Patients with autism have a unique set of challenges brought on by altered neurochemistry, disordered cognitive development, and an irregular brain-gut relationship.
Nervous System Health
Chiropractors work to alleviate areas of stress on the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves that go out to the rest of your body. When areas of the spine are misaligned, stress is placed on the nervous system. This causes the brain communicate poorly with the rest of the body. When we align the spine of our patient, we ensure that the body can talk to the brain, and the brain can talk to the body. When we have proper nervous system function, our immune system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, etc. can work better because the “control center” is functioning at a higher level. Chiropractic adjustments can be adapted to very gentle techniques for patients with spectrum disorders.
Ordinary sights, sounds, and touches can be too stimulating for autistic patients—gentle touch techniques that don’t utilize “popping” sounds that you traditionally associate with chiropractic. These tonal techniques, such as Logan, B.E.S.T., and Activator are less disruptive to autistic patients. Additionally, autistic patients tend to prefer routine, and need to know what to expect at each visit. We vow to offer patience and consistency, and promise to do our best to make our patients comfortable in our office before we start any treatment.
We will explain what we are doing and what is about to happen at every stage. We will give the patient time to understand and respond, rather than reacting immediately. We will use clear and direct questions, and maintain routine with our office visits. Please do not forget that caregivers need care too.
Retraining the Brain
In addition to getting brain signals going to and from the rest of the body, we need to integrate the 2 halves of the brain. Primitive reflexes are certain reactions the body performs unconsciously that give doctors insight into poorly developed brain areas.
Some reflexes that are normal in a newborn may not be appropriate in a 2 year old, or 5 year old. A patient could be 8 years old chronologically, but their brain development may be stuck at 1 year old. By using simple exercises we can work to develop the brain closer to the correct age.
Patients with autism also tend to have one side of their brain more dominant than the other. It is important for these patients to build up the opposite side to have equal strength between brain hemispheres. Back In Line doctors can help identify these strengths and weaknesses and stimulate the lower functioning areas with specific movements. Movement BUILDS the brain and helps it develop. Talking, walking, crawling, rolling, sitting up, all build upon the foundation of primitive reflexes. We want milestones to be occurring at the RIGHT time. We will work to our patients reconnected, as well as integrated between the left and right sides of the brain and to the body. Early intervention is key.
Decreasing Toxic Burden
The combined toxic burden from what we eat, drink, expose, and put into our bodies may be one of the most significant contributions to autism spectrum disorders. Chemicals that disrupt hormone function and brain function are in our food, cleaning products, medications, vaccinations, and more. Pesticides (especially the amount used in our farm friendly homeland) are not only on conventional food, but are in the air we breath.
One way to decrease a patient’s toxic burden is to detoxify. At Back In Line we have an infrared sauna that patients can sit in with a friend or family member. We have adult and child protocols for the sauna. Sessions in the sauna help to release toxins that are bound up in our body tissues.
Balancing the Gastrointestinal System
Persons with autism are at a higher risk for gastrointestinal irregularities. Constipation, diarrhea, reflux, increased intestinal permeability, decreased enzyme production, and abnormal gut flora all occur in higher rates in the autistic population. 70-80% of the human immune system is located in the gut. A disrupted gut puts ASD patients at a higher risk for illness. GI irregularities can be made worse by food sensitivities. (Side note: Food sensitivities differ from food allergies. Food allergies cause immediate reactions and symptoms are obvious. Food sensitivity symptoms can appear days later after consuming a certain food, and are more difficult to diagnose. BOTH allergies and sensitivities cause inflammation in the body that can cause a wide range of ailments.)
At our office we have the ability to test 96 different foods with one finger prick. Identifying the foods that irritate the patient’s digestive system will take the guesswork out of the food intolerance game. By removing the identified irritating foods, and replenishing the gut microflora with high-quality physician grade probiotics available at our office, gut health and therefore immune health can be improved. Balancing the gut flora for our ASD patients is critical to improving their quality of life.
This test is applicable to all of our patients but autistic patients especially because they often lack enzymes required to break down gluten and dairy proteins. This can leave unprocessed gluten proteins in the bloodstream that can act as opioids, causing spaciness, repetitive behaviors, low pain tolerance, and extreme cravings. Gut health is extremely important!
Nutrition and Autism