In addressing multifactorial health conditions, which arise from neurological inflammation, we have to consider the interplay between:
In the previous chapter, I discussed how we can effectively use Nutrigenomics, the science of bypassing key genetic mutations with nutritional supplements. The foundation of this program is using these supplements to support the methylation cycle, a biomolecular, nutritional pathway that impacts many key areas of function. As we’ve seen, in the presence of certain mutations that are common to children with autism and/or spectrum disorders—as well as many adults who suffer from chronic conditions, the methylation pathway is not able to produce the methyl groups needed to perform a wide range of functions.
Many bodily systems act together to remove harmful substances or waste. But if these processes are not operating effectively, or if we absorb more toxins than our system can excrete or handle, our body will store them, eventually creating a toxic overload that acts as a prime contributor to ill health. Optimal methylation helps to keep toxins and foreign substances at safe levels, where they can’t harm the body. However, when the methylation cycle is not able to do its job, due to either genetic factors or toxic overload, we can’t eliminate toxins, which linger in the body, creating health problems. A core principle of naturopathy and other forms of holistic health care is to give the body what it needs and to remove from the body whatever causes harm or imbalance. In this chapter, I’ll explore why we need to detoxify to restore health, and what we need to give the body in order to detox. In Part Two of this book, we will explore in greater detail how people actually detoxify on this program.
The last century was a golden age of chemistry. White-coated scientists working in laboratories synthesized a continuous stream of novel substances. I know, because in an earlier part of my professional life, I was one of those scientists. Many products now in widespread daily use in food, agriculture, health and beauty, and medicine, and in our offices, factories, and homes never existed before this revolution in chemistry. As a result, human beings, animals, and even the earth itself, have been exposed to a wide range of new substances—and none of us keeps a tally of how many of them we have absorbed over our lifetime, or how much of them we retain in our bodies. While many of these new chemicals undergo some kind of testing for safety, typically these safety assessments are done one at a time. As a result, such assessments fail to evaluate the bodily effects of carrying multiple toxins simultaneously, nor do they examine how these substances interact with each other.
Why are the unintended synergies of multiple chemicals interacting in novel ways potentially problematic? To use an analogy, household cleaners containing bleach are reasonably safe if used correctly. So is a cleaner that contains ammonia. But what happens if you mix them together? Boom! You get chloramine gas, which, if inhaled, can be corrosive and actually harm your respiratory tract.
Another example comes from studies conducted at Duke University, which looked at chemicals used to protect Gulf War soldiers. The researchers found that when the chemicals were used separately, even at three times the normal doses, the soldiers had no immediate ill effects, but when used in combination, the chemicals could cause neurological deficits.
In the same way, most scientific studies aren’t designed to look beyond the safety of a specific ingredient or product on its own. As a result, studies rarely make an assessment of how a given ingredient will interact with ingredients from other sources. So when we are told that a given product or ingredient has been “studied,” we tend to assume that its safety has been assured. However, most often the safety assessments do not look at the many kinds of interactions that occur outside of the controlled laboratory environment, in real life. As a result, there is much that we don’t know about the bodily impact of the sum total of all these novel ingredients to which we are now exposed.
But our body knows. And our body lets us know that it’s gotten more than it can handle by creating a health symptom or condition.
The rising rates in the United States of chronic conditions that don’t have a single apparent cause may be indicators that—over a lifetime—many people are accumulating more toxins than they can handle, and that those toxins are interacting in unanticipated ways. That’s why I often say that the children with autism are like canaries in the coal mine. In fact, for the logo on my website, I chose the symbol of the canary, out of respect for the children and as a constant reminder that it’s not okay to allow our children to serve as the canaries in the coal mine. Miners traditionally carried canaries down into the mines because these tiny birds would act as early detectors of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas. In the same way, because they are younger and more vulnerable, children with autism are the first to register the effects of the rising levels of toxins that many of us carry.
Doctors use the terms “body burden” or “toxic load” to describe this combination of toxins that the body stores in its cells and tissues. You can think of this toxic load as an invisible backpack that each of us carries around. The heavier the backpack, the greater the burden. With a five hundred pound backpack, you are lucky to make it across the room. But with detoxification, the backpack gets lighter and emptier, and functioning becomes easier and easier. One key aspect of my program is to address this body burden, support the elimination and release of toxins that contribute to health breakdown, and lighten the toxic load in order to improve bodily functioning.
Let’s look at some of the key toxins we seek to address.
Our environment has changed drastically since the 1950s. With worldwide industrialization, environmental levels of toxic metals have increased markedly. Lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, to name just a few, are currently found in far greater concentrations in our bodies than is recommended for optimal health and longevity.
The concentration of lead in all human bones tested anywhere on earth today is 1000 times higher than it was four centuries ago. Excessive levels of lead are problematic for multiple reasons. During the past three decades, epidemiologic studies have demonstrated inverse associations between blood lead concentrations and children’s IQs at successively lower concentrations. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly lowered its definition of elevated blood lead concentration, which now stands at 10 μg per deciliter (0.483 μmol per liter). The fact that associations are seen at such low concentrations implies that there is no safe level of lead in the blood.
Mercury is neurotoxic even at very low levels of exposure. Over 630,000 children a year are born with unsafe mercury levels. Coal-fired power plants alone release over 50 tons of mercury into the air annually just from burning coal for our electric power. Mercury also enters the body as the preservative in some vaccines.
Aluminum increases the propensity of bacteria to gather and replicate in the gut. Mercury, lead, and especially aluminum, also inhibit DHPR, a key enzyme that helps to recycle BH2 back into BH4. That’s important because inadequate levels of BH4 can result in a deficiency of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, impacting mood, behavior, focus, and speech.
Arsenic is an extremely toxic poison that can heighten the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and neurological ailments. Unfortunately, it’s now added to the feed of some commercially raised chickens. Cadmium, another known carcinogen, leaches into the environment through batteries and landfills. Cadmium is now being recognized as a contributor to osteoporosis and hypertension.
We’ll look at the effects of these metals on the bodily processes in greater detail later.
Some people doubt the negative effects of heavy metals on our health. On the one hand, certain studies fail to find a correlation between toxic metal exposure and certain health conditions. On the other, there is inconsistency even among various governmental agencies and experts about what constitutes safe vs. excessive toxic metal levels. Maybe you have encountered this dichotomy in dentistry, where there are some dentists who advocate careful removal of mercury amalgam fillings, while others ridicule this practice and assure you that amalgams are perfectly safe. Even though the health risks of rising exposure have not been widely studied, I—like many doctors who have looked into the medical literature— find ample evidence that toxic metals are a prime contributor to the epidemic of degenerative conditions we confront today. In fact, lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium have been known since ancient times to have serious effects on human health. In our own era, the toxic effects of heavy metals have been well characterized. Maile Pouls, Ph.D., in a paper presented at the University of Michigan, writes:
Human exposure to heavy metals has risen dramatically in the last fifty years…Today, chronic exposure comes from mercury-amalgam dental fillings, lead-based paint, tap water, chemical residues in processed foods, and personal care products—cosmetics, shampoo and other hair products, mouthwash, toothpaste and soap. In today’s industrial society, there is no escaping exposure to toxic chemicals and metals. Although we can’t see, smell, or taste them, heavy metals are present in our air, drinking water, food [along with] countless human-made chemicals and products.
To repeat, these metals are absorbed into the body by our skin, by our lungs breathing in metal-laden air, and through food, water, and drugs taken both orally and injected. Although most people—and indeed some physicians—fail to draw the connection between environmental exposures and human health, there is no question in my mind that the connection is there. I’m convinced that we require a multifaceted approach to address these complex interactions. Old models of treatment from the innocent days of the 1950s, when these exposures were not so numerous or significant, need to be reassessed.
How does carrying excess levels of heavy metals contribute to negative health impacts? As I discussed in the earlier chapters of this book, in my view, autism and a host of other disorders result from an underlying condition of chronic neurological inflammation. Symptoms of neurological inflammation may include:
|Anger mood swings|
A precautionary approach to health care would assess, limit, or reduce toxic loads in those at greater risk. However, it’s not standard practice to comprehensively or regularly test for toxic metal loads or individual susceptibility to harm. Nor is it standard practice to take into account all possible sources of exposure. Through my ongoing research and clinical work, I’ve been privileged to gain an evolving understanding of the interaction of risk factors, exposure levels, and health symptoms. Although I can set forth here only a basic understanding of the role of the bodily load of heavy metals in health imbalance, this understanding is key to the rationale for the approach recommended in Part Two.
According to the garbage-in/garbage out phenomenon, our bodies want to get rid of metals and other toxic substances. The question then becomes, how well can they do that?
Although detoxification is a natural bodily process, Dr. Pouls writes that when “heavy metals enter and accumulate in body tissues faster than the body’s detoxification pathways can dispose of them, a gradual buildup of these toxins will occur. High-concentration exposure is not necessary to produce a state of toxicity in the body, as heavy metals accumulate in body tissues and, over time, can reach toxic concentration levels.”
When we’re not able to detoxify successfully, the body will try to find any way it can to excrete toxins. For example, toxins excrete through the skin via rashes. Toxic loads can also result in dysfunctions like digestive disturbances, as the immune system (located in the gut) struggles to respond. Alternatively, the body may store the toxins in the fat, brain, DNA, or other cells. Unfortunately, we may then remain unaware that they are present.
Fortunately, naturopathy and allied holistic health practices have found ways to support the body in detoxifying by using a wide range of practices, including colon cleansing, skin brushing, saunas, and supplements that support the digestive tract and other organs of detoxification—the kidneys, liver, lungs and skin.
In addition to my own work, there are a number of protocols that emphasize metal chelation (removal of metals by an activating agent such as the commonly used substance DMPS). Some of these have proven successful in helping to reverse symptoms of autism. Others, less so. This has prompted me to develop a proprietary approach to metal detoxification that goes a step further: It allows us to target metals that may be sequestered by virus and bacteria. Using this method, parents report both clinical improvements concurrent with significant increases in urine and/or fecal excretion of toxic metals. These results confirm the supposition that chronic infections help to sequester toxic metals in such a way that most chelating agents are inadequate to remove them.
The key to my approach to detoxification involves supporting the methylation cycle. With adequate methylation, we can detoxify with greater ease; without it, our ability to detoxify is undermined. When mutations in the genetic pathways prevent the body from successfully detoxifying, we are more likely to hold on to metals and store them in our cells, tissues, and DNA, and this burden of stored metals creates a range of health problems. That’s why one crucial goal of the program I’ll introduce you to in this book is to bypass genetic mutations affecting this cycle, in order to optimize its functioning. Once we restore adequate methylation, the body is able to more readily release metals and other harmful substances.
Metal loads are not the only substances with which we must contend. In addition to metals, there are a whole range of microbes, which include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. It’s not uncommon in this day and age for people to harbor a number of chronic bacterial and viral infections in their system simultaneously. In spite of antibiotics and aggressive vaccination programs, the infectious disease landscape has become more complex in recent decades.
Antibiotics: Symptom or Cure?
In 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association associated antibiotic use with an increased risk of breast cancer, and in the same year the New England Journal of Medicine connected antibiotics to an elevated risk of heart disease. But do antibiotics cause (or significantly contribute to) cancer and heart disease? I feel very strongly that the need for antibiotics indicates the presence of a chronic bacterial infection in the body. The body’s bacterial load may help to hold onto toxic metals in the body. Therefore, the combination of chronic bacteria and metals may contribute to cancer or heart conditions. Antibiotic use may simply be a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The increase in breast cancer and heart condition may be related to the same chronic bacterial issues and metal retention that we see with autism. (In fact, the same SNPs that we look at for autism are known to play a role in risk for cancer as well as heart disease.) Considering these complex interactions reveals why merely taking an antibiotic may not be sufficient to restore health. Instead, both practitioners and the general public require a deeper understanding of the true cause. We also need to grasp the health risks if these underlying problems are not addressed comprehensively. When someone needs to use antibiotics frequently, in my view this is a signal that they should be looking at their toxic metal excretion, the bacterial burden on their system, and their genetics.
That is why, increasingly, doctors consider the “total microbial or pathogen burden” and its effect upon an individual. In a sense, these organisms, like unwelcome guests, set up housekeeping wherever they can grow and flourish. Although the immune system is supposed to protect against outside invaders, when it’s overwhelmed, or if there is a lack of methylation cycle function, it cannot respond, permitting these pathogens to settle in and multiply.
Let’s get to know some of the ones most frequently seen. These include streptococcus, gut bacteria, and the viral load we can receive through vaccination.
Many women have low-level streptococcal infections, often without realizing it. The streptococcal bacterial to which a newborn is exposed in utero is the “opening deposit” in the “bacterial account,” so to speak, beginning the buildup of chronic bacterial infection.
Streptococcus infection (and the antibiotics used to treat it) can increase intestinal membrane permeability leading to leaky gut. Streptococcus can also cause a wide variety of motor and behavioral disturbances, such as OCD and facial tics. With leaky gut often comes the depletion of glutathione, one the body’s most potent antioxidants and an important defense against viruses. Streptococcal infection flourishes in a high glutamate, low glutathione environment. So higher levels of streptococcus can result from depleted glutathione and also act to deplete glutathione. You will recall from an earlier chapter that decreased methylation cycle function may cause decreased levels of glutathione.
Glutamate Glutathione Strep Infection
Leaky Gut Glutathione
Again, we see the interplay of multiple factors that come together to create complex health conditions. We also previously spoke about the role of glutamate as an excitotoxin. Here we see another role for glutamate with respect to bacterial infection. As you go through this book and the other resources for this program you will continue to see this pattern of multiple factors coming together to help to create health imbalances.
Also, recall the role of the methylation cycle in proper functioning of the immune system. Generally, bacteria elicit a B-cell mediated immune response, and viruses elicit a T-cell immune response. However, in reaction to streptococci, the immune system engages both B and T cells, resulting in a major inflammatory reaction. That’s why chronic streptococcal infection can deplete both T and B cells, creating a vicious cycle of depleted immune response and chronic infection. For those with methylation cycle mutations, this problem can be exacerbated, since the balance between T and B cells can be impaired by insufficient methylation.
When persistent, streptococcal infection can lead to autoimmune responses and inflammatory reactions against various areas of the body, including the heart, the basal ganglia, and the GI tract.
Vaccinations aim to prevent more serious conditions such as measles, mumps, and rubella infections, which can, in the worst case scenario, result in brain damage, deafness, blindness, photosensitivity, and neurotoxicity. Yet as vaccines have decreased in efficiency over the years, vaccine makers compensated by increasing the vaccine’s viral load, which may heighten the risk for chronic viral infection. The components of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine can act like retroviruses, which insert their own genetic information into our genetic material. During the viral replication process, these RNA viruses commandeer our cellular resources for their own purposes—in particular, they use our cells’ nucleic acids to replicate themselves, and in the process inhibit many of the vital cellular functions, ultimately causing cell death. If the cell dies, the virus is released into the body, proliferating the infection. If the cell doesn’t die, the virus remains within the cell as a chronic infection.
Multiple factors contribute to the development of chronic viral infection in response to viruses contained in vaccines. These include:
Children with the abovementioned conditions may be at heightened risk when they receive vaccinations of developing the types of chronic viral infections and gut problems that are frequently seen in this population.
DNA based viruses like chicken pox (Varicella-zoster, or herpes zoster) or human herpes virus 6 (HHV6) can compound the problem. The impact of herpes on autism has been described by researchers. HHV6 has also been implicated in the demyelinating condition of multiple sclerosis. Recently, HHV6 has been found to be directly correlated with seizure activity. Chicken pox is known to cause neurological damage, particularly during pregnancy. As with the MMR, the chicken pox vaccine contains a live attenuated virus that can also breed a chronic infection. Cells harboring the DNA of the varicella zoster virus are prone to accumulating heavy metals. The role in autism of herpes and other DNA-based viruses warrants further exploration.
Certain other viruses are already implicated in neurological inflammation, including CMV (cytomegalovirus), EBV (Epstein-Barr virus), and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). These may contribute to the pathology of autism by exacerbating heavy metal retention. It’s possible that any type of virus can be involved in autism—even atypical viral infections. Atypical viruses, sometimes called “stealth viruses” can evade the immune system and lead to chronic infection. Viral infection can also activate autoreactive T cells, creating autoimmune responses.
In addition to focusing on the individual microbe, we need to understand and consider the overall context that permits the microbial burden to build.
What permits microbial overgrowth? Just as termites infest rotting wood, a wide range of bodily imbalances permit opportunistic organisms to thrive. It may not be enough to hunt down and kill an individual microbe. We may instead need to consider all of the factors that undermine health and balance in order to create an environment less hospitable to microbial overrun. That’s why this program entails undertaking steps that strengthen and balance health. We introduce nutritional support (via supplementation) to target specific microbes as well as supplementation that helps to build a healthier overall gut environment.
Yes, people sometimes become ill even when taking excellent care of their health. However, just as security measures reduce the risk of an intruder in the home, so with proper health maintenance measures we can reduce the risk of opportunistic microbial invasion.
What factors create the kind of environment in which harmful microbes thrive? A close relationship exists between chronic infection and retention of metals. Metals seem to function synergistically with the microbes I discussed earlier in this chapter. As we will see, bacteria and viruses have learned to survive—and to create additional havoc in our bodies by acting as “accomplices” to these toxic and heavy metals in order to further weaken our immune system so that our bodies remain good hosts to the viruses.
Chronic infections in fact help these toxic metals hide in the body, where traditional chelating agents are unable to effectively remove them. As we have noted, tests may show the metal levels to be insignificant because the sequestered metals “hide,” and cannot be measured, misleading people into thinking that metal loads are not a problem.
Accounting for Genetics When Chelating
Although there are many different kinds of programs that aim to eliminate metals, these programs may or may not be able to activate their release. Parents have reported that some widely used chelating agents will work effectively for some children. But due to genetic mutations, other children may not be able tolerate the very same agents or get good results. That’s why in my view, first accounting for the genetic profile is the foundation of safe detoxification.
Many people in the program have found that when you first account for genetic weaknesses and next support the elimination of chronic infection, you detoxify the body of metals as well. With these protocols to encourage the elimination of bacteria, yeast, parasites, and viruses, we often see the corresponding release of toxic metals from the system. This can be verified and tracked with biochemical testing. Even more critically, in many instances, with the elimination of microbes and the release of metals, parents frequently report a dramatic improvement in children’s symptoms. And that of course is really the bottom line.
As the old adage has it, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Scientific theories are further validated and fine-tuned in clinical practice. That’s how our ever-changing scientific understanding evolves. When we see many children and adults progressively recovering function, alertness, and language following the release of metals as documented by biochemical tests, this affirms several things:
Finally, by definition, those undertaking detoxification of microbes and metals will nearly always be people with health challenges. As a result, it’s vital to undertake any form of detoxification in a gentle and graduated way that can be tolerated. I’ve devised this step-by-step approach to accomplish that. That’s also why I repeatedly state that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. When in doubt, go slowly and be gentle. And as always, work with your health care provider.
To summarize, the overall goal of this program is to support the detoxification pathways that will permit the body to release both microbes and metals.
To learn more about the crucial interplay between our genetics and our environment, let’s return our attention to the methylation cycle.
There are a number of ways that microbes gain a foothold in the body. As I discussed in the preceding chapter, adequate methylation function is key to successful detoxification, as well as other biological processes. By supporting methylation function, we optimize the body’s natural ability to detoxify—with the long-term end result that the body harbors fewer harmful microbes and lower levels of toxic metals. Here, I’ll highlight just a few of the many ways methylation helps to control retention of metals and microbes:
Methylation contributes to the production of the immune system’s T-cells. Without adequate methylation, the body may not have sufficient T-cells, the immune system’s protection against invaders.
Methylation controls viral proliferation. Methylation function works to help us silence viruses—in other words, to hold them in the body in an inactive and therefore less harmful state. When viruses are silent, we still have them, but they are not expressed, proliferating, and creating health problems.
Methylation helps manage metallothionein (MT). It has been documented that viral infection can cause an increase in the level of MT proteins. MT proteins help to detoxify heavy metals, including mercury, and to balance copper and zinc in the body. However, unlike MT proteins that are triggered in response to cellular signals, MT proteins that are triggered in response to viral infection may act to sequester metals inside the cell.
Viruses are akin to parasites, and so when they upregulate and enlist metallothionein to retain metals, they are not doing it to help, but to weaken the immune system—in order to help themselves. I refer to this as the Trojan Horse strategy, because what appears to be a gift turns out to be just the opposite. The virus, in other words, takes the very same metallothionein proteins (MTs) that were meant to help your body excrete metals, and may use them to hang onto metals in order to weaken the immune system and create a better home for themselves.
This may explain the low levels of metallothionein that have been observed in children with autism. If this is in fact the scenario, then it also helps to explain the difficulty of removing heavy metals from children with autism. It would be necessary to first eliminate the chronic virus in order to fully eradicate the heavy metals from the body.
When, through Nutrigenomic testing, we identify these methylation pathway mutations, bypass them through targeted supplements, and optimize methylation, we naturally restore the body’s detoxification process, so that microbes and metals can be released.
That’s why the health program I recommend proceeds in a step-by-step fashion, and why it’s important not to skip any step. This not only assures a complete and thorough release of toxins, but also accomplishes it with the least possible discomfort—although of course, discomfort and setbacks may be part of the process.
After introducing support for the methylation cycle, we further support detoxification and address microbial overgrowth through the use of certain key supplements, which will be reviewed in Part Two of this book. Throughout, we are able to track the detoxification process through biochemical tests. Because each person and each child is individual, everyone has an individual pathway to healing and recovery.
Now that we’ve looked at certain factors that work together and separately to increase toxic load, let’s look at some key areas in which toxins act to undermine health and function.
As we have seen, viruses may hold onto metals, and metals in turn interfere with numerous important reactions. I’ll mention some of these here, with the caveat that our understanding of these interactions continues to evolve.
In the body, mercury interferes with the methylation cycle, making a bad situation worse for those whose methylation cycle is already impaired. Lead, mercury, and a number of other toxins can inhibit a key enzyme that converts the neurotransmitter dopamine to norepinephrine. With lower levels of norepinephrine, the body cannot effectively regulate attention and focus, contributing both to attention disorders that many children experience as well as to brain fog and other focus issues that adults with ailments like chronic fatigue syndrome may experience.
Lead lessens energy levels by interfering in heme synthesis. The heme molecule (with an iron atom at the center) is the non-amino acid component of a protein, helping the protein’s biological activity. Heme is also the component of hemoglobin that helps to hold onto oxygen in your blood. Reduced oxygenation can have a serious effect on energy levels and may be a contributing factor to fatigue. In addition, without heme, the body can’t make cytochromes. The membrane of the mitochondria, the cells’ energy factories, are typically loaded with cytochromes, which are needed for electron transport in and out of the mitochondria. As a result, high lead will often tend to decrease energy levels through its effect on oxygenation as well as its effect on cytochromes. Many children with autism have problems with energy. You also see energy issues in chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and low muscle tone. Lead plays a very strong role here along with the role of aluminum discussed earlier.
Lead interferes with the GAD enzyme, which converts glutamate to GABA, the chief inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. If glutamate is not converted to GABA, the elevated levels of glutamate can cause seizures and cell death, and elevated levels of glutamate also make even low doses of mercury more toxic.
As we have already started to discuss, and as I’ll cover more extensively in Part Two, the amino acid glutamate acts as an excitotoxin, overstimulating neurons and causing neuronal cell death.
That’s why limiting all factors (including many common foods and supplements) that increase glutamate is core to this program. Further, when glutamate levels are reduced (and brought into balance with the complementary neurotransmitter, GABA), parents often report a decrease in stims. In fact, if you implement no other suggestion from this program, simply eliminating foods that increase glutamate is vital for children with autism.
What Are STIMS?
Stims refers to repetitive body movements that self-stimulate one or more senses in a regulated manner. Common forms of stimming include hand flapping, body spinning or rocking, lining up or spinning toys or other objects, echolalia, perseveration, and repeating rote phrases. About 10% of neurotypical children also show stims.
It has been shown that in the absence of glutamate, neurons are affected by exposure to mercury. But we also know that in the presence of glutamate, mercury becomes more toxic. And adding to the loop of negative interactions sparked by metals and microbes acting together, glutamate levels can also rise due to infections. For example, auto-antibodies produced in response to rubella (from the MMR vaccine) may disable a key enzyme that keeps glutamate levels low. Therefore another goal of this program is bringing down glutamate.
Aluminum, as I noted earlier, appears to be more closely associated with bacteria than viruses. Excess streptococci, or other unfavorable gut bacteria can contribute to aluminum retention. Under certain conditions, aluminum inhibits the recycling of a bodily component called BH4, which can be pivotal for language development. Aluminum also inhibits the activity of acetylcholinesterase, a catalyst that regulates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. If you cannot break down acetylcholine with acetylcholinesterase, you may get either too much stimulation or listlessness. (That is because, in this case, the same molecule, acetylcholine, causes both stimulation and calming, depending on its receptor site location.) Aluminum stores in the body can also affect thyroid function, which governs metabolism and energy levels. Aluminum also interferes with the proper functioning of the Krebs energy cycle—a double whammy as far as energy is concerned. In my experience, many females have higher levels of both aluminum and chronic bacteria. It’s possible that the prevalence of chronic fatigue among women is related to higher aluminum levels. It is also possible that in females this relationship between bacteria and aluminum, combined with methylation cycle mutations, may play a role in susceptibility to breast cancer.
People often wonder how exactly I spend my days. More often than not, I spend them looking at test results—quite honestly, sometimes for 12 hours a day. Over 8500 families participate in the chat room on my website, and I monitor the test results of those who choose to run their biochemical follow up tests through my office. Based on what I’ve seen looking at tests for close to 2,000 families over the last few years, here are the key cornerstones for success:
The relationship between detoxification and recovery of function is not a straight ascent. Instead, what we often see is an advance, then slight regression, a further advance, then slight regression, and on like that. That’s why it’s important to have some measures to help us in the times of slight regression to ascertain whether any behavioral changes we notice are due, say, to a supplement not agreeing with a specific child or to a temporary detox reaction, with a developmental leap waiting just around the corner.
In order to give parents and practitioners a basis for making such judgment calls, as well as to adjust supplements and monitor and validate progress along the way, at a certain stage of the program, regular biochemical testing is a great resource, and therefore is an integral part of this program. As a service, I review and comment on tests that are run through our office. I’ll say a lot more about how to use and read tests in Part Two, but for now, I want to share some of the insights culled from looking at thousands of tests.
Metals do not all leave the body at the same rate. Think of them as cars lining up at a toll booth, waiting to go through. When we follow the test results, in person after person, we’ve seen that the following sequence typically occurs:
Cadmium precedes lead, usually. We also tend to see nickel excreted before mercury, generally, but again, this may vary with the individual. Some individuals show no signs of getting rid of aluminum, yet once the other metals have begun to leave, aluminum will start to flow. Similarly, you may not see any mercury excretion, and then suddenly high levels start to show up as the sequestered metals are released.
If a child has very high virus levels, as indicated by antibody titers, the chances are that child is loaded with metals, even if you are not seeing them on the metal excretion tests. For example, one child with severe autism who undertook our program had been given provoked urine tests. For readers who are unfamiliar with this kind of test, the person undergoing it is given a biochemical agent to “provoke” further release of heavy metals via the urine. Despite these various tests, no mercury release was shown on his test results, leading to the conclusion that his heavy metal load was low and not a factor in his autism. Let me note that this happened repeatedly over quite a bit of time, as the family worked in turn with several different doctors. Well-trained professionals in the field of detoxification felt that mercury really wasn’t an issue for this little boy. Not long after he began our comprehensive program, we started to address chronic virus in the system, and lo and behold, we started to see mercury in the test results, and then more mercury, and more mercury—the mercury just kept coming!
What is the correlation between metals excretion, like that described here, and behavior? First of all, it’s vital to recognize that as a result of their different genetic polymorphisms, each child will react differently. That’s why the combination of our understanding of the underlying genetics, the current status captured by biochemical tests, and the changes in the child’s behavior all serve to guide us in interpreting where we stand and how to proceed in the best possible way with detoxification. Some children exhibit the worst behaviors just before they excrete high doses of metals. For other children, the behaviors are at their worst during maximal excretion and do not calm down until after the metals have stopped flowing. A third group that I often see includes children who have the worst behavior associated with increasing creatinine levels.
This biochemical marker is useful for monitoring results and helping guide our progress with the program. In a urine test, we can ascertain creatinine levels, which act as indicators in the following way.
What happens if we can’t get the creatinine values up? In general, when creatinine is high, there is more virus elimination, and following that, more excretion of metals. Generally, behavior improves after creatinine levels peak.
We observe that creatinine levels appear to climb with viral infection. Therefore, we can use the creatinine value as a way to follow the progress of addressing chronic viral issues. The color of the urine seems to relate to creatinine levels, such that very dark urines have higher creatinine levels and lighter urines have lower creatinine values. Obviously, creatinine levels are just one component in a complex series of biochemical reactions. But these levels are critical in monitoring the detoxification process; we’ll return to them during our coverage of how to follow the program in the next part of the book.
Although detoxification is central to this program, and even though it may literally take months and even years to release the toxic load, I just want to alert you that I never recommend that people begin immediately with detoxification. We don’t want to dislodge metals and then have them circulate without being excreted, which may occur when the organs of elimination are compromised, as they often are with ill people.
On this program, people first support the organs of elimination to assure that they are functioning such that they can release the toxic burden. Frequently, the kidneys and/or liver need support, provided by herbs, supplements, and other formulas, such as special RNAs that I’ve formulated. Many of the children have obvious digestive distress, such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Immune system function and intestinal integrity are interrelated, because much of the immune system resides in the gut.
When the gut has been compromised, as it nearly always is in children with autism, in addition to addressing infections that undermine immunity and digestive function, many parents decide to identify and remove exposure to all irritants and allergens. Depending on the child, this can include fibers in clothes, ingredients in household materials, and cleaning and body-care products. It’s also advisable to remove all foods to which the children are reactive, sensitive, or allergic. Unfortunately, these are often the foods that the children most crave. Prior to beginning this program, some have already adjusted the diet, or if not, some parents learn from other parents on our chat room. They have invaluable tips for implementing a gluten-free/casein-free diet (GFCF), and there are also many useful websites. Frankly, so many excellent practitioners offer guidance on this and other diets, and the parents are so knowledgeable, that I leave that to them. I’ll provide further contacts in the resources section of this book. Even though I don’t emphasize the diet aspect in this book, I consider it foundational because we won’t be able to correct health imbalances and restore immune integrity if a child is constantly exposed to non-ideal foods.
Once the organs are supported, and with the right diet in place, we can proceed to implement the supplements that help to bypass mutations, and these will naturally increase detoxification. With the right methylation supports in place, it’s time to undertake the detoxification program, covered more extensively in the next part of this book.
Finally, after completing detoxification, we can support the nerves in healing, rebuilding, and recovering from inflammation in the final phase of the program. I want to alert you that this process is not always linear—but support and guidance are available every step of the way.