From 1990 to 2010, there has been a doubling of incidence rates for autism. The author is interested in “Evidence-Supported Treatments” of autism, that is, treatments that are supported by scientific studies. Current evidence-supported therapy of autism includes intensive behavioral intervention for 20 hours weekly. Two drugs are now available to treat autism. They mainly work only against irritability with side effects of weight gain and sedation.
The Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)* treatments of autism are reviewed. Ninety-five percent of autistic children receive CAM treatments since standard treatments have not been successful. For example, chelation therapy is used to remove heavy metals from the body. The author does not find evidence that chelation works, and adds that it can be dangerous for the child.
Two CAM treatments which target oxidative stress and autism are N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and methyl cobalamine (vitamin B-12). Their reduction of inflammation is beneficial. One study has shown that NAC reduces irritability in children with autism. A recent study of vitamin B-12 in autism showed that some children showed improved measures of oxidative stress and in clinical symptoms after treatment with B-12. Further study is needed of these treatments.
Mouse models of autism have been used to study mice with leaky gut (damaged intestinal lining) and autism. One such study showed that treating such mice with friendly bacteria (Bacteroides fragilis) restores the health of the leaky gut by repairing the “holes” in the lining. We don’t know if probiotics improve signs of autism except for one reported case. More study is needed.
CONCLUSION: N-acetylcysteine, vitamin B-12, and probiotics are CAM treatments which have received some validation of their benefits in treating autism. They require more scientific study to be acceptable as evidence-based treatments.
NOTE: *CAM therapies are not yet proven by science.
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