Natural approaches that can improve cognition in people with autism
Natural treatments for people diagnosed with Autism remain controversial, because mainstream science doesn’t seem to agree on what causes autism. However, we are now able to understand the dysfunctional mechanisms in the body of an autistic person, and new studies reveal that there are natural approaches that can improve cognition in people with autism.
A diagnosis of autism incurs impaired cognition and impaired motor skills to various degrees. Such delay in basic developmental milestones, affects an individual’s capability of engaging with the world emotionally, physically and socially. But what are the mechanisms affected in the body that cause the pathology of what we call autism?
There have been many studies that explain autism may be caused by encephalopathy of the brain, which can be a side effect of an allergic reaction to early exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury. However the cause, other studies have also pointed that autistic subjects have a decreased regional blood flow to the brain, which confirmed the associations of impairments in communication, social interaction, abnormal responses to sensory stimuli, and the obsessive desire for sameness.
Brain Hypoxia ( lack of appropriate oxygenation)
The decreased regional blood flow causes hypoxia, because there is an interdependence between the innate immune system and hypoxic responses to infection and tissue damage. Meaning, an individual with low blood flow to the brain will be unable to fight infections effectively, because oxygen influences T cell function, which is a type of white blood cell that plays a central role in cell-mediated immunity.
Endocrine system dysfunction
T cells, which are produced in the thymus have been shown to be altered in children with autism. But not only that, a thyroid dysfunction is frequently seen in people with autism, which may be caused by a higher expression of Frα (Folate receptor α), during the early prenatal period, and that could affect the development of the thyroid. If the thyroid is not working to its capacity, there are issues that may manifest, such as: allergies, gastrointestinal inflammation and even behavioural issues.
Having an understanding of the mechanisms affected in the body that causes the pathology of autism, will help with understanding what needs to be tackled. Therefore, the natural approaches that can improve cognition in people with autism are: 1) Use plant supplements that have neuroprotective activities 2) Deal with symptoms like insomnia 3) seek alternative therapies that stimulate motor- neuron function 4) boost immunity and regulate thyroid function.
1) Use plant supplements that have neuroprotective activities
Korean Red ginseng ( KRG or panax ginseng)
Korean Red Ginseng has been used as a supplement for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Recently, scientists used ginseng as a supplement in a prenatal (valproic acid) VPA-exposed rat model of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). KRG treatment reversed abnormal locomotor activity and sensitivity to electric shock to control level. The results of this study suggest that KRG may modulate neurobehavioral and structural organization of nervous system adversely affected by prenatal exposure to VPA.
In yet another study on VPA-exposed rat model of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there were significant improvements in abnormal behaviors related to autism, as the animals were given Korean red ginseng as a supplement. But, the benefits of Korean red ginseng are not only seen in animal model studies, as there are recent reports from various clinical trials that 1g KRG extract/pouch, twice a day given to patients with ADHD improved inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
An observational study of three patients who received 2 x 100 mg Ginkgo Biloba EGb 761 for 4 weeks, showed some improvement on the Aberrant Behavior and Symptom Checklist. These results suggest, that Ginkgo Biloba might be effective at least as an add-on therapy.
2) Deal with symptoms like insomnia
There have been multiple studies pointing to the fact that nutrition improves sleep patterns. Tropical fruits like pinneaple, orange and banana are rich in melatonin, and also carbohydrates and grains like: rice bean and red bean because as they are ingested, brain tryptophan is raised. Tryptophan is needed for the body to produce serotonin, and serotonin is used to make melatonin, a hormone that helps to control your sleep.
3) Boost immunity and regulate thyroid function
Boosting immunity and regulating thyroid function can be done at once by using essential oils, like: frankincense oil, sandallwood, clove, lemon grass, myrrh and others. This is possible because they can regulate the functions of the hypothalamus, thyroid and thymus. Another good way to nourish immunity is by taking natural immune boosters like olive leaf extract and antioxidants, which have been reported to Improve Behavior in Autism.
4) Seek alternative therapies that stimulate motor- neuron function
There are many non- invasive natural approaches that can improve cognition in people with autism, such as: equine assisted therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT),Sensory Integration Therapy and music therapy , all of which have been reported to be effective in stimulating cognition, memory and motor- neuron functions.