Autism and "alternative" medicine

W. Ben Gibbard, M.D., revealed some interesting information to us all at the recent American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry meeting. It seems that over 93% of those with some form of autism received "alternative" treatment (not surprising, considering the lack of effective "conventional" medicine for the condition). At the top of the list of treatments were nutritional and herbal interventions. Apparently, they are making a huge difference! Although I would argue that these treatments are good medicine for anyone, it seems the evidence is clear that for sensitive autistic constitutions, good food, essential fatty acids, avoiding chemical additives, and taking herbs remarkably improves subjective criteria.
Here is a more detailed breakdown:

The researchers reported:

  • 17.1% tried some kind of omega fatty acid, with 64.3% rating it helpful,
  • 10.2% tried an omega-6 fatty acid, with 61.1% rating it helpful,
  • 10.2% used an omega-9 fatty acid, with 66.7% rating it helpful,
  • 12.5% tried dimethylglycine, with 54.5% rating it helpful, and
  • 6.3% tried Eflax oil, with 36.4% rating it helpful.

Dietary therapies were tried by 37.6% of the families. The findings were (percentage tried, percentage rated helpful):

  • Gluten-free diet (23.3%, 61.0%),
  • Casein-free diet (21.6%, 60.5%), and
  • Lactose-free diet (17.6%, 45.2%).

Vitamins and minerals were tried by 63.1% of respondents, making it the most popular category. Nearly 40% had tried a vitamin or mineral supplement besides a multivitamin. The mean number tried was 3.2 (range 1 to 20). The researchers reported:

  • 49.4% had tried a multivitamin with 35.6% reporting it helpful,
  • 16.5% used an oral calcium supplement with 51.7% reporting it helpful,
  • 14.8% tried oral vitamin C with 53.8% reporting it helpful,
  • 16.5% had tried any magnesium supplement, and
  • 14.2% used any vitamin B6 supplement.

Natural therapies had been used for 40.3% of the children (mean 2.0 different therapies). The most common were:

  • Herbal remedies (11.9%, 71.4% rated as helpful),
  • Evening primrose (9.1%, 31.3% rated as helpful), and
  • Naturopathy (7.4%, 69.2% rated as helpful).

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