Medication and Dietary Intervention
Our culture is conditioned to expect a medical cure for any ill. When something goes wrong, we look to physicians to prescribe some drug that will make it better. Various kinds of psychotropic drugs have been used to help with specific symptoms of people with Autism—such as attention deficit and hyperactivity, aggressiveness and destructiveness, depression, obsessions and perseveration, anxiety, self-injury, and seizures.
However, no medication has been developed or is approved to address all the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which are various and complex, and no medication helps all people with Autism. Some suffer paradoxical reaction or side-effects which, in some people may seem worse than the symptoms for which medication was prescribed. The use of any form of medication for persons with Autism is contentious. On the one hand, it may seem unethical to administer drugs to people who cannot give informed consent. On the other hand, it is argued that if the life of a person with Autism might be more bearable with medication, this should not be denied because of dogmatic opposition to all medication.
- Diet Theories relating to Autism
Parents in the past, observing that their autistic children had more difficulties when they had eaten certain foods, may have informally modified their diets—perhaps taking out sugar and additives. Some claim that children whose diet is modified early enough may recover from the symptoms of Autism.
Could dietary intervention help adults with Autism, who may now be found to be intolerant of gluten and casein? Hopes of any dramatic recovery might be slight, given the earlier years of developmental delays. But at least current digestive problems can be alleviated by removing casein, gluten and possibly other foods, leading to improvements also in sleep patterns, general outlook and behaviour. Little research has been published on diet and Autism in adults. But Autism consultants may recommend that every child and adult with Autism be assessed professionally so that digestive problems, intestinal/bowel disease and/or food intolerances can either be ruled out or the necessary treatment implemented.
A diet that excludes certain foods must be carefully managed to ensure that all essential nutrients and micronutrients are included from alternative safe foods. At least some people with Autism appear to lack certain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are needed for digestion or the functioning of the brain and nervous system, or their systems do not use these substances effectively. The value of various vitamins in treating Autism was advocated from the 1960s by Dr Bernard Rimland, sometimes in very large dosages. As with the challenges of determining appropriate medication dosages, vitamins and other supplements pose similar challenges since they may vary in bioavailability and be metabolized at different rates.
The implementation of a diet or its supplementation with vitamins, minerals or other alternative products should be done with the support of a health professional such as a registered dietitian or a physician.
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