The incidence of autism in the United States and Canada continues to increase at rates never before observed in recorded history. Diagnosis of autism and autism spectrum disorder conditions have increased nearly 50-fold over the last 40 years.
While western medicine and research have stalled with respect to the treatment or management of autism, Ayurveda has come to the rescue and is increasingly being used to treat autistic symptoms. Ayurvedic practices have demonstrated to be effective in supporting autistic patients in becoming functional in managing various symptoms of this condition.
Of course, these set of remedies may also work with adults, but the earlier you start using ayurvedic herbs and treatments the better it works for your child.
[expert_opinion expertname=’ToddCaldecott’ opinion=”Children with autism need special measures to reduce vata dosha. In Ayurveda, this includes the use of mental restoratives such as Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Vacha (Acorus calamus), and Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), and a nourishing diet rich in brain-stabilizing fats. Improvement also comes by avoiding refined foods, and following traditional food practices, choosing additive-free, farm-fresh produce.”]
Treating Autism With Panchakarma
Ayurveda has a 5,000-year-old treatment that is extremely effective, called Panchakarma which is a cleansing and rejuvenation program. The purpose of this process is to stimulate the layers of toxins from the body and bring them to the places where they can be excreted. After Panchakarma, one is likely experience significant health improvements in a relatively short time.
Panchkarma therapies for detoxification are:
- Snehana (Oleation therapy) – with herbal oils like Chandan bala lakshadi tailam
- Swedana (Fomentation therapy)
- Vamana (Emesis therapy)
- Virechana (Purgation therapy)
- Basti (Medicated enema therapy)
- Pinda sweda
Diet For Autistic Children
-Pulses like green gram and red gram
-Fruits like apple, mango, amla, pomegranate, carrot, pear, etc
-Fats like Olive oil and clarified butter (ghee) from cow’s milk or medicated ghee
-Green leafy vegetables.
-Avoid junk food, oily and spicy food, stale food, cold drinks, groundnuts, sago, curd, cheese, desserts, coffee, meat, alcohol, vegetables like potato, brinjal, sweet potato, etc.
-Give boiled water to drink whenever thirsty.
Ayurvedic Drink Recipe
¼ cup of yogurt to ¾ cups of water blended with cumin, coriander, and ginger. This freshly prepared buttermilk is a good drink. Diluted fresh pomegranate juice should be taken daily if possible.
Digestion In Autistic Children
Autistic children are more likely to suffer from food sensitivities resulting from improper digestion of foods, often a result of weakened digestive and immune systems. This often causes partially digested food to move into the bloodstream, causing an autoimmune attack and a response similar to an allergic reaction.
They also tend to demonstrate increased digestive issues and food sensitivities. IgG and IgE-mediated testing for food sensitivities and allergies is recommended, although it is not the only way we can test hypersensitivities. In severe cases, where IgG or IgE-mediated testing is not a feasible option, specific elimination diets to determine offending foods is recommended.
While many types of foods are thought to contribute to the worsening of symptoms associated with autism, specific types are demonstrating a more significant impact, these include
-Night Shade Vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers.
-Preservatives, colors, food additives, insecticides, pesticides and heavy metals
The exact reason these foods worsen the symptoms associated with autism is unknown, but various theories indicate that the nutritional compounds of the foods may impede serotonin metabolism or that these foods contribute to gastrointestinal interruptions and discomfort so severe that behavior in autistic patients worsens.
Some, or all, of these digestive issues, may be reduced or even avoided by eliminating certain offending, or a combination of offending, foods.
Additional digestive support for autistic children can be found in a variety of digestive herbs, including:
-Trikatu, a combination of ginger, long pepper and black pepper used to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes and promote the absorption of essential nutrients.
Curbing Aggression Through Ayurveda In Autistic Children
Autism results from a neurological condition and affects normal brain function; impacting areas of the brain responsible for the social interaction and aggression. While not all children with autism demonstrate aggression that manifests itself in violence, a significant percentage experience frustration that demonstrates in various ways, including self-harm, mechanical ticks, and emotional outbursts.
Sandhya, Sowjanya, & Veeresh (2012) demonstrated that herbal supplementation with herb Bacopa monniera demonstrated significant improvements in reducing the symptoms associated with autism. The researchers concluded the herb to be beneficial due to its anti-anxiety, antioxidant and neuroprotective activity.
Regular massage with oils of gotu kola, sandalwood, lavender and rose oils provide calming relief. It also stimulates blood flow, stimulating neuron response between the brain and various parts of the body. Research has demonstrated that massage has improved eye contact, less stereotypic behavior, more on task behavior, increased social relatedness and improved sleep.
Importance Of Sleep
Proper sleep and sleep habits have also demonstrated to be a significant contributor to reducing the aggressive tendencies observed in autistic children. In addition to practicing normal “sleep routines”, including removal of electronic devices or other items that may delay the sleep cycle, melatonin supplementation has demonstrated significant results.
Whitehouse (2013) found that melatonin can be effective as a treatment for sleeping disturbances associated with an autism spectrum disorder. Malow (2011) found that the behavior and sleep patterns of children with autism significantly improved after only one week of supplementation with melatonin.
Ayurvedic Herbs To Treat Autism In Children
[expert_opinion expertname=’sheetalsuvarna’ opinion=’Medhya Rasayana or Brain Tonics are specifically grouped into 4 nootropic herbs, namely Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica ), Yastimadhu (Glycirrhiza glabra), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), and Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pleuricaulis). When used together, they have a pacifying effect on all 3 Doshas (Vata, Pitta & Kapha). Brain tonics reduce anxiety and stress, increase immunity, and mental ability. They prove useful in addressing the physical and mental ailments in autistic patients.’]
Brahmi: In a study conducted in Australia, Brahmi, (Bacopa Monneiri) has been established to delay the forgetting process, implying Brahmi improves memory. It acts on CNS where it improves grasping power, memory, intellect and speech, and correct aberrations of emotions, mood and personality of an individual.
Study: A double-blind placebo-controlled investigation was carried out to study the effects of Bacopa extract after a 90-day trial. The results of this study showed that Bacopa significantly improved performance of the working memory, more specifically the spatial working memory. Our working memory is the ability to actively hold information in the mind to perform complex tasks such as reasoning, comprehension, and learning.
Shatavari: Benaras Hindu University has successfully conducted the a study on anti-depressant activity of Shatavari in an animal experimental study.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somneifera): Research conducted by Scott (1995) showed Ashwagandha show high affinity for GABA receptors. Since GABA agonism and CCK antagonism have been linked to anxiolysis, these findings support the recommendation in Ayurveda that Ashwagandha can be used in the treatment of Memory loss, Anxiety, Attention deficit etc.which are common features of Autism.
Shankhapushpi (clitoria ternatia): Research conducted in collaboration with kasturba medical college, Manipal, India showed that – Treatment with 100 mg/kg of Clitoria ternatea aqueous root extract (CTR), for 30 days in neonatal and young adult age groups of rat, significantly increased acetylcholine (ACh) content in their hippocampi as compared to age matched controls. Increase in ACh content in their hippocampus may be the neurochemical basis for their improvised learning and memory.
Centella asiatica: Used in the treatment of mental retardation, speech disorders, insanity, epilepsy.
Convolvulus pluricaulis: It strengthens the brain, brightens the memory and intellect. It is indicated in the treatment of loss of memory and associated mental disorders like insanity and epilepsy.
Celastrus paniculatus: stimulates the intellect and sharpens the memory
Nardostachys jatamansi: It has a biphasic action on CNS indicating nerve stimulation and nerve sedation (sedation to spinal cord specifically).
Other ayurvedic herbs that can help
• Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia)
• Amalaki (Emblica officinalis)
• Musta (Cyperus rotundus)
• Mandukparni (Centella asiatica)
• Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra)
• Padmak (Nelumbo nucifera)
• Vacha (Acorus calamus)
Ayurvedic medicines useful to treat Autism are:
• Suvarna prashan
• Panch tikta ghrita guggul
• Saraswat churna
• Panch gavya ghritam
• Suvarna brahmi vati
• Chaitanoday rasa
Yoga for Treatment of Autism
Yoga as a form of exercise can be used in autistic children by addressing their physical and sensory issues. The practice of yoga improves muscle strength, tone and helps children to become aware of their placement of arms, legs and feet in comparison to the rest of their body. The additional physical strength also helps to improve coordination.
Many children with autism may have sensitivities to lights, noise, smells, texture and taste causing them to become agitated. Yoga can help to decrease the amount of sensory stimulation they are experiencing by decreasing their anxiety, releasing energy and calming down their burdened system.
Breathing Exercise can also be very helpful. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma)is easy to practice This exercise affects your autonomic nervous system (the one we have no conscious control over). The mind is being used directly to regulate the breath, allowing the body to learn to self-regulate. Being centered has to do with balancing the energy on the left and right sides of the body, an important part of self-healing.
How to practice anuloma viloma:
1. Use your right hand to close your right nostril with your thumb
2. Inhale through the left nostril
3. Hold the breath, closing both nostrils
4. Exhale through the right nostril, while keeping the left nostril closed
5. Inhale through the right nostril, while keeping the left nostril closed
6. Hold the breath, closing both nostrils
7. Repeat this exercise for up to 10 minutes, twice daily
Sheetali, or cooling breath, reduces stress, frustration, irritation and anger while promoting inner calmness and tranquility. It also assists in promoting healthy digestion and inducing sleep, both beneficial for patients with autism. The key to maximizing the benefits of this deep breathing exercise is to ensure cooling breath is inhaled over curled tongue.
Meditation Fo Treating Autism
So Hum Meditation
So Hum meditation is another way for children with autism to quell aggression by calming the mind and body. It utilizes deep breathing and repeating of the word “hum” to expand consciousness and promote relaxation and self-awareness. While So Hum meditation is most effective when completed in 20 to 30 minute sessions, many patients with autism will need to start with one or two minute sessions, increasing in length as they are able.
Currently, a cure for autism does not exist, research has provided several useful findings to assist with the management of the symptoms associated with autism. Through the strategic practice of herbal supplementation, yoga, meditation and a very specific and controlled diet, autistic children are able to become functional, contributing members to their families and communities.