Most elementary school teachers will confirm that there is a link between sugar and behavior but now scientists are looking deeper into that correlation.
Researchers at The California Salk Institute observed behaviors in pregnant mice that were fed a diet of high glycemic foods versus a diet of low glycemic foods. The mice in the study were specifically bred to demonstrate symptoms of autism.
High-glycemic foods produce a rapid rise in blood sugar and tend to be rich in simple carbohydrates such as sugar (potatoes, white bread and short-grain rice). Low-glycemic foods don’t produce such a blood-sugar spike. They include foods high in protein (nuts, beans and meat) and complex carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables). Low-glycemic diets have long been recommended for people with diabetes, to help keep blood sugar on an even level.
Though their diets differed, the two groups of mice consumed the same amount of calories and maintained similar weights. After the pregnancy and the pups were weaned, the groups were maintained on the same diet and researchers tested the behavior and brain development between the two groups.
All the mice in the high-glycemic diet group demonstrated autism-like behaviors. They avoided contact with new mice placed near their chambers. They repeated actions with no apparent purpose and groomed excessively. By contrast, the mice in the low-glycemic group showed an overall reduction in their autism-like behaviors. They spent more time near new mice and less time performing repetitive behaviors such as excessive self-grooming.
Researchers continued to look for the differences between the two groups and found that the mice fed the high-glycemic diet had far lower levels of doublecortin- a protein associated with newly developing neurons. In addition, the mice on the high-glycemic diet showed more evidence of gene activity associated with inflammation and higher numbers of microglia (immune cells in the brain).
There is a great deal of research in support of sugar producing chronic low levels of inflammation and more recent studies have implicated inflammation during pregnancy with an increased risk of autism, although most of these studies focused on inflammation during pregnancy. Some researchers have proposed that the chronic inflammation produced by sugar is why diabetes during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in offspring.
Although much research still needs to be continued, a low-glycemic diet is generally considered healthful. Focus Formulations products address this issue by having very little if any sugar added to their products and they are engineered to address nutritionally deficient needs in autistic children. Autistic children often have nutrient imbalances either due to metabolic deficiencies or limited diets and it is prudent for families to work with a nutritionist for the optimal health of your child.
So much is written on the mother-child bond, but what is a father’s role in this equation? Fathers are also essential to the healthy development of a child and have a great impact on the emotional and intellectual growth of the child. Father’s bring a different style to parenting to the family from communication styles to more active play and help to prepare our children for the reality of the world.
When a family has a special needs child, having two parents is even more essential as each partner looks to the other for support. Parenting stress can not only affect the psychological well being of an individual, but it can also affect the marital relationship between spouses. It is a sad reality that couples of children with special needs face a much higher divorce rate than the rest of the married population and it has been noted that more than 30 percent of fathers of special needs children experience symptoms of depression so severe that they warrant clinical attention.
Support groups provide a safe environment to bond and share experiences with others that are sharing your same struggle and while there are many support groups for mothers of special needs children, there is only a small number of support groups focused on fathers. Attending a support group or even starting your own can be an empowering tool to help fathers feel like they have a community of support and provide a source of strategizing and gaining support for challenges.
So what can we do to help our special needs children? Parents report feeling closer to their children when they focus on positive behaviors that their child engages in and providing positive reinforcement rather than focus on negative behaviors. These parents are often more likely to act in ways that encourage those positive behaviors to occur again. It is also important to remember that special needs children are beautifully unique and it is important to focus on your child’s strengths and positive behaviors and help to promote these qualities and strengths. So on Father’s Day, we want to say thank you to all of the fathers that hung in through the tough times and are still hanging in there….you are greatly appreciated.
We all know about chiropractic care for a bad back but what about for a child with autism? A recently published study in the Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research, focused on a three year old child recently diagnosed with autism. The child suffered from delayed motor, cognitive, and speech skills and also suffered from frequent headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. During the study, the child received subluxation-based specific chiropractic care to assess the benefits, if any, the treatment would supply. After one month of treatment, the child appeared to have reduced headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. Her autism-related issues also appeared to improve, including her eye contact, attitude, and language development.
Spinal adjustments are often used on other parts of the body and are often known for treating common illness such as headaches and allergies. Chiropractors call certain misalignments vertebral subluxations, which result in problems with the spine and nervous system. Autism symptoms are intimately involved in the reaction of the nervous system and some autism researchers believe that the nerve damage could lead to neuroendocrine events that exacerbate autism symptoms.
Although much more research needs to be done concerning chiropractic alignment and autism, a multi-disciplinary approach to treating your child’s symptoms is encouraged. Working together with your primary care physician, chiropractors, occupational therapists, and other health care providers will often provide the best overall support for your child.