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Pediatric Restorative Medicine

The Gut-Brain Connection in Autism

April is World Autism month. Recently new Canadian stats were just released indicating 1 in 66 children in Canada are now diagnosed with Autism. With numbers increasing it is important to not only discuss the diagnosis of Autism but to focus on successful treatment options. Dr. Meghan Haggarty, Naturopath works extensively with patient’s in Calgary with Autism using scientific, naturopathic, biomedical treatments to help patient’s recover.

One of the most important areas of treating Autism Spectrum Disorder involves “the gut”. Our digestive system is responsible for nutrient absorption and one of our main detoxification systems.  The gut also plays another important role in the treatment of Autism, as this is where nearly 80% of the neurotransmitters in our body are located. These neurotransmitters affect mood, language and behavior making the digestive system a primary target for treatments that can help children to recover from Autism. Healthy gut function is crucial for healthy brain function.

There are many different digestive issues that patients on the Autism Spectrum may suffer from such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea and reflux. Parents often will report their children putting pressure on their stomach, such as leaning over the side of a chair. This can indicate abdominal pain or pressure. Diagnostic testing can help to identify the underlying causes of the digestive symptoms such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and dysbiosis. SIBO affects the small intestine and dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, clostridia, yeast or parasites in the large intestine. Increased levels of dysbiosis are well documented in the guts of patient’s with Autism. A variety of testing is helpful to evaluate digestive health including urine organic acids, comprehensive stool analysis and breath testing. Once imbalances are identified a variety of naturopathic therapies including probiotics, digestive enzymes, biofilm disruptors, specialized diets and herbal antimicrobials are used to restore balance.

As gut health improves, clinically we may see increased language, improved social interaction, better eye contact, improved mood, ability to tolerate transitions and decreased stimming. Although a complete naturopathic plan is necessary to address many other systems in the body, healing the gut first helps to increase the efficacy of the other therapies.

Dr. Meghan Haggarty, Calgary Naturopathic Doctor is a Fellow of the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs and is committed to working with patients and their families to create healthier lives for patients with Autism. She has 8 years of experience in the area we like to call “Pediatric Restorative Medicine”, using naturopathic medicine to help children restore their health.

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