woman hands forming a heart patterned with many puzzle pieces of different colors, symbol of the autism awareness, and the text autism, with a slight vignette added

Autisim Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Naturopathy

Autism (ASD) is a complex group of conditions, not clearly defined by one essential cause, making successful conventional medical treatments difficult.

However the use of naturopathic and nutritional medicine is holistic in focus, which gives it the edge in helping our kids through the struggle of ASD.

Autism, or more correctly, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), are a series of neurodevelopmental disorders characterised by repetitive behaviours, social withdrawal and communication deficits. Patients with ASD display a wide range of cognitive ability, ranging from intellectual disability to high functioning adults with an above average IQ. The cases of confirmed ASD have continued to rise, and are reaching epidemic proportions.


The diagnosis of ASD is based exclusively on a particular developmental pattern in the child and has historically been considered a psychiatric disorder. Whilst a diagnosis is made on observation (see signs and symptoms below), and there are no quantitative biochemical tests to confirm diagnosis, there is evidence that indicates numerous biochemical abnormalities in these children, including oxidative stress, decreased methylation capacity, mitochondrial dysfunction, heavy metal accumulation, intestinal dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease, immune dysregulation and cerebral hypofusion.


The exact causes of autism are complex and in many cases may be unknown, or undiscovered.  Some possibilities include:

• Heritable genetic polymorphisms influencing detoxification, methylation and dopamine signalling.

• Gender bias, with a 4:1 ratio (males to females)

• Heavy metal exposure – especially mercury, but others may be implicated.

• Immune dysfunction – Severe maternal inflammation, infections, allergy and autoimmunity during pregnancy may lead to a ‘cytokine storm’ turning on the brain’s defence system, (microglial activation), and CNS inflammation, influencing neurodevelopment.

• Immune dysfunction – mild acute or chronic  inflammation of the gut, with ileo-colonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia (LNH) leading to “autistic colitis”. May be a cause or consequence of systemic oxidative stress and inflammation associated with autism.

New large research studies have also highlighted links between;

Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in mothers and increased ASD risk in their children
Certain anti-depressant medication usage during pregnancy by mothers and increased ASD risk in their children.


Central to the holistic management of most childhood disorders is an understanding of the Brain-Immune-Gut Triangle, (BIG-T),  (see figure below).

In essence our brains communicate with our digestive system and our immune system continuously.  In this way, what happens in our digestive system can have a great impact on how our brain functions, and also on how our immune system performs.  And this is especially the case in autistic children, when these parts of the body are not fully developed, and can be thrown out of balance easily.

For example:

• A child’s blood-brain barrier (BBB) is not fully intact until at least two years of age, leaving the nervous system highly susceptible to damage.

• A child’s digestive lining is still somewhat ‘leaky’ and their liver detoxification pathways are immature. This means young children are not fully capable of handling toxins effectively and may experience increased levels of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress in response to even minimal toxin exposures.

• A child’s immune system is still developing in the first years of life, rebalancing itself from an allergy dominant state (called Th2) when born, to a more balanced state (called Th1/Th2 balance).

To re-establish balance to a child’s BIG-T requires the management of dietary, lifestyle and environmental factors that may be causing the problem in the first place. The BIG-Ts can be easily affected by numerous factors prevalent in our modern, industrialised world, including:

• Micronutrient deficiencies

• Diet

• Dysbiosis (gut bacteria imbalance)

• Leaky gut

• Impaired detox capacity; and/or

• Heavy metal exposure.

Fortunately, these are all processes that our naturopaths and nutritionists can effectively address once correctly identified.  We have access to the latest functional and standard pathology tests to adequately assess these drivers.  This enables us to formulate our treatment plans to be specific, and successful.

Brain Immune Gut Triangle


You can hopefully get some take away points from this information, but if you need further assistance, then we are here to help you. Seeing a qualified practitioner can take the guess work out of the equation for you, saving you time and money in the long run, and get you a better result much faster.

You will get the benefit of our skills and expertise to correctly identify the best nutritional treatment options.  Your child will be prescribed only the best quality herbs and nutrients, which means that you have the piece of mind knowing that your child is taking only the nutrients that they really need, and that they are the best quality available.

With guidance from us and these simple tips, we can help you manage your child’s behaviour more effectively, and put more fun and enjoyment into their lives.

If you would like some more information about our treatment of autism, please get in contact with us or book an appointment.

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