Autism is a disease characterized by behavioral abnormalities and symptoms. We don’t have a full appreciation for what it is. We do know that it’s not a psychiatric disease; it’s more of a metabolic disease – a metabolic disease consisting of neurological problems associated with gastrointestinal, immune, and detoxification problems. So it’s a very multifaceted constellation of symptoms we’ve tried to group together, and we really do not have a firm handle on what exactly it is.
Autism is diagnosed by looking at atypical behaviors and repetitive symptoms. Typically, a child with autism will show stemming, flapping of the arms, hands; they will toe-walk. Oftentimes, they are very repetitive in everything they do. Almost compulsive in the way they will handle a car instead of holding it upright and pushing it on its wheels, they’ll turn it upside-down and just spin the wheels.
They seem to be very anti-social, and they’re easily distracted. So in essence, it’s a series of things that we put together to create a picture of what is atypical and what we term autism. Autism is commonly noticed in the first 18 months. Usually around between 16 to 18 months, parents will get an inkling there’s something wrong. Oftentimes, it’s when they enter and they’re seeing their child does not attract them with their eyes; so other times, it’s when they’re not cooing or they don’t seem to be happy. They seem to be looking through the parent.
So we think it’s first diagnosable somewhere around a year and a half of age. What we see in autistic children, usually it’s initially through the parents’ eyes, the parents notice something is wrong. Oftentimes, they’ll confront the pediatrician or the family doctor and say, “Doctor, I think there’s something wrong.” And the doctor will say, “No, this is normal. This is not to worry about.”
At this point in time, we’re getting a little bit more sensitive to parents and parents’ observations. Parents are really the ones who spend 24/7 with their child, and if a pediatrician or a doctor is to look at a child on occasion per visit and say, “Your child’s fine,” when the mother knows better, it’s kind of an unfair thing to do to a parent.
Parents oftentimes sense even before they start observing something that’s unusual, something that happened. There is no question. Certain parents – and there are many of them, and many of them are outspoken parents – know that something’s changed following a vaccination. It can be at two months of age; it can be at a year of age; it can be at two years of age. Something happens that seems to change their child, so there are threads that seem to go through the community of autism that are repetitive and many, many mothers will join in saying they noticed something happened after an event, and that’s where we have to start taking a closer look at those events.
When a mother takes her child to a doctor and usually says, “There’s something not right,” the traditional doctors will frequently delay doing anything. There are no specific tests for autism. If there was a lab test, every doctor’s office would do it. There isn’t any. It’s a much more complex issue to come up with a diagnosis. In essence, what you have to do is find out what is missing in this child, what doesn’t belong in this child, and that’s where biomedicine has stepped up and identified many of these children with these slight behavioral abnormalities have much more complex metabolic disease. They are biochemical train wrecks, and they have to be observed from many different perspectives.
There’s genetic testing that could be done to rule out a true genetic disease, which accounts for less than 10 percent of autism cases. There could be genetic predisposition testing, which we call single-nucleotide polymorphisms. We can do lab tests to determine other degrees of things that might be affecting the child’s noble behavior. There’s no question that certain common things like lead can have an adverse affect on a baby’s development.
Some of the common problems we see in autistic children, going beyond lead, we find these children oftentimes have mercury, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, certain uranium deposits in their bodies, and actually have a dangerous chromium in many cases. So what we’re looking at and when we start taking a closer look at these children – and most doctors don’t do this – biomedical doctors have learned that toxins simply do not allow a child to function normally. Babies can be exposed in the uterus to pesticides that they were never exposed to 50 years ago. They can be exposed to a mother’s already toxic lead and mercury, and they’re going to be born with concentrations far greater than the mother’s concentration.
We have to look at the genetic and look at the susceptibility. There are variations in autistic children where the toxins actually can trigger abnormal sequences of DNA so the blueprint is disrupted, and unless you can correct those disruptions, you have very little chance of normalizing a child or helping to recover a child. So when we look at these children, all of these toxins, these polymorphisms we see, we also see they have major immune disorders that are genetic polymorphisms.
We see that autistic children have gastrointestinal problems, which are also associated with polymorphisms, and many of these children have severe neurological deficits which are associated with polymorphisms. So when we look at the total picture of a child with autism and we approach it from a biomedical standpoint, we’re trying to identify what is there that doesn’t belong. At the same time, we try to identify what’s there that we know we can get rid of. And also, we have to identify what’s supposed to be there and what we need to add. And that’s really the idea of personalized medicine and biomedical treatments for these children is to identify what doesn’t belong and to add what needs to be there.
Once we identify what doesn’t belong in a child, we can take steps to remove them. The first step is if the detoxification system is functioning, and there are two phases to a detoxification. If the first phase isn’t functioning, we obviously have to support it in order for the second phase to work. But the biggest and most important thing we do for a child and get things out that don’t belong is to enhance the detoxification mechanism. This really depends upon biochemical pathways we call methylation and sulfation.
If we can get these pathways working normally and create the most important detoxifying agent in the body, namely glutathione, we can start these children on a pathway of ridding themselves of these unnecessary metals and toxins that are present. There are certain products that have been approved by the FDA for chelating heavy metals. And as I said, most of these children, on the spectrum, are heavy metal toxic, which means that anything we can do to remove those toxins will be a benefit. And that’s again where biomedicine steps apart from traditional medicine. In traditional medicine, we’ve treated lead toxicity, arsenic poisoning, uranium with chelation as an automatic.
For some reason, traditional medicine is reluctant to approach children with heavy metal toxins who are on the spectrum of autism and approve chelation therapy, and yet we’ve had children that respond in as short as one chelation session by regaining some speech. There’s no question in my mind that when you combine all of the different toxins – and these aren’t individually toxic; they are similarly toxic. If you take a lead and antimony, put them together, these two elements butt on the periodic table, which means they’re so closely associated with one another, the combined effects could be 1,000 times more than one alone.
So for us to say, in traditional medicine, these autistic children can’t be helped by chelation therapy is, in my opinion, ridiculous. These children can be helped, and chelation therapy has saved lives. And yet, we don’t really support the idea because it’s kind of been pushed to the back burner. So when a mother asks, “What can we do?” we first of all try to tell them, “Get the normal detoxification pathways open. Number two, let’s consider some FDA-approved chelating agents to go with it.”
And chelation therapy can be given intravenously, it can be given orally, or it can be given topically. You can actually put it on the skin and it’ll be absorbed, and you can measure what’s coming out of the urine, if you have any doubts of whether chelation therapy is working or not. And it’s unfortunate that every child has an individual tipping point. Small amounts of poison can tip some babies who are just susceptible over into the spectrum. Other children will take large amounts of toxins and not be affected at all. I guess, in some ways, we’re about as good as our detoxification systems, and we know for a fact, autistic children are very vulnerable to mercury and other poisons.
When I mention there are things we need to determine that are missing, what I mean to say is there are tests that we can do. We can determine amino acid levels. We can determine minerals and vitamins. We can determine an autistic child’s nutritional status. We know for a fact if a child is not eating healthy, they’re not going to absorb these essential ingredients for health. We know that if the gut is not functioning normally, they’re not going to absorb some of these.
So by identifying what’s missing and adding them – in particular, the amino acids, the vitamins, and all of the essential nutrients, the essential fatty acids, in particular – we can get a child to at least have the advantages of what’s necessary to create the most important functions of the body. Amino acids are critical for the very structure of DNA. We cannot have a blueprint without the repetition of these amino acids that make up DNA. We can’t have a neurotransmitter. We can’t have a neuro-hormone. We can’t have a detoxification system unless these ingredients are present.
Very few in traditional medicine look at amino acids as being critically important, but after one biomedical class, I think every pediatrician that I know would come away understanding better that if we don’t know what’s missing, we’ll never know what needs to be replaced. Personalized medicine is by definition trying to identify the cause and the effect. We look at each child as an individual. There are no two identical. Even though we have identical twins, we know that if one is autistic, the likelihood of the second one being autistic is there, but it’s not 100 percent
There’s something different, even among identical twins. So personalized medicine is to focus on the individual child – identifying those things we just mentioned and determining what can be added that’s unique to this child and not every child. Traditional medicine looks at disease and has a treatment. Once they give you the diagnosis, it’s almost automatic. We can’t do that. Every child has a different diagnosis. That’s why autism is so incredibly difficult to deal with. There are many types of autism; there are many causes of autism. And once we identify the most likely toxins a child possesses, we focus on them. And once we identify the things that are missing, we focus on them. And that is what personal medicine is all about.
We also have to look at the genetics. Every child is unique genetically. Half of us walk around with significant polymorphisms which are genes that were developed normal. At one point in time, they developed normally, and now they’re not functioning normally. They’re either expressing themselves where they shouldn’t be or they’re not expressing themselves. And I think that’s the future of medicine is to identify the ones that are supposed to be functioning and turn them on, and the ones that aren’t supposed to be functioning and turn them off.
It’s the same with many of our neurological diseases. We now know it’s all about the genes. It’s not that they’re born genetically abnormal; it’s not an inborn error of metabolism. It’s an acquired abnormality. So personalized medicine tries to identify the uniqueness of every child or every adult, for that matter, and try to tailor the treatment plan to what is found in the testing.
Dr. David Davis, MD
Personalized Medicine Center
2825 Santa Monica, Boulevard, Ste 310
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Larry Cook, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Natural Living