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Autism is a severe psychiatric disorder that begins in childhood. Autistic

individuals generally have only weak contact with reality.

Dietary changes that may be helpful: Preliminary research suggests that some autistic children may be allergic or sensitive to certain foods, and that removal of these foods from the diet has appeared to improve some behaviors.1 As a result, one prominent nutritionally oriented doctor has recommended a trial hypoallergenic diet.2 Such a trial requires supervision by a nutritionally oriented doctor. 

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful: Vitamin B6 has helped normalize the function of nerve cells in autistic children.3 Uncontrolled and double blind research shows that vitamin B6 can be helpful for autistic children.4 5 In these trials, children typically took between 3.5 mg and almost 100 mg of B6 for every 2.2 pounds of body weight, with some researchers recommending 30 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Although toxicity was not reported, such amounts are widely considered to have potential toxicity that can damage the nervous system, and should only be administered by a nutritionally oriented doctor. One prominent researcher has suggested that vitamin B6 is better supported by research than is drug treatment in dealing with autism.6

Some researchers have added magnesium to vitamin B6, reporting that taking both nutrients may have better effects than taking B6 alone.7 The amount of magnesium—10–15 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight—is high enough to cause diarrhea in some people and should be administered by a nutritionally oriented doctor. Doctors of natural medicine will often try vitamin B6 or the combination of B6 and magnesium for at least three months to see if these nutrients help autistic children. 

In one double blind trial lasting ten weeks, autistic children given 1 gram vitamin C for each 20 pounds of body weight showed a reduction in symptom severity compared with placebo.8 The authors speculate that vitamin C may play a positive role because of it known effects on a hormone pathway typically disturbed in children with autism.

Checklist for Autism

Ranking Nutritional Supplements Herbs Primary Vitamin B6   Secondary Vitamin C   Other Magnesium   References: 

1. Reichelt K-L, Ekrem J, Scott H. Gluten, milk proteins and autism: dietary intervention effects on behavior and peptide section. J Appl Nutr 1990;42:1–11.

2. Werbach M. Autism. Int J Alternative Complementary Med 1996;Oct: 8.

3. Martineau J, Garreau B, Barthelemy C, et al. Effects of vitamin B6 on averaged evoked potentials in infantile autism. Biol Psychiatr 1981;16:627–39.

4. Lelord G, Muh JP, Barthelemy C, et al. Effects of pyridoxine and magnesium on autistic symptoms: Initial observations. J Autism Developmental Disorders 1981;11:219–29.

5. Rimland B, Callaway E, Dreyfus P. The effect of high doses of vitamin B6 on autistic children: a double-blind crossover study. Am J Psychiatr 1978;135:472–75.

6. Rimland B. Vitamin B6 versus Fenfluramine: a case-study in medical bias. J Nutr Med 1991;2:321–22.

7. Martineau J, Barthelemy C, Garreau B, Lelord G. Vitamin B6, magnesium, and combined B6-Mg: Therapeutic effects in childhood autism. Biol Psychiatr 1985;20:467–78.

8. Dolske MC, Spollen J, McKay S, et al. A preliminary trial of ascorbic acid as supplemental therapy for autism. Prog Neuropsycholpharmacol Biol Psychiatry 1993;17:765–74.

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