Dr. Mark Hyman is a pioneer in functional medicine. We’ve been following him since reading his book, The Blood Sugar Solution. Now he’s focusing his attention on brain health with the launch of a new docu-series, Broken Brain. In the series, Dr. Hyman tackles everything from Alzheimers to treating autism and ADHD.
Here are five takeaways from our Episode 4, which covers autism, the causes, and treatment:
1: Autism is not a genetic brain disorder.
It’s a common misconception that autism is a brain disorder and it’s determined by our genes. New research, however, proves that this is not the case. Autism is now being recognized as a whole body disorder, not only affecting just the brain. Many individuals suffer from gut issues and immune dysfunction, which can cause inflammation in the brain. In fact, the series notes that 95-100% of children with autism have G.I. issues.
2: Environment plays a role, but it’s not the only factor.
There are many ways one can reach an autism diagnosis. A combination of factors was one of the biggest takeaways. And yes, one of those factors is genetics. The same way each individual on the spectrum is different, so are the ways you can ultimately develop autism, even though the symptoms can be the same. With so many environmental assaults, combined with a genetic susceptibility, the toxic overload and lack of proper methylation can lead to the series of symptoms we know as autism spectrum disorders.
“Autism is a genetic susceptibility, but we need to look at all the environmental factors that may be affecting the child’s development.” — Nancy O’Hara, M.D.
3: Prevention is possible.
Steps toward preventing autism can be taken during pregnancy to minimize risk. Everything we take-in while pregnant can be passed on in utero. In fact, Dr. Robert Melillo explained how precautions can help “turn on” or “off” certain genes, therefore, acting as measures that can be taken to lower the risk of having a developmental disorder. Almost all risk factors are modifiable, according to the experts featured in the series.
4: Even “Safe” isn’t necessarily safe.
The safety of the food we eat and the products we use is also up for debate. Though some brands may consider their products “safe,” most aren’t studied for how they can react in combination with others. Though one chemical may have been tested in small doses and deemed “safe” doesn’t mean that it isn’t affected by other chemicals in other products that we may also be using at the same time. This is why it is so important to be mindful of the food we’re consuming, the lifestyle choices we make, and the products we use on our bodies and in the home.
5: There are many options for treating autism available and list continues to grow.
Every individual is different and the way an individual develops autism can be different as well. That’s why when it comes to treatment, the response to treatment will also be different. What works for one child may not necessarily work the same way for another. Though gut inflammation may be a major symptom for two individuals, one may see more benefit from utilizing a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, while the other thrives solely on probiotics. This is why it’s so important to understand your family’s genetic history, do comprehensive lab testing with your physician, and never give up hope. New developments in treatment are coming out every day. It takes some trial and error, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.