers related to autoimmune concerns as well as things like celiac disease for example.
  • Inflammation – ASD patients are often inflamed in many areas of their systems and this concern can be tested and treated.
  • Metabolic – concerns with blood sugar, hormones, mitochondria etc, are assessed here.
  • Nutritional deficiencies – common themes are low iron, low B12, low vitamin D, low magnesium to name a few.
  • Sleep – often challenged for many with ASD for many reasons. Some common themes can be low melatonin and magnesium status.
  • Toxic load – last but certainly not least, parents of ASD kids often report profound improvement when their children undergo some sort of detoxification. Testing can assess challenges in the detox pathways, elevated levels of heavy metals, exposure to other pollutants, molds, etc. Treatment approaches are varied based on test outcomes.

I hope this gives you a sense of the Biomedical approach to autism. I received my training through the Autism Research Institute several years ago and completed a program in Integrative Medicine for Mental Health as well. The websites are listed below and are a wealth of information.

Autism Research Institute – www.autism.org
Integrative Medicine for Mental Health – www.IMMH.org

Please contact the clinic via email ([email protected]) or phone at 604-990-6963 with any questions.

In health,
Dr. Cameron McIntyre, ND

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