Pacific Wellness Toronto News

Nutritional Counseling for Autism Spectrum Disorder

7 years old Autism boy sitting in the train and looking to the rain

Various treatments and interventions may play a role in helping children with autism reach their full potential. In some cases, treatment involves a holistic approach and may include dietary changes.

Before deciding if a special diet is right for your child, it’s helpful to understand a little more about autism.

Autism Basics

Autism spectrum disorders include varied conditions that are characterized by issues with speech, communication, social skills and repetitive behaviors. Some people with autism spectrum disorder have intellectual disabilities while others have average or above intelligence. Various medical conditions may also frequently go hand in hand with autism, such as seizures, attention deficit disorder and gastrointestinal problems.

Autism spectrum disorders are common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 68 children in the United States have been identified as being on the autism spectrum. The exact number of people living with the disorder may be higher since not all people are diagnosed, especially if symptoms are mild.

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders typically involve three core areas including repetitive behaviors, language impairment and social deficits. The severity of symptoms can vary significantly and may include:

  • Avoiding physical contact
  • Limiting eye contact
  • Non-verbal
  • No danger awareness
  • Severe anxiety
  • Hyperactive
  • Aggression
  • Self-Injury
  • Easily upset
  • Unusual eating habits

It’s important to understand, like all kids, children with autism spectrum disorder are unique and have different strengths and weaknesses. Also, not all the above symptoms are related to autism. Many children may have a few of the symptoms. For example, if your three-year-old cannot sit still and has frequent meltdowns, it does not necessarily mean she is on the autism spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment

The verdict is still out and what exactly causes autism spectrum disorders. Researchers think it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Since the exact cause is not known, it is difficult to prevent the condition. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment do appear to be helpful.

Early intervention can often improve a child’s functioning and development. In the past, interventional services often started around three or four years of age. But services are now offered even earlier.

Treatment for autism spectrum disorders may include various types of therapy including speech, occupational and sensory integration. Although there is no specific medication for autism, certain drugs to treat symptoms, such as hyperactivity, may also be useful.

Food Related Issues That May Develop with Autism

Although it can vary, children with autism spectrum disorder are prone to gastrointestinal issues, food intolerances and unusual eating habits. Common GI symptoms in children with autism may include:

  • Gastric reflux disease
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Fecal impaction
  • Bloating
  • Constipation

Some children may also have strong food aversions, which leads to feeding problems.  For example, children with autism spectrum disorders may not tolerate the texture of certain foods, which leaves kids with a very restrictive diet.

Sensory problems that are common in children with autism may also affect a child’s eating habits. For instance, the sound of crunching foods may be so bothersome that it limits eating certain foods. Food allergies are also common in children with autism. Feeding problems and food allergies can sometimes lead to nutritional deficiencies in children.

Do Certain Diets Help Autism?

Dietary approaches have also been used to treat autism spectrum disorders. Scientific research has not found a specific nutritional approach to treating autism. But dietary changes have helped some children with the disorder.

One theory is food allergies and sensitivities may lead to symptoms of autism in some children. Researchers theorize that some people may process the proteins and peptides in certain types of foods differently, which may trigger autistic symptoms. By eliminating certain foods, it might decrease symptoms.

The gluten and casein-free (GFCF) diet is the most common dietary intervention used to treat autism spectrum disorders. Foods containing gluten include wheat, rye and barley. Casein is found in dairy products, such as milk and yogurt. The GFCF diet involves removing all foods from a child’s diet that contain gluten and casein. Although research is not conclusive on whether the GFCF diet is effective in treating autism, some children do have a decrease in symptoms.

Working with a Nutritionist

If you are considering implementing dietary changes to treat your child’s autism, nutritional counseling is your best bet. Working with a nutritional counselor can help you make sure your child is still getting the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for proper development.

Working with a nutritionist is also beneficial if you want to try a gluten and casein free diet for your child. It can be challenging to eliminate all foods containing both substances.

A nutritionist, dietitian, or naturopath can also make recommendations to deal with any other eating problems that may be associated with autism. For example, if your child has difficulties with the texture of certain foods, a nutritionist may suggest alternatives that provide the same nutrients or recommend supplements.

To locate a nutritionist near you, talk to your child’s pediatrician. You may also find recommendations through a local autism organization in your area.

Athletic Injuries and Recovery with Massage

Athlete's Muscles Professional Massage Treatment after Sport Workout, Fitness and Wellness

If you are an athlete, you know how important it is to train hard and take precautions to avoid getting hurt.

But even with the proper gear and preparation, athletic injuries happen. Treatment for athletic injuries varies based on the type and severity of the problem. In some cases, massage may be a good option to decrease pain and speed up recovery.

Common Athletic Injuries 

Athletic injuries run the gamut from mild sprains to serious injuries to the bones, muscles or joints. Injuries can occur due to sudden forces, such as colliding with another athlete or hitting the ground. Swiftly moving in a different direction can also lead to an injury, such as twisting the knee or injuring the back.

Repetitive movements that are common in certain sports can also lead to athletic injuries. For example, it’s common for baseball pitchers to injure their elbows from repeating the same motion when pitching.

There are all kinds of athletic injuries that massage therapy may help including the following:

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Twisted knees
  • Muscle spasms
  • Overuse injuries

Types of Massage for Athletic Injuries and Pain Relief

Different methods of massage can be used to treat athletic injuries and provide pain relief. When it comes to athletic injuries, there is not a one size fits all approach. The type of massage recommended may depend on the injury and pain level, along with personal preferences. In some cases, a combination using different types of massage may be most effective. Typical massage methods used for athletic injuries include:

Deep tissue: Deep tissue massage involves the therapist applying pressure firm enough to manipulate the deeper tissues in the body. The tissue rubbed is on top of the muscle, not all the way through to the muscle itself. Deep tissue massage can ease muscle soreness and release knots.

Sports massage: Although some therapists use the terms interchangeably, sports massage is not the same as deep tissue massage. Sports massage involves manipulation of the muscle itself to promote healing while being careful not to damage the tissue any further. Sports massage can aid in flushing lactic acid and other wastes from the muscle, allowing nutrients to flow better. Different techniques may be used during a sports massage. For example, effleurage, which involves the gentle application of pressure with the thumbs, may be used. The pressure can be varied depending on the muscle that is worked. This technique is often used to increase blood flow to the injured muscle.

Myofascial release: Myofascial release involves the therapist applying firm pressure to the myofascial connective tissue. Myofascial release can be helpful for athletic injuries to decrease pain and improve range of motion.

RELATED: Chiropractic Care for Sports Injuries

Benefits and Effects of Massage for Recovery

Massage for athletic injury can be beneficial in several ways. Manipulation of the soft tissue through massage increases the flow of nutrients including oxygen to the muscle, allowing the body to heal itself. Athletic massage also has the following benefits and effects on the body:

  • Improved circulation: Improved blood flow promotes healing and may shorten recovery time. But that’s not all—massage encourages the execration of certain fluids that negatively affect tissue repair.
  • Prevention of adhesions: After an athletic injury, scar tissue can sometimes develop. Adhesions or scar tissue can affect range of motion and lead to decreased athletic performance. Massage can prevent or break down adhesions.
  • Decreased stiffness: Athletic massage can decrease muscle tension and soreness and reduce cramping, which may improve soft tissue function.
  • Improved flexibility: As the muscle relaxes and loosens, range of motion can improve. Increased flexibility can decrease the chances of future injuries and improve performance.
  • Promotes relaxation: Regardless of the type, massage can have a sedative effect on the nervous system. Endorphins are released, which can decrease discomfort and the need for pain medications in some cases.

Tips for Athletic Massage

If you’re going to have a massage therapy  for treatment of an athletic injury, there are a few things to keep in mind. One important consideration is that in some cases, healing must occur before massage is recommended. Also, massage should not replace medical care for sprains, fractures or serious injuries. Instead, it should be used as part of an overall treatment plan.

Before your massage, be sure to drink plenty of water. If you’re dehydrated, the muscles can stiffen, which means your massage may be more painful. Additionally, avoid eating a heavy meal for at least three hours before your massage. Lying face down on the massage table with a full stomach is uncomfortable. Plus, massage relaxes your body and slows down your systems including digestion.

When you have a massage for an athletic injury, it may not be as relaxing as other types of massage. Although it depends on the kind of massage and techniques use, sports and deep tissue massages involve firm pressure. Some people don’t find those types of massage as relaxing as Swedish massages.

It’s also beneficial to find a massage therapist who specializes in massage for athletic injuries. A specialist knows what style of massage and techniques to use to promote healing but avoid further damage.


Hypothyroidism: What You Need to Know

Thyroid Blood Test

Bianca Drennan ND

Sluggishness, depression, constipation, dry skin, thinning hair, weight gain, heavy menstrual bleeding, irregular menstrual cycles, brittle nails. Does this sound like you? If it does, then your thyroid hormones may be unbalanced. The symptoms listed above are very common in a condition known as Hypothyroidism – an under active or sluggish thyroid. You don’t have to have all the symptoms to suffer from an under active thyroid, you may only have a few. Of course these symptoms could indicate a number of health conditions, but taken together, it is often the thyroid gland that is out of whack.

Although conventional Medical Doctors (MD) and Naturopathic Doctors (ND) agree on many things, thyroid health is one exception. During a routine physical, your MD will test your TSH level – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. A high TSH level suggests Hypothyroidism. The normal range for TSH is quite large in conventional medicine, and MDs do not typically flag TSH levels under 5mIU/L. Therefore, once your TSH reaches 5mIU/L or above, pharmacological treatment will be initiated. It can take time for your TSH level to get that high, meaning you could be suffering from symptoms long before your MD decides to treat it. Many of my patients come in saying “my doctor said everything was normal,” and therefore have no idea what their TSH levels actually are. To NDs, myself included, we generally consider TSH levels above 1mIU/L abnormal – a much lower level than an MD. The reason for this is because there are often many signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction well below 5mIU/L and above 1mIU/L. The technical name for this is “Sublaboratory Hypothyroidism.” In other words, the TSH level is within the conventional normal range, but the person is experiencing symptoms of an under active thyroid. So you could say, that the ideal TSH value is 1mIU/L. This is one advantage of seeing NDs – we identify dysfunctions and imbalances at an earlier stage, preventing you from suffering longer and eventually going on a pharmaceutical drug.

The most common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism is Synthroid. Synthroid is generally a well tolerated, moderately effective drug to bring a patient’s TSH into the normal range. However, many still suffer from hypothyroid symptoms, despite being on medication. New research is emerging that this is becoming a more common phenomenon, suggesting that Synthroid is not as effective as we once thought it was, even if a patient’s TSH is in the normal range. So you might think to yourself, “I am on medication, but I still don’t feel right.” You do not have to suffer. This is a great opportunity for an ND to support your thyroid, whether you are on Synthroid or not. There are several dietary, vitamin, mineral, and herbal options to bring your TSH to the optimal level and improve your quality of life. Fortunately, many naturopathic therapies can be used alone or in conjunction with Synthroid to support your thyroid health and optimize how you feel.

If you think your thyroid may be out of balance, get tested through your MD and ask for a copy. Then make a visit with an ND to identify any issues and discuss options. Or, have testing done directly through an ND (not covered by OHIP, but often more efficient).