I am excited to introduce my first guest blogger, Dr. Louise Lindenberg, MD. I first met Louise 6 years ago, on a trip I made to South Africa, to talk in an autism conference. I loved her from the minute we met and I accidentally put eye drops into my coffee instead of stevia and gagged. (It was the jet lag! Honestly!)
Louise is one of, if not the only, doctor in South Africa who is treating children with autism medically. I know she puts an incredible effort in to keeping herself up-to-date on the latest research and spends a huge amount of time and money coming to the USA every year or two to attend medical conferences here.
Here she shares some thoughts on diet, the biome and autism:
Judy, your blog has motivated me to put a few thoughts down!
Here in South Africa things are not any different to anywhere else in the world. Although we are far away from the Americas, Europe, the East and Australasia, we have managed to catch on to all the conveniences of the industrialized world. Modern westernized lifestyle has also been causing chronic disease here.
Our diets are often just as junky and unhealthy as what you are seeing in the US and Europe. I am often amazed at the dis-empowered parents I see in practice who believe that they are doing good by shoving empty calories into their children’s mouths. I had a discussion with a mother of a young, autistic child recently, who said that her child had followed an exclusion diet for a period of time. Although it had improved his sleep, behavior and upper respiratory health, they found it difficult to persist, and, in giving up, introduced all sorts of junk food to his diet. Their complaint now is that he refuses to eat perceived “healthy” foods and prefers junk food, which they give him, as they opt out of the confrontation. I don’t believe in placing children on special diets unless indicated for specific reasons, but I am absolutely certain that children should follow a healthy, balanced whole foods, rotation diet.
Taking the diet one step further, I often examine children’s gastrointestinal function. You are what you eat echoes from every corner of the universe, but we need to understand that the food that you give your microbiome to live on determines “who” lives there! With what we know now, we know that those organisms are metabolically active and their byproducts affect human biochemistry and function.
Most of us have caught on to using cultured foods and probiotics nowadays. We also use strain specific probiotics for specific reasons. In our functional medicine realm, we are now adding probiotic yeasts as a necessary complement to our probiotic bacteria. What most of us have omitted until now, is the scope of probiotic – or physiological helminth species. The research is showing rewarding outcomes. As some have alluded to, it seems that: “we need to invite our old friends back”!
We have been trained to think of parasites as “all bad.” We make sure that we de-worm our children regularly – every 6 months. What we are actually doing, is whacking the microbiome in very much the same way as what we do with a course of antibiotics. We need to adjust this frame of mind. We need to pay better attention to reintroducing the helminth component to the gut microbiome….but first, we need to get our heads around taking worms?! AARGH?! Educating the population about good worms has started!
More on the effect of helminths on the microbiome soon.