The Complexity of Autism: Why isn’t there one cure?

Mood, Behavior, and Neurotransmitters

Anyone with a child with autism has already done their share of research to try to help their child. They know that the statistics show that autism is on the rise. Why are they on the rise and why do we have such trouble helping these patients.
I can only guess what has caused autism rates to rise. There are many factors and many guesses that I can make. I CAN tell you why conventional medicine struggles with this diagnosis.
Really, every child or person with autism is a different case. Not only do they present differently, but they have a different cause or different causes. What!? More than one cause? There is no rule that a person cannot have more than one thing and autism is one of the most variable conditions of them all. This is in stark contrast to something like, say, strep throat.
If someone has strep throat then, as long as they are not allergic to antibiotics, they are treated with antibiotics. Because the cause of strep throat is a streptococcus bacteria for EVERYONE. No matter who is coming in with strep throat, the cause is the same so the treatment is the same. This is very easy for conventional medicine to help.
Autism doesn’t work this way. One child with autism might have a true genetic disorder. This pertains to Angelman syndrome and other gene derived autisms. Another child might be making autoimmune antibodies to a part of the brain. This means that the child’s body is attacking the brain by mistaking it for a bad guy like bacteria. I have seen a case where a child with autism tested positive for five different antibodies to the brain and to yeast. So this child has multiple autoimmune conditions affecting the brain and a probable yeast infection. Another might have multiple nutritional deficiencies. Yet another might have problems with their GI tract preventing absorption of nutrients. And another could have a combination of everything that I just mentioned.
So there can never be just one treatment that works for every child with autism. That’s why our trials never seem to work. When we test one medication for example, it might make one kid all better, make five other kids slightly improved, and do nothing for several more kids. It might actually make a couple of kids worse. Because they’re all different.
There is a way to help. I do nutritional support and exercise support for these kids. It is all based on how our bodies were designed to eat and move in the first place. My approach is to do testing to see where the problems are. For children with autism or ADHD, I usually use a urine test since they do not sit well for blood draws. When I look at the lab results, I’m seeing which systems in the body are suffering from having below adequate health. Then I give nutrition to help make these systems healthier. I also look at all of the problems. So if there is a brain problem and a GI tract problem at the same time, I recognize that because they both need to be nutritionally supported at the same time. All the causes need to be identified and then addressed at the same time.
There is a lot about different diets and different supplements and this and that and the other thing to help support autism. Don’t guess. And just because it worked for one kid with autism doesn’t mean that it will work for anyone else. You need to find out what will work for YOUR kid because he or she is different from all the others. The only way to do that is by digging into the history, the lab results, and trialing different avenues very slowly in a clinical setting.

Low Testosterone and Mitochondrial Function

In a functional medicine clinic, your practitioner will look into mitochondrial function as a possible cause of disease. Mitochondrial function can play a role in many psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS. However, mitochondrial function plays a huge role in the synthesis of sex hormones as well.

In addition to being the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria have many other tasks. One task is creating testosterone from cholesterol that is carried into the mitochondria by the STAR protein. If you asked most physicians if mitochondria play a role in sex hormone synthesis, then most of them would be oblivious to this fact. We shouldn’t only be looking into the mitochondria for these different neurodegenerative conditions. We should also be looking into this for athletes and people suffering with low testosterone.

Low Testosterone and Dopamine

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is involved in your reward cascade. When people are risk takers, they typically have low dopamine. People who are more likely to worry and be careful, typically have high dopamine. But how does this play a role with testosterone.

These two chemicals are closely related. They actually run together, so to speak. As dopamine goes up, testosterone will go up as well. So if we analyze dopamine and find that its low in a person with low testosterone, then we can start to support the reward cascade. This can often bring testosterone levels back up as they follow the rising dopamine.


Low testosterone and Autoimmunity

Autoimmunity can strike anywhere in the body. Multiple Sclerosis is autoimmunity of the lining of the immune system. Psoriasis is autoimmunity of the skin. Hashimoto’s is autoimmunity of the thyroid.

Autoimmunity can also affect the testicles. In this instance, the immune system will mount an assault on this tissue and break it down over time. This is a big problem. As the testes break down, the body’s ability to create testosterone will diminish. If this person is given hormone replacement, then their need for the therapy will grow over time. Clearly, this is not getting to the root of the problem.

In functional medicine, the practitioner will screen for autoimmunity of the testicles as one of the possible causes of low testosterone.

Low Testosterone and DHT

This is the sixth video in Dr. Ball’s video blog series on finding the cause or causes of low testosterone. Instead of just giving you testosterone replacement, one thing that we can do is check the levels of DHT. This stands for dihydrotestosterone. This chemical is a powerful androgen but it is unable to be utilized in the same way that testosterone is utilized. Functional medicine practitioners will look into this to determine if the cause of low testosterone is upregulated 5-alpha-reductase causing an increase of the DHT levels.

Be sure to work with a functional medicine provider or a practitioner who understands these mechanisms, when working with someone to improve low testosterone.

Low Testosterone, Estrogen, and Aromatase

This is the fifth video in our series on testosterone. Most people do not know this, but there is a chemical that your body can make that causes your testosterone to turn into estrogen. This chemical is called aromatase.

In a functional medicine or alternative medicine clinic, a person with low testosterone is going to have their estrogen checked. This is to make sure that their body isn’t using aromatase to create an issue where the person has too much estrogen and too little testosterone.

If you are suffering with low testosterone, or know someone who is suffering from low testosterone, be sure to work with a practitioner who knows to look into these different things.