June 4, 2011

Biomedical Causes of Autism (and Other Developmental Disorders)

This is a very, very simplified summary of all the known physical, biological and chemical problems that cause autism, as written in this book:

Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians

by Dr. Bryan Jepson, with Jane Johnson

In this book, Dr. Jepson has compiled ALL the existing scientific studies that have been published on the cause and treatment of autism to date (2005). [Update, Dec 2011: Scientists know much more now than when this book was published, but the knowledge contained in this book still forms the cornerstone of treating autism.]

These physical causes of autism form the basis for biomedical treatment. (Biomedical means treating autism as a physiological or biochemical problem, not as a psychological or behavioural problem.) If you want to delve into the science of autism, this is THE book to read.

A summary of the causes of autism (and other neurodevelopmental disorders) as listed by Dr. Jepson:

1. Genetic susceptibility

People with autism have a set of genes turned off. These genes control methylation - the process by which the body gets rid of heavy metals. A problem with methylation means the body is unable to detoxify itself, and whatever heavy metals is put into the body is never excreted and is steadily accumulated until the body and brain becomes diseased.

2. Impaired detoxification (metabolic problem)

The body produces glutathione, a substance which binds to toxins and carries them to the liver for disposal. Lack of glutathione allows toxins like mercury, lead, arsenic, etc. to accumulate to dangerous levels in the body. These toxins remain in the fatty organs (liver, muscle, kidneys and brain) and causes much more damage than it does to someone who can excrete them quickly. Oxidative stress (cell 'rusting') further impairs cellular function.

Treatment: Supplementary glutathione and precursors. (Here is a super excellent explanation of methylation problems and how it's treated.)

3. Abnormal immune system

Autoimmune problem - body attacks harmless things and creates excessive inflammation. Mercury and aluminium (from vaccines) causes the immune system to turn to inflammation as a method of defense.

History of inflammatory diseases in the family - heart disease, cancer, lupus, arthritis, allergies, asthma, eczema.

Inflammation can be in the brain and/or the intestines (where most of the immune system is based). Child is prone to infections as body is busy attacking itself. Inflammation in brain kills neurons - brain cannot grow or function normally.

Symptoms - manifests as rashes, eczema, asthma, red under-eye patches, lines under eyes (pic).

Treatment: Reduce inflammation and boost immune system.

4. Viral infections

When the immune system is weak, it cannot get rid of the virus quickly and tissue is inflamed or damaged by the virus or from the immune system trying to kill it. A chronic viral infection means chronic inflammation. Child gets repeated infections because virus was never killed completely. Some viruses can infect the brain, leading to brain inflammation (killing brain cells).

Treatment: Antivirals and supplements to boost immune system.

5. Leaky gut syndrome

Inflammation in the gut destroys the mucus membrane, leaving microscopic holes in the intestines. Molecules that are usually too large to be absorbed leak into the bloodstream. These are poisonous because they are only partially digested.

Treatment: Omega-3.

6. Food intolerances

Child with autism and after recovery
Some children are unable to digest proteins like gluten (in wheat) and casein (in cow's milk). These proteins have structures similar to opiates like morphine and heroin. A leaky gut allows these semi-digested opiates to leak out. When the opiate travels to the brain, it causes an effect like someone high on drugs. Child looks 'stoned', eyes are unfocused, lives in own world. High dopamine levels makes the child "self-satisfied" - lives in own world, no need to seek satisfaction from interacting with the outside world. Child often eats a few favourite foods and not much else, as it gives him a high. They are literally addicted to these foods as opiates are addictive.

Some children are also sensitive to dyes, MSG and chemical food additives - these can cause ADHD in those who cannot tolerate them.

Symptoms - dark under-eye circles (food intolerances), looks stoned, picky eater, small range of favourite foods.

Treatment: Stop eating offending foods. Read more about the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free (GFCF) diet.

7. Measles

From MMR vaccine. Weak immune system cannot fight virus, virus goes to the brain and creates inflammation, inflammation destroys brain cells. Results in cerebellar ataxia (gross incoordination of muscle movements), autism, mental retardation or permanent brain damage. Parent will report that child developed normally, then at a certain age, lost speech and stopped responding.

Milder negative effects - chronic inflammation, allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease.

Treatment: Antivirals.

8. Gastrointestinal disease

Child exhibits strange whole-body movements (abdominal discomfort), presses abdomen over the arm of a chair. Has mushy stools, gas, diarrhoea, constipation, wears diapers beyond appropriate age, vomiting, excessive crying, night wakings, night terrors, yellow or dirty eye whites (constipation).

Read more about constipation and diarrhoea in autistic children.

9. Candida (yeast overgrowth)

Physical symptoms - white patches in mouth, white coating on tongue, dark under-eye circles, incontinence, but often no visible symptoms.

Behavioural symptoms - short attention span, hyperactive, slow thinking, brain fog, dull, unfocused gaze, inappropriate laughter.

Yeast eats up nutrients and starves the brain. It produces alcohol and toxins which enter the brain, causing psychological/behavioural problems. Child with impaired detoxification suffers even more. Alcohol causes child to be 'drunk', with constant giggling or inappropriate outbursts of laughter.

Treatment: Antifungals, probiotics. (Read more about yeast here.)

10. Nutritional deficiencies

Intestinal problems causes poor absorption of nutrients, yeast eats up nutrients, causing brain and body to starve. A starving brain cannot grow or function well.

Symptoms - impaired visual perception, attention and language, involuntary movements of the eye and extremities (tics), impaired detoxification, slow thinking, poor memory, numbness in extremities, anaemia, thirst, frequent urination, dry skin or hair, eczema, sleep disturbances, ADD, ADHD.

Treatment: Antifungals, digestive enzymes, probiotics.

See also:

Children with Starving Brains: A Medical Treatment Guide for Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Jaquelyn McCandless, Teresa Binstock and Jack Zimmerman

11. Mercury toxification

From mother's mercury ('silver') dental amalgams or dental work done during pregnancy, seafood, pesticides in food, broken thermometers or broken fluorescent light bulbs, but most commonly from thimerosal (a form of mercury added to children's vaccines as a preservative).

Before birth, mercury comes from mother - mercury is 40% more concentrated in cord blood than in mother's blood. Foetus has no blood-brain barrier, so 100% of the mercury in the cord blood goes into the foetus's brain.

After birth, baby is given mercury via vaccines.

If body cannot excrete mercury, it lodges in the brain and kills neurons. Hair and urine tests of children with autism show very low levels of mercury - mercury is not excreted and stored in organs where it does much damage.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning:

Psychiatric - social deficits, repetitive behaviours, flat affect (no emotions), anxiety, irritability, aggression, tantrums, no eye contact.

Speech and language - loss of speech, dysarthria (very weak mouth muscles, drooling past appropriate age), speech problems (echolalia - parroting, pragmatic errors).

Sensory - tingling in mouth, hands and feet, hypersensitivity to sound, light and textures (toe-walking), blurred vision, deafness, Auditory Processing Disorder.

Motor (movements) - hand flapping, rocking, poor coordination, weaker on one side of body, poor eye-hand coordination.

Cognitive - low IQ, uneven development, poor attention, poor auditory memory, poor visual perception.

Unusual behaviours - head banging, ADHD, unprovoked crying, staring spells, sleep problems.

Physical - hypertonia (tight muscles - stiffness in limbs) or hypotonia (low muscle tone, muscular weakness), very poor coordination, low muscle strength esp. upper body, incontinence (wears diapers to a late age), leaky gut, tingling in extremities, constriction of visual field (no peripheral vision - damage to retina or optic nerves), frequent urination.

Treatment: Chelation.

12. PANDAS - Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococci

Streptococcus infection - white patches at the back of the throat, sometimes no symptoms. Strep bacteria goes to brain, causes inflammation.

Symptoms - fits of aggression.

Treatment: Antibiotics.

13. Lyme Disease

Bacteria transmitted by ticks carried by animals. Affects brain, causes psychiatric disturbances.

14. Hypoxia (low oxygen)

Before birth - maternal high blood pressure, smoking, placental bleeding, alcohol, drugs, birth drugs, anaesthesia reduce oxygen supply to foetus. No oxygen = brain cells die.

During birth - stuck in birth canal, strangulation by umbilical cord, clamping cord too soon, cutting off blood and oxygen supply.

Symptoms - problem in all areas (same as mercury but minus inflammation), ADHD.

Treatment: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).

15. Premature birth

Lungs are not mature enough to absorb oxygen, brain starved of oxygen. Lower birth weight means greater damage from standard dose of vaccine meant for larger child. All organs are under-functioning, cannot eliminate toxins.

Symptoms - problems in all areas, especially sensory problems.


The biological causes of autism is a combination of the above. Those who have just one problem or a few mild problems may have a learning disability (dyslexia, ADHD). Those who have more severe problems would fall into the autism spectrum.

Biomed should be the first course of treatment, otherwise therapy has limited effectiveness because the brain is unable to develop due to ongoing poisoning, inflammation and starvation.

See also:

The Basics of Supplementation

What is Biomedical Treatment?

Recovered from Autism: Danny K.

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