Living with Autism: A Functional Medicine Approach

The typical approach to dealing with any ailment is to label it. Once it’s labeled, the disease and its treatment can be conveniently categorized and not given a second thought. Functional medicine, on the other hand, approaches symptoms, treatment and people differently. A holistic view helps to treat even the most debilitating symptoms. Functional medicine helps those with autism, well, function better.

Autism Explained

Autism affects 1 in 68 children with those numbers rising all the time. There is no medical test for determining if a person has autism. Symptoms or unusual behavior causes a parent to take notice and get their child to a physician, psychiatrist or psychologist. Some of the signs of autism or other developmental difficulties on the autism spectrum (such as Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder) include:

  • No smiles, laughs or other joyful expressions by 6 months of age
  • No mimicking of sounds or expressions by 9 months of age
  • No babbling noises by 1 year of age
  • No mimicking of interactions (waving, pointing, reaching) by 1 year of age
  • No words spoken by 16 months of age
  • No two-word phrases by 24 months of age
  • Loss of speech or social skills at any age

At this time, scientists have been unable to find a direct cause or a medical cure for autism.

A Functional Medicine Approach

A functional medicine doctor takes a different approach than classifying an individual in a particular place along the autism spectrum. Each child presents symptoms differently. Each child has its own genetic disposition and environment from which it came. A functional medicine approach recognizes that the symptoms are an effect of something. The key is to getting to the cause.

Autism research has identified many abnormalities in the cases they have studied including hormonal, cellular and neurotransmitter imbalances. Many individuals who are affected may exhibit signs of inflammation, toxins and changes in cellular structure. Together, the combination of these things may cause the behavioral difficulties that are labeled as autism.

A typical medical approach to these symptoms is a multitude of medications to help attempt to manage the child’s behavior. Because the drugs don’t address the underlying cause, the approach is too restrictive.

Addressing how things are connected is the approach of functional medicine. For instance, inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract may affect neurotransmitters. Certain genetic risk factors and environmental triggers can affect how the body reacts. A functional medicine doctor will run a series of tests to determine nutritional or environmental factors that could be affecting the individual.

With many chronic conditions affecting people today, a medical approach is limited in its treatment options. Rather than waiting on a diagnosis, functional medicine can allow a parent, a child or a caregiver another chance to feel better. With functional medicine, each individual is treated in response to their individual needs rather than placing them in a confined space of treatment options.