Supplements – Less is More?


When it comes to treating Autism, the subject of supplementation can become a hotbed of total confusion for parents whose resources are already tested to the max.  One starts to feel the need for a PhD in biochemistry just to try and navigate through the sequential minefield of what to put in, what to take out, what is doing what… and whether it is helping or hindering.  What’s worse, there is generally a lack of feedback from the little people in terms of exactly how they are feeling at any one time.

Often when there is a perceived ‘good patch’, there is the desire to replicate EXACTLY what you did on those days, in order to try and recapture the ‘magic’.  Unfortunately, toxins move easily around the body and brain, dependent on a whole range of factors (e.g. general immunity levels, the chemical effects of particular foods eaten,  or stress, to name but a few).   The autistic picture rarely sits still, which makes it hard to get a handle on.  It is, for want of a better word, mercurial.

One of the biggest problems with supplementation is that a supplement which was initially like a ‘magic bullet’ in terms of noticeable change for the better, can at a certain point go from helping, to actually compounding the problem.  As levels inevitably raise with supplementation, there is a point where to continue throwing it into the mix can actually lead to a worsening in behaviour and physical symptoms.  I would always be mindful of this…. Keep a watchful eye on behaviour and mood in case something they’re taking is starting to throw them off piste.

I have a lot of personal experience with supplements.  Before I tried homeopathy as a treatment option for heavy metal toxicity, I did 2 years of chelation, which went hand in hand with a large suitcase full of supplements, just in order to get through it.  I found there were days when I was chemically all over the place, and had no idea what was doing what.  I always had a tendency to throw in more things in order to try and dig myself out of that particular hole, but alas, it would often make things worse.   Through my own experiences, and my observations of what I see in my practice, there are a few ‘core beliefs’ that I hold regarding supplements:

  1. Supplements will never cure the problem. Well placed, they will simply serve to make treatment a less bumpy ride for both child and parent.
  2. If you’re not sure, leave it out.  It will save you money, stress, and possible adverse reactions.
  3. Beware of long-term use.  Keep an eye out for telling symptoms of a ‘tipping point’ – the most common symptoms are extreme irritability, anxiety, obsessive tendencies, bowel disturbances.
  4. If the whole issue  of supplements is stressing you out, have a rethink.  Go carefully over what you’re doing, and maybe gradually stop those where you really can’t be sure of their worth.  Keep a close eye on general mood behaviour, and if you do reintroduce, do one at a time, and very gradually.

With the advent of more comprehensive genetic testing, it is becoming possible to hone those supplements which may be of use, but this should be done by a practitioner who really knows the field.  Perhaps there are particular gene deletions or mutations which mean certain pathways are not functioning as well as they could be, and may need some extra raw material.  This is an area I feel sure will develop hugely in the coming years, but is still in its infancy.  As with all these things, proceed with caution!

As a rule I would avoid any kind of multivitamin like the plague.  These can have combinations of B vits which make some autistic children feel very wonky indeed.  In addition, they often contain things like copper, which can be another red flag supplement for ASD sufferers.   A ‘one size fits all’ approach tends to not work with cases of autism.

Other areas where one should proceed with caution are antifungals, and preparations claiming to rid the body of parasites.  I have really not heard any convincing tales where these work long-term, and from a homeostasis perspective, the chances are the body will just return to the status quo once you stop giving the drugs/preparations.

With particular reference to the antifungals, they tend to make the yeast resistant, and the treatment itself can further compromise the gut flora. The reason that candida/parasites take hold is due to the lowered immunity that toxicity causes… remove the source of toxic load, and these opportunistic parasites will no longer find the environment to their liking.

As always, if you have any other questions on this subject, feel free to contact me.



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