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The Cause of Autism

Much like getting a shot, the great vaccination debate is a sore subject. I had not given it much thought until recently. Maybe it’s the Jenny McCarthy media storm vilifying them, or maybe it is because I have delved deeper into the Autism community lately; stretching for more people to connect with. We get asked a lot what we think the cause of autism is. Before I begin with our humble opinion, there are some points to go over.

1) Cullen followed the CDC recommended vaccination schedule, with the exception of flu shots. I even dosed him with Tylenol afterwards per the Pediatrician’s recommendations. However, I never noticed a turn toward autism with him. There was never a moment where I knew there was something going on, like some other parent’s have seen after vaccinating. For us it was a long, slow awakening that there may be something different about him. (More on how we found out in a later blog post). Our experiences with autism are unique to us, and every family has a different story, and I know a lot of parents see an immediate change after a round of vaccinations.

2) Peer-reviewed scientific research is not always “big pharma.” Also, “independent research studies” are not always reliable. But there’s merit in both. I don’t think I can paraphrase or explain it better than this article did below:

“Scientific research works like this:
You start with the specific questions “Does the MMR vaccine cause autism?”, “Does the MMR vaccine increase the risk of inflammatory bowel disease?” and so forth. You then design a study to test that question. It’s not starting from one “side” or the other, trying to seek proof for it. That’s the way politics works, not science. When you get an answer, it’s either “yes” or “no” (actually it tends to be “there is a statistically significant association between this drug and this disease” or “there is NOT a statistically significant association between this drug and this disease.”) Your results are submitted to experts for peer review. These experts then go over your results and methods with a fine-toothed comb, trying to find weaknesses in your approach, or over-interpretation of the results. They evaluate your statistics to make sure that they’re correct. If they decide that it’s acceptable (and this is usually a very hard test to pass), your paper gets published and is considered “peer-reviewed.” But that’s not the end.

Studies are then done by other research groups to both test and build upon your results. While the initial screen by peer reviewers is very stringent, it doesn’t always catch mistakes, and can miss identifying faked data. However, all scientific research is iterative–that is, it builds upon a foundation created by other research. So if your results are wrong, or faked, it will quickly become obvious to other researchers who try to replicate or use them. Scientific consensus is VERY hard to achieve. So when it happens, pay attention.” –From The Truth About Vaccinations: Your Physician Knows More Than The University of Google

3) We have a very close friend who is a scientific researcher in biology and genetics. His skills allow him to pull up the actual papers written on most of the blogs and read the actual research and the findings. This gives us an insight into the more relevant forms of research rather than what the bloggers are reading between the lines. He’s able to tell me when something is stretching the limits of scientific probability and when there might actually be some truth behind it. Which allows us to make a more informed decision. Which is what I think everyone should be doing. Taking time to learn both sides of the issue from an unbiased source.

4) No parent on either side of the issue is trying to harm their child or yours. They are doing what they think is right and we are all entitled to our opinion. Respect others and they will respect you… or you can block them, that usually works.

5) I’m not a doctor. I’m not a health professional. I’m not even an expert on autism. I’m an expert on my son with autism. Just a mom. Giving my two cents.

Our Opinion:

Vaccines have been on the brain lately as many of our friends have started their families and started asking questions about where we stand, and also as we consider adding to our own family. Beyond preparing my body with the GAPS food plan, Nourishing Traditions recommendations, and supplementation, I have considered what we would do differently the next time around. Hospital Birth vs. Home Birth? Vaccinations vs. Unvaxed? Formula vs Breastfeeding? What about ultrasounds? What about my high mercury load? The list goes on and on.

A little personal history is required here… bear with me. I developed an auto-immune, hyperactive thyroid disorder called Grave’s Disease at 18-years-old. My paternal grandfather had also struggled with the same disorder decades earlier when the standard treatment was radioactive iodine to essentially kill your thyroid function. I refused this treatment and was put on two different types of medication to control my thyroid and my rapid heart rate. For years I took 10 pills a day. My cardiovascular abilities were severely limited, I struggled with fatigue, shaking hands, pounding and racing heart beat, and constant trips to the endocrinologist to  monitor my thyroid levels and liver function. My doctor continued to push for the radioactive iodine, telling me that it was the best course of action, that my body would eventually reject the medication or my liver would be compromised. The thing about that treatment is once it is done you become dependent on thyroid hormones in a pill form, because you have killed the gland that produces them naturally. I was the opposite of “healthy” in those days, but this plan of action went against what I thought was right. I knew that maintaining proper thyroid levels was a delicate dance that usually results in the patient becoming overweight, obese or even developing diabetes. I researched the disorder and found that, while the roots were probably genetic, it could be triggered by a traumatic event (which had happened), and that there was a small chance that your body would figure out it shouldn’t be fighting itself and the condition would dissipate. I was willing to wait it out and see what happened. Luckily for me I did eventually normal out.

Not before I became pregnant with Cullen. Because of my thyroid problems I was classified as a high-risk pregnancy. I continued with my thyroid medications AND during this time period discovered that one of the medications was causing tooth decay. So I had multiple (well over 10) amalgam fillings performed before and during my pregnancy. I was breathing in all of those mercury vapors when they were working on my teeth. Wonderful. We know that mercury passes through the placenta barrier to the fetus, so Cullen may have started out with a higher mercury load than his body could effectively deal with. In spite of that, he was quite healthy. I went to full-term, and didn’t have a cesarean. He had a mild case of jaundice, but all-in-all no serious concerns. I was unable to breastfeed, which would have bolstered his developing immune system.

Here’s where I switch gears to the immune system. According to the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, the immune system begins in the gut. An infant gets it’s gut flora from it’s mother. It happens during the birthing. Up until this point the baby’s gut is sterile it has to be populated with beneficial bacteria that will protect the baby from pathogenic bacteria, infection and disease. Breastfeeding continues that population of the gut flora and provides antibodies that are in the mother’s body as well. Here is where it gets interesting for me. Genetics play a part, but the health of your mother, and her mother, and her mother before are directly relational to the types of immune responses you have. Of course dad’s genetics play a part as well without a doubt. I think this is a lot of why we are seeing a spike in the increase of autism and all kinds of other auto-immune disorders. The rise is also attributed to better diagnostics, and a better understanding of what the Autism Spectrum is and what it looks like. 30 years ago a kid with autism may have been called weird or quirky, or mentally challenged. But wouldn’t the diagnoses have leveled out by now? They are continuing to rise! So are life-threatening food allergies.

So what is the common thread? Not vaccines. There are many children who have never been vaccinated that still develop an Autism Spectrum disorder. I think it’s the way we eat! The infiltration of processed food into our lives has become prevalent since the 1950’s, and we are seeing direct decreases in the health of our gut. Foods loaded with sugar, preservatives, chemicals, genetically-modified ingredients, and harmful additives have become the norm not the exception. We have migrated from a traditional diet consisting of plants and animals (the WHOLE animal, not just the lean parts) to a diet full of grains, dead dairy products, unhealthy fats, estrogen-disrupting soy, and high-fructose corn syrup. We are essentially feeding the bad flora, and not replenishing the good. Eating yogurt every day is not enough. You need a nutrient dense diet that focuses on building good flora through fermented foods. Let’s follow the progression. Great-grandma starts buying cereals, Bisquick, and canned food. Grandma has minor allergies. She starts including freezer meals, more dinners out, candy at the movies and occasional trips to the ice cream shop. Mom has somewhat worse allergies, maybe some eczema and mild depression. She starts including 2 processed food meals per day, sodas, high-sugar coffee drinks and lots more fast food. You have food allergies, acne, IBS, an auto-immune disorder and migraines. You eat fast food more than you eat home cooked meals. Your home cooked meals consist of low-quality meats, a box of something that looks like a starch, but you cannot pronounce the ingredients much less identify them, and a cans of vegetables. You follow all of that up with caffeine and hfcs loaded beverages and frankenfood snacks. You can’t control your weight, so you go to fat-free foods and cut all types of fat out of your diet even the good ones, but you still can’t drop the extra weight. You might switch to soy based products and then struggle with fertility. Each generation dilutes the health of their gut flora and passes it on to the next. Conservatorship of your body and immune system are equal to teaching your children what healthy food is. You have to protect it in order to pass on something worthwhile to the next generation.

We’ve established that my immune system was compromised, that my heavy metal load was probably high. My diet was severely deficient in nutrients. You can get an idea of it in a previous post here. The other factors I know now is that my paternal side has a strong genetic predisposition towards the spectrum. My dad was definitely ADD, and his brother could arguably be considered to have a mild case of Asperger’s, my sister as well, and I think I am half Aspie. I would never be diagnosed with it now, but I have learned to cope and get around my social quirks and shyness. When I’m stressed I think I feel a fraction of what Cullen feels on a daily basis. I never thought twice about vaccines. I just followed the advice of our pediatrician. Do I think that vaccinating Cullen caused his autism? No.Would I do it again? Probably not. I would follow the advice in the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, which recommends a test to determine the health of the gut to begin with. At the very least it recommends waiting for the infant to be much older than your pediatrician recommends to start immunizations if you are going to give them at all.

In our opinion it comes down to compromised immune systems due to the quality and types of food we are eating, the chemicals we are exposed to in the environment, in cleaning products and in personal care items. In Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, there is a compelling passage, “A compromised immune system is not going to react to environmental insults in the normal way! Vaccination is a huge insult to the immune system. The manufacturers of vaccines produce them for children with normal immune systems, which will react to these vaccines in a predictable way. However, in our modern society with our modern way of life, we are rapidly moving to a situation where a growing proportion of children do not have a normal immune system and will not produce an expected reaction to the vaccine. In some of these children vaccination, putting an enormous strain on an already compromised immune system, becomes that “last straw which breaks the camel’s back” and brings on the beginning of autism, asthma, eczema, diabetes, etc. In other children, whose immune system is compromised to a lesser degree, vaccination will not start the disorder, but it will deepen the damage and move the child closer to it. However, if the the child’s immune system is severely compromised, then the child will get ill even if vaccinations are completely avoided. […] It is the state of the child’s immune system that appears to be the decisive factor, not the vaccines.

“Following all the scandals around vaccinations it is no surprise that a lot of people around the world believe that we should abandon childhood vaccinations altogether. What these people forget is that before the vaccination era it was quite normal for every family to lose one, two, three and sometimes even more children to childhood infections, like measles, rubella, mumps and others. This is the natural selection law, which Mother Nature has imposed on all living creatures on earth. […] In our modern world we humans are not prepared to obey this law. No mother would allow her child to perish, when there are ways to let the child live. […] Vaccinations are one of those ways we humans have invented to allow our weaklings to survive. So, we cannot abandon vaccinations altogether unless we are prepared to obey the laws of Nature. We have to come up with a more rational approach to vaccinations.” From Gut & Psychology Syndrome

You would have to read the book yourself to form your own conclusions, but it recommends an immunological survey with stool and urine analysis performed to determine the risk for a dysfunctional gut. If the mother, older siblings or the child present any forms of autoimmune or neurological disorders vaccinations should be withheld and the child retested at a later age; vaccinations should be administered separately when possible. As of right now we are leaning toward an alternative vaccination schedule, which would most likely include none of the “new” vaccines like chicken pox, and no flu shots. According to the GAPS plan a second child should not be vaccinated. If we choose the unvaccinated route then precautions have to be taken to make sure there was lower risks of infection; for instance, I don’t see how a traditional daycare setting would be safe with other children potentially shedding live viruses. And breastfeeding for a longer period of time than is considered “normal” today would be required.

Friends of mine have recommended a class at Dragonfly Natural Health for anyone in the Los Angeles area that provides an enormous amount of information about how the immune system works, childhood illnesses, different types of vaccines and the concerns that go with them, the standard vaccination schedule and how to alter it for your child, how to make them easier on your child, and how to protect an non-vaccinated child. It presents every angle of both sides of the issue. They go into which vaccines contain live viruses, why mercury and aluminum are used to carry the virus, and how to make an informed decision.



August 30, 2013 - 9:06 am

Bethany Barton - My friend is so smart.

I have questions for you! Is the GAPS vaccine protocol in the Gut & Psyche Syndrome book? I want to check that protocol out.

August 30, 2013 - 9:11 am

Aspieventures - Yes it is Bethany! It is pretty close to the one you outlined from your workshop with the exception of the immunological survey and stool and urine tests done before deciding to vaccinate. I’m sure that our GAPS certified nutritional therapist at Selah Wellness, can order these tests.

Also, the GAPS book would recommend that you and I wait until our babies were older to consider vaccinating based on our history, and in my case an older sibling with autism. Measles is pretty serious though and I for sure would give that one.

August 20, 2014 - 1:59 pm

Anonymous - Some common threads on autism I wish people would address more: The coincidence that usually the first born son is the one to have autism (hence in the old days autism being called "juniors disease) and the coincidence that there is more often than not someone in the family tree that had autism within a couple of generations.

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