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Autism – An Integrative Medicine Approach

Diana Kopatsy - Senior Naturopathic Physician - Bayleaf Wellness

M.Ed, BHSc (Nat), BHSc (Hom), Dip Teach

According to the Oxford dictionary, Autism is defined as:

a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour.’

Generally, a diagnosis is based on three criteria which includes:

· Qualitative social interaction impairments,

· Qualitative verbal and nonverbal communication impairments

· Limited, repetitive, stereotypical behaviour patterns, interests and activities concerned with imagination impairment.

Whilst the specific causes of autism are not yet known the current medical thinking is that 90% of all cases are genetically determined and the chance of one family member suffering from autism increases by 50 to 100 times if another member of that family suffers from it. It is understood that more males suffer from autism because females appear to be better protected against congenital diseases and it is thought to involve a disorder in the functioning of the brain, developmental lags or is halted due to damage to the nervous system.

Aside from biological inclination, autism is explained by surrounding factors (10% of all cases) or determinants: prenatal risks, delivery (for instance anoxia), early childhood infections and exposure to certain toxins. In 10% of all cases, autism results from a bodily disorder. Tuberculosis is said to be 100 times more abundant in autism sufferers. Epilepsy is also more abundant, depending on the type of autism, age and IQ.

The management of Autism Spectrum Disorders can be quite complex and needs to involve qualified experts within the field and ongoing care and attention as part of an integrated approach to care. However ongoing attention and support can mean significant improvements in behaviour, communication, sleep and social interactions and the benefits can be greatly rewarding.

In my own clinical practice, I am one of two people who are trained in delivering CEASE therapy in Victoria and one of three who practise this method in Australia. CEASE therapy is based on detoxification, specific homeopathic medicines tailored to the child and orthomolecular support including practitioner prepared nutraceuticals and a personalised nutrition plan.

However, it is important to realise that whilst this underpins a large portion of my work in the management of these special children, it is essential that an integrative approach to case management involving a myriad of diet and lifestyle changes. This approach needs to be implemented and assisted by the parents to provide the best clinical outcomes.

Certainly, a diet that is preservative and sugar free will reduce inflammation in the gut. A diet that is based on vegetables and fruit – all the colours of the rainbow - organic, preservative and sugar-free will go a long way to restoring the integrity of the intestines and provide adequate vitamins and minerals. It is common for ASD children to suffer from gut problems including dysbiosis, digestion-problems, inflamed gut, leaky-gut.

An integrative approach to case management often involves treating the gut, brain, the de-toxification/lymphatic system and last but not least the immune system.

Through the birthing process the baby ingests the gut-flora of his mother. These microorganisms will define his/her gut-flora. So, when the mother has a healthy gut-flora, the child will develop a healthy gut-flora too. If possible, breast-feeding is also essential for the development of a healthy gut because breast milk can decrease susceptibility to infections. Often these infections are treated with antibiotics that also increases the risk of dysbiosis and candidiasis, and with the possibility that the gut becomes inflamed. The importance of good gut flora for health and wellbeing is often essential to the management of these cases with candida often being a commonly presenting problem.

Gluten, casein and soya may not also be digested well due to insufficient protein digestion and deficiency of the enzyme DPP IV (dipeptydyl peptidase four), which is responsible for breaking down morphine-related peptides in the gut. It is vitally important that your clinician understand the interplay of the factors that can impact upon your child’s health and advise accordingly.

Sleep is also critically important. It is essential that both the child and the caregivers achieve good restorative sleep, and a good clinician can advise on sleep hygiene and provide essential tips. Stimulating devices such as the television and “screen time”, should be ceased at least one hour before bedtime.

What can parents do to help their child?

Avoid environmental factors to the extent possible – a few examples have been provided below:

· Give your child the best nutrition available, i.e., fresh organic foods, while avoiding packaged foods. This will prevent further toxicity from heavy metals, pesticides, flavour enhancers like MSG (glutamate), artificial sweeteners, colour additives, GMOs, preservatives, and other waste products.

· Give your child enough pure filtered water without fluoride, copper or other toxins.

· Avoid as much as possible sugar, sweets in general and artificial sweeteners. Sugar also inhibits the production of EPA and DHA, both omega-3 fatty acids that are of crucial importance to the brain tissue.

· Provide a quiet and peaceful environment for your child, eliminating excess stimuli such as too much screen time.

· Provide a healthy sleeping environment for your child. A dark room is important to produce melatonin (sleep hormone).

If your child is apparently not functioning well on the mental, emotional or physical level, e.g. has a chronic runny nose or repeated other infections, is easily tired, cross, has bad appetite and is not sleeping well, do not wait until he gets sick and needs another course of antibiotics, but have him/her treated preventively wherever possible with practices that support the body’s natural immunity.

There are solutions to a sustained improvement in your child’s health and wellbeing, but it does require the support of a well-qualified and experienced clinician in the field.


Diana Kopatsy has over 20 years of experience with the management of these special children.

In response to requests following her successful webinar series on this topic, Diana is offering a 2 hour seminar which will include additional case studies in an extra hour over and above that supplied within the webinar for those that prefer to attend face to face and on a weekend. The following topics are covered:

  • Autism and related disorders

  • Causes - current medical thinking

  • Core components of CEASE Therapy

  • Case Studies

For more information on the upcoming webinar and weekend workshop click here

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