Heavy Metals and Autism

The issue of heavy metals as a major contributing factor in the development of Autism is a hotly debated issue. There are research papers published to support both viewpoints. However, most "Defeat Autism Now" doctors and parents of autistic children will overwhelmingly report improvements in these kids when their load of heavy metals is reduced. The Autism Research Institute (ARI) conducted a survey among parents of children with Autism. Out of 324 respondents, 76% reported improvements in the children when their heavy metal burden was reduced.

More recently, increasing evidence is emerging to support this data. Medical research is showing that children affected with Autism commonly have genetic variations (called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) involving the methylation cycle. This cycle produces methyl groups, which are needed by the body to perform a number of functions.

Methyl groups allow the body to excrete heavy metals, fight viral infections, regulate certain neurotransmitters, and prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer among others. These SNPs allow heavy metals to accumulate in the body. They also allow chronic viruses to take hold in the gut and brain of autistic children resulting in inflammation, bowel disturbances and cognitive deficits.

What Causes Autism?

Putting two and two together, we can now begin to postulate why some of these kids develop Autism. A child born with these SNPs in their methylation cycle will naturally accumulate heavy metals more rapidly. Administer a live virus vaccine like MMR, and the measles in the vaccine takes hold in places like the brain and gut as the body is unable to mount an effective immune response due to hypomethylation. In addition, we are increasingly seeing an autoimmune component to Autism spectrum disorders. Autoimmunity in the medical research literature has been linked to heavy metals like mercury. The virus then causes inflammation in the gut, resulting in multiple food sensitivities, diarrhea and other GI symptoms. The virus in the brain causes inflammation and reduced blood flow resulting in abnormal behavior, speech delay and other cognitive symptoms. Furthermore, the metals as they accumulate are known to further suppress some of the key enzymes in the methylation cycle. Thus, heavy metals accumulate at an even faster rate.

Removing Heavy Metals Without Chelation

While many Defeat Autism Now! physicians use chelating agents, we have concluded that chelation should be reserved as the last step to be used only when other less invasive, less costly, and potentially more effective approaches have failed. In our medical practice, we have found that the first step in the treatment of heavy metals should involve assessing the methylation cycle with blood/urine testing. We can then intelligently design the right nutritional program to support the methylation cycle and thereby address the first block impeding the body from excreting the heavy metals. The next step is identifying and treating the underlying chronic viral and bacterial infections.

Current studies show that as many as one in five children with Autism may have a concurrent chronic lyme infection. An even higher percentage has chronic viral infections. It is essential that these infections be addressed next. There is emerging evidence that that both of these infections independently can lock the heavy metals in the body. In doing fecal/urine testing before and after these steps, we have found that many children begin spontaneously to excrete heavy metals without resorting to chelation. What are most impressive to us are the large amounts of metals we find the body excreting many times for up to 6-12 months. The most gratifying part is the improvements we see as the child goes through this process.

Common Sources of Heavy Metals

The following is a short list of common exposure sources for heavy metals: Aluminum - Cookware, Al containing baking powder, antacids, and antiperspirants. Arsenic - Seafood (esp. shellfish), pesticides, and mattresses (anti-mold agent). Antimony - Flame retardant in clothes/mattresses, tobacco, and solder/metalwork. Cadmium - Seafood, tobacco, and phosphate fertilizers. Mercury - Seafood (shellfish & large fish), dental "silver" amalgams, fungicides and paints. Lead - Paints, ceramics, solder, and old plumbing. Nickel - Cocoa, dental materials, nuts, and hydrogenated oils.

  • Aluminum - Cookware, Al containing baking powder, antacids, and antiperspirants.
  • Arsenic - Seafood (esp. shellfish), pesticides, and mattresses (anti-mold agent).
  • Antimony - Flame retardant in clothes/mattresses, tobacco, and solder/metalwork.
  • Cadmium - Seafood, tobacco, and phosphate fertilizers.
  • Mercury - Seafood (shellfish & large fish), dental "silver" amalgams, fungicides and paints.  
  • Lead - Paints, ceramics, solder, and old plumbing.
  • Nickel - Cocoa, dental materials, nuts, and hydrogenated oils.