Lessons Learned, Part II

I posted on Monday about lessons I’ve learned about following a year of autism and special diets, and after I hit “publish,” I realized I had forgotten two very important non-food lessons: Environmental toxins are especially bad for children with autism.  And they’re everywhere.

Research shows that a body with autism lacks the ability to detoxify as effectively as a neurotypical body.  There’s a long chain of reactions that happen in breaking down metals, plastics and chemicals and moving them out of the body, and I found this article by Dr. David Berger fascinating to read about it.  Basically, the body needs glutathione to detoxify, and Berger’s article cites research that demonstrates children with autism have lower levels of this compared to other children.

This, of course, would always be a problem for someone with autism.  But coupled with the other lesson I’ve learned, this is especially bad in today’s world because we put toxins in so many things.  For example, many hand soaps contain triclosan, a suspected carcinogenic.  Bed sheets are coated with formaldehyde, which leads to insomnia (among other problems).  Food is stored in plastic containers that leach chemicals.  Carpets, clothing, dishes, sunscreen–the list goes on and on.  In fact, the Chemical Abstracts Services website keeps track of every new chemical that is created, and currently there are more than 89 million listed.  Debra Lynn Dadd,  the author of Toxic Free, writes that in 2009, almost 500 billion pounds of chemicals were made in the United States.  “Yet there is no regulation that requires … health effects to be listed on the product label,” Dadd writes.

Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been an explosion of man-made chemicals.  Modern autopsies, Dadd writes, register roughly 212 chemicals that shouldn’t be there, including PCBs, styrene, dicholrobenzene, xylene and dioxins.  And compared to analysis of exhumed bodies of ancient Peruvians, lead levels in our bodies are 1,000 times greater today.  Any body will have a harder time detoxifying today thanks to the onslaught of chemicals around us.  For a body with autism, the load is all the more unbearable.

This, paired with our cultural dietary changes in the past century, makes it easy for me to see why autism rates have risen at such an alarming rate.  There’s more to detoxify, and there’s less nutritional help.

Chemical-free cleaning

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part water

Instead of commercial cleaners, I try to use natural cleaners to try and reduce the toxic load on Logan and the rest of our family (this also follows suggests from TACA’s Autism Journey Blueprints).  I’ve also mentioned in this blog previously that I’ve changed all our dishware, and we will be putting in hardwood floors in at least our living room.  Ideally, I’d like to buy Logan an organic-fiber mattress and sheets, too.  I know they’re small changes, and I know my husband feels they’re mostly pointless.  Mainstream doctors are quick to point out there is no “real science” behind any of these theories or holistic approaches to autism.  But sometimes, small changes are all we can do.  And much of the time, big relief comes from the feeling that we are at least doing something.

Feeling: A little like a teardrop against a fire


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