Last week, I was privileged enough to be able to attend a presentation at Pathways by Dana Laake co-author of The ADHD and Autism Nutritional Supplement Handbook: The Cutting-Edge Biomedical Approach to Treating the Underlying Deficiencies and Symptoms of ADHD and Autism and The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook, Updated and Revised: The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet. It was a meeting I had been looking forward to for a few months because I have long been curious about supplementation for my own kids, specifically my son who is on the Autism Spectrum.
Dana prepared a powerpoint presentation going over all of her research and information regarding nutrition and supplements and how they effect children with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She started that working with these children was a three point approach that includes:
- Educational placement and therapies
- A biomedical approach that is based on laboratory findings and clinical presentation and address the person’s underlying metabolic, nutritional and dietary problems.
Many people don’t know what a “biomedical approach” or biomedicine means. As defined, biomedicine is the application of the principles of the natural sciences, especially biology and physiology, to clinical medicine (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition 2000). But what does that mean? It means that a practitioner looks at the whole to treat the patient. That includes not only symptoms and medicinal treatment for them, but for the deep rooted underlying causes associated to those symptoms and how to repair the body to eliminate them. This is what Dana Laake and many other practitioners use as a basis for helping to heal our bodies and the bodies of our children. If the root cause is treated, then the symptoms improve or are eliminated. Dana’s presentation and books cover using a biomedical and functional medicine approach to treating children with Autism and ADHD. She does this by finding the underlying causes such as nutritional deficiencies, poor absorption, poor digestion, impaired cellular utilization, food intolerances, yeast or bacterial toxins, histamines from allergies and toxin exposure from medication or the bodies own metabolic process. With the examination of the lab findings for each child, treatment can be accomplished to help detoxify the body and supplement any nutritional deficiencies that may be present.
What I found the most profound about Dana’s presentation and book is all the research that was sited. I am often asked how I could change my son’s diet so drastically without having evidence that concretely showed, based on research and studies, that it would offer any improvement and most importantly not harm him. Dana provides an incredible amount of research to support special diets and the use of supplements to improve health and behavior in children with ADHD and on the Autism Spectrum as well as any child or adult for that matter. In the Nutritional Handbook, half the book is comprised of a breakdown of each vitamin, mineral and nutrient, how it effects the body and what the symptoms are when there is a deficiency. Alternately there is a large chapter that simply goes over a number of behaviors and issues and what deficiencies could cause it. The amount of knowledge in the book seems just endless.
In The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook Dana and co-author Pamela J. Compart, M.D., the authors provide a a brief overview of items that are discussed in the Handbook with the addition of a comprehensive breakdown of kid-friendly, nutrient dense recipes. All the recipes are gluten and casein free and many of them a wonderful supplement for some of the normal “kid-foods” only healthier. One of my favorite parts of the book is the layout of mealtimes, especially lunches. On a one or two page spread is a full meal of recipes or ideas for a meal and options for mixing it up. I know from my writing here as well as talking with many other families that lunches can be one of the biggest challenges that families have each day. With a clear layout for each meal in the book and plenty to choose from, it really is a great guidebook to help you turn your kids meals around.
In our home we talk a great deal about how Autism is not a deficit or disability. In that same light, I do not feel that I have to fix my son or cure his Autism. However, I do want him to have all the opportunities available to him and want him to be happy and have friends- if he wants them. Helping his body detox and providing him with the diet and nutrition as well as other therapies helps him to be able to cope with everyday a little easier. I know very well in the Autism community that a nutritional approach to treating Autism is hotly debated. In our home, we have seen changes in my son that have helped him. It may not be the same for every child with ADHD or on the Autism Spectrum but Dana relays the information to help any child cope with all the toxins and nutritional deficiencies that may be effecting their health and behavior. In the simplest terms she states, that we need to “give the body what it needs and get rid of what it doesn’t.” Whether you support a biomedical and function medicine approach, its hard to argue with that logic.
For more information about Dana Laake check out her website and please take a look at her book for tons of information about nutrition and supplementation- The ADHD and Autism Nutritional Supplement Handbook and her cookbook- The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook.