As with all of my posts, if you want to get right to the research and skip my babble, just scroll down. I am not a doctor, I draw stuff for a living. This blog is my interpretation of the research. Please research these things on behalf of your health that of your loved ones, and discuss them with your doctor or nutritionist.
"Honey, get a load of this", I said to my husband, and then read word for word the entire chapter of the book to him. I had read it several times to myself, thinking "Hmmm...is this real? How could that be?". The title of the book was "The Late Talker, What to do if Your Child Isn't Talking Yet" (Agin, Geng & Nicholl). Eddie listened and replied "What the hell, it's worth a try".
We had discussed the possibilities of having an autistic child before we had even become pregnant. My brother, age 40, has autism, and my mother has a touch of it as well. Even though our little fellow had a rough time from one week age with his gi tract, there was clearly no signs or reasons to worry about autism. He loved attention and knew how to get it. He figured out very early that strangers couldn't resist his smiling face. He would "work the room" everytime we went out to eat. He tried to make eye contact with other diners and loved the reactions he got in return. Sometimes people would come over to let us know what he was up to. This started at about five months of age. Speech started at six and a half months, although he seemed to babble almost from the beginning. At eighteen month of age he had about 10 words he could use. When he wanted something he would look at you and say "This". He spent his entire eighteenth month sick with sinus infections and strep throat. It seemed to hit from out of nowhere. He took three prescriptions for antibiotics that month, which produced butt scalding diahhrea. His appetite slowely decreased from there, and so did his sleep scheadule. He could scream all night, and then fall asleep from exhaustion at about 7 a.m. and sleep until 9 a.m. His speech disappeared too. It started with him going into the kitchen, looking towards the fridge and letting out a blood curdling scream, followed by a complete meltdown. We thought the terrible twos had shown up with a vengeance. Meltdowns became a frequent part of our life. But he still enjoyed getting smiles from strangers and crackers, magnets and other objects were played with as though they were cars. There was still no reason to suspect autism.
One year and several prescriptions of antibiotics later, the speech was still not coming back. I had purchased some books on late talking toddlers hoping to find out what we could do to help the process. The book "The Late Talker, What to do if Your Child Isn't Talking Yet" (Agin, Geng & Nicholl) was just what I was looking for. It discussed when you should seek therapy, what kind of testing to expect, etc... very basic stuff. The first thing that got my attention was warning signs they listed for autism: staring at lights, lining up objects, lack of eye contact, any loss of aquired skills, etc. Our child had slowely drifted that direction in the past year. Then it included a chapter that totally blew my mind. It was about something called Omega-3. Scottish researcher, Gordon Bell,! father of an autistic child, had noticed that almost all autistic children had signs of omega-3 deffieciency...dry skin, brittle nails, etc. His study and several others found a noticeable reduction in autistic symptoms when supplemented with EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid. Parents with non-autistic speech delayed children had heard about the study and tried it on their own children. Many of the children began speaking, some within days, others took longer. We decided to discuss this with our doctor at the next visit. In the meantime I delved into online research, trying to understand how this could work. My first stop was wikepedia.com! which I would recommend to everyone to at least read what they have on Omega-3, even if you and your family are healthy. The more I read about Omega-3's and how important they are to our immune systems and how lacking they are in the modern diet, I thought "Holy Crap" everyone needs to know this stuff.
Omega-3's and Omega-6's are called EFA's(Essential Fatty Acids). The "essential" means that we desperately need them AND we are unable to produce them ourselves, so we must get them from our diet. The immune system uses Omega-3's for an anti-inflammatory response and Omega-6 for inflamation. If you cut your finger then your body uses Omega-6 to provide some swelling to stop the bleeding. It uses Omega-3 to keep you from swelling too much. You need the right balance of EFA's in your diet to keep you immune system in balance. Omega-3s are found in some fish, walnuts, flaxseed, some beans, grass fed meat, winter squash and olive oil(small amount). Omega-6's are found in grain oils, especially corn oil. The American diet has made a huge shift from animal based fats to vegetable fats, upping our Omega-6 consumption. At the same time our Omega-3 consumption has drastically dropped. One category has almost been eliminated completly from our dinner plates: grass fed beef.
Here's what happened. Grasses have Omega-3's in them. Cows eat the grass and then we eat the cows, getting a dose of Omega-3 for ourselves. Since the 1940's commercial beef has shifted completely over to feeding the cows a high corn, and thus high Omega-6 diet. And the cows? They are worse for the wear as well. Cows were designed to eat grass, not to be penned into feedlots and stuffed full of corn. Most of the cows would not survive this diet even if they were not made into steaks. The same is true of poultry who are now on high grain diets. We now get lots of Omega-6 from the vegetable oils and meat we eat and almost no Omega-3's. This means we are eating our way into inflamation. Heart disease, auto-immune problems, allergies, ADHD, autism, depression, even common hayfever have all been rising in epedemic proportions since we switched our eating and agricultural habits.
Research and Articles
Long links may need to be copied and pasted into your browser window
Fatty acid tied to depression and inflammation1
Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases!
Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study!
Omega-3 fatty acids as treatments for mental illness: which disorder and which fatty acid?!
Allergic sensitisation and allergic rhinitis are associated with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet and in red blood cell membranes.!
Dietary modification of inflammation with lipids!
Omega-3 fatty acids: a comprehensive review of their role in health and disease.!
Functional foods for health: focus on diabetes.!