Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Semon, of The Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition, is a child psychiatrist and doctorate nutritionist and also the parent of an adolescent with autism.
This page contains information about autism and how to treat autism by changing diet and using homeopathy. This is not intended to be specific medical advice for specific individuals. Dr. Semon is available for consultations and new patients. Call toll-free 1-877-332-7899, or consult your regular doctor. This case is taken from Dr. Semon's book, An Extraordinary Power to Heal. An Extraordinary Power to Heal has a chapter devoted to Autism, which explains how anti-yeast therapy helps people overcome Autism. Dr. Semon also explains, in great detail, the interrelationship between yeast free diets and gluten/wheat free and casein/milk free diets. Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition's new cookbook, Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen, is completely free of yeast, gluten and casein as well as common allergens of soy, rye, corn, peanuts, and other foods. It also is completely sugar free and kosher.
Case of child with autistic disorder treated with anti-yeast therapy
Carl came in at the age of five with a diagnosis of autism from the age of 2 and a half. At 18 months he had lost his language. He could speak the alphabet but no words. He went to a number of doctors and received a diagnosis of autism about a year later. He was having subclinical seizures on EEG (electroencephalogram, a test of brain electrical activity). DMG (dimethyl glycine) calmed him and helped his mood. Some other supplements had been helpful. He had started behavioral therapy at the age of three. He learned some reading through the association method.
He had had an elevated lead level at 18 months at a prior residence. Mother tried homeopathic remedies but could never find anyone to do chelation therapy (a procedure to take toxic minerals out of the body). The family moved and the lead level went down in six months. He had been continued on supplements and behavioral therapy. He had had loose stools as an infant. He had never had an ear infection. He was taking Depakote, an anti-seizure drug, at 125 mg twice a day. He had never had a seizure.
He had walked on time. Some speech had begun with behavioral therapy. He had a rash on his buttocks. In the room he was active and responded to some questions with rote answers. He was echolalic (Echolalia means the repeating of phrases said to a child. Echolalia is a sign of autism) and he was not destructive.
He was started on the anti-yeast diet and nystatin. A month later he was talking more spontaneously without prompts. He could nod yes or no. He was relying less on body language. He was more spontaneous. He was more naughty, more like a normal kid. He was eating better and was in a growth spurt. He was trying new foods with less difficulty. He was not running away from the dinner table. He was helping to set the table. His appropriate play had increased. He was interacting with his brother and was generally more interactive and could say, "that's mine". He was taking nystatin 1/4 tsp. four times a day and he was taking Depakote.
On exam he was playing appropriately and he showed me his toys. He was smiling spontaneously and appeared comfortable. He fought with his brother over toys and appeared more normal. Rash on buttocks was better.
He came back at six months and his mother said that he was doing much better. He was off Depakote for two months. He cried more easily, and he hit if he was frustrated. He seemed more clear headed and more present (not withdrawn). He was very verbal, saying appropriate things and was responding to what other people were saying and he would greet people spontaneously. He would make appropriate comments to others. He was working on these things in therapy. He said phrases to himself. Mother said that he looked more normal. He was more easily frustrated now. He liked to take the nystatin. He had filled out and he was refusing dairy. He no longer had dark circles under his eyes. He could read and write. On exam he made appropriate comments and repeated some phrases. Overall he was much more verbal. He responded to questions and played appropriately. His skin was clear.
A year after beginning treatment, he was in a full day kindergarten shadowed by a therapist. He was eating better, growing well, was not pale, and was more spontaneous. He no longer echoed, although he still reversed pronouns. He had trouble with first and last and with abstract concepts. He played very appropriately with toys. He skin was clear. He was taking 1/4 tsp. nystatin four times a day and was on stage 1 of the diet. On exam he answered questions appropriately and he played appropriately and he smiled and interacted with his mother. His mother also noted that he could verbalize when he had pains, which he could not do before. He could toilet himself and dress himself, and he was not running away. I commented to mother that one had to look closely at him to see that there was anything wrong. He was not totally normal but close observation was required to see his deficits.
This child is now eight years old. He is no longer diagnosed as autistic. He has some speech and language delays and some social delays. He is close enough to normal that kids do not know how severe his handicaps used to be. They tease him.
Explanation of anti-yeast therapy and Autism
The following is based on a handout used at the Detroit autism conference in April, 2002. This handout explains why anti-yeast therapy helps in autism.
Autistic disorder is a severe developmental disorder, which was first described around 1940, about three years after the introduction of the first major commercial antibiotics, the sulfa drugs. As antibiotic usage grows, so do rates of autism. Autistic disorder is a disorder of the antibiotic era. Why? Because antibiotics help the yeast Candida albicans grow in the intestinal tract. Candida albicans makes toxic chemicals which hurt the developing brain.
The yeast Candida albicans can be found inside of our intestinal tract, mouth and in the female genital tract. Sometimes this yeast overgrows and the doctor recognizes this overgrowth of yeast as a yeast infection of the female genital tract or in the mouth, where this infection is commonly called thrush.
Bacteria are also resident inside the intestinal tract, sharing space with the yeast. Antibiotics kill bacteria, not yeast. After the use of antibiotics the yeast grow to fill in the space left by the removal of the bacteria. Yeast make chemicals which kill bacteria, which enables the yeast to grow at a higher level, even after the antibiotics have been stopped.
Yeast make a number of chemical compounds which are then picked up and absorbed into the body. These compounds are quite toxic to the nervous system. These compounds include toxic alcohols and acetone, as well as the powerful nervous system poison hydrogen sulfide. Alcohols depress and slow the nervous system and acetone causes coma. These chemicals slow the brain down so that the brain no longer works correctly. These chemicals should be cleared by the liver so that these chemicals never reach the brain. However in some people, these chemicals are apparently not cleared, reach the brain, and cause mental symptoms.
Slowing of the brain, especially in speech areas has been found in brains of autistic children. Alcohols are well known to disrupt brain development.
There are also chemicals in the diet which slow the brain down. Barley malt, the raw material for making beer, contains twenty chemicals which slow the brain down. Vinegar also contains such chemicals.
The combination of chemicals from internal yeast and from food could partially account for the finding of the brain slowing in autistic children.
The important reason to look at yeast as a major contributor to autism causation is that yeast is easily and safely treatable.
The way to reverse this yeast problem is to take the anti-yeast drug nystatin. This drug is not absorbed and kills the yeast living in the intestinal tract. Then the yeast can no longer make the toxic chemical compounds. Second, the diet contains many foods which contain yeast compounds. Some of these yeast chemicals are toxic to bacteria and will clear space for the yeast to grow again. If these yeast chemicals are left in the diet, nystatin will not do much good because the yeast keeps growing back. To treat yeast these foods must be removed from the diet. Removal of these dietary yeast products enables nystatin to kill the yeast without the yeast growing back. Malt contains chains of sugar molecules which most likely inhibit the body's immune system. This inhibition makes it hard for the immune system to fight Candida. Malt must be removed to clear Candida.
Fortunately, because nystatin is not absorbed, nystatin causes no side effects except for a little nausea. Therefore there is no risk to this therapy.
The diet for Candida problems consists of removing fermented foods from the diet. The worst offenders are alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic beer, vinegar, barley malt, chocolate, pickles, soy sauce and aged cheese. This diet is described in the books An Extraordinary Power to Heal and Feast Without Yeast .
Every child I have seen who has followed this anti-yeast therapy has improved. Children who can speak always speak better and more. Children under two and a half who can talk a little can be brought back to normal or near normal. Behavior and sleep all improve. Children are calmer and easier to teach.
Where does the gluten free casein free diet fit in? This diet comes from research on schizophrenia, in which these gluten and casein protein fragments were found in the urine of schizophrenic patients. Similar urine profiles were later found in the urine of autistic children.
The role of opioids in autism is as follows. Milk and dairy contain a protein called casein and wheat contains a protein called gluten. Inside of both casein and gluten are structures which are difficult for the body to digest completely. The structures or peptides remaining after digestion of casein and gluten react at certain sites in the brain called opioid receptors. These sites are so named because these sites are where opiate drugs such as morphine act. The internal chemicals which react at the opioid receptors in the brain are called endorphins. These peptide structures from the diet have several names, one of which is "opioids".
In experimental studies, opiate drugs such as morphine have been found to bind to brain opioid receptors and this binding leads to decreased glucose (sugar) utilization and decreased metabolic rate. In other words structures which bind to opioid receptors in the brain slow the brain down. As already noted, the one finding that stands up in the brains of autistic children is that the brain is slowed down (metabolically less active) as shown by decreased blood flow, especially in speech areas.
Presumably these casein and gluten protein fragments also slow the brain down. This has led to the treatment of excluding casein and gluten from the diet of autistic children. There are many commercial products available to support such treatment.
How good is the gluten free casein free diet? The main studies show that children do better in school. In my experience some children improve, some only modestly and some barely at all. Why? The gluten free casein free diet is not an anti yeast diet. The gluten free casein free diet allows some major yeast offenders such as vinegar, pickles, chocolate, peanut butter and corn. Both peanuts and corn are often contaminated with mold. Chicken are fed much cottonseed and cottonseed is contaminated with mold.
So if a child is taken off gluten and casein but is continued on vinegar and is put on more chicken, peanut butter and corn, what will happen? Whatever benefits there are from removing gluten and casein will be taken away by adding to the diet more mold in the form of chicken, peanut butter and corn. The intestinal yeast will still be there making toxic chemicals. The child will show only minimal improvement and the improvement and behavior will fluctuate, depending on what the child has eaten.
This gluten free casein free diet is often recommended today as the main thing to do for autistic children. However, I recommend the gluten free/casein free diet only after the anti-yeast diet has been started. The gluten free casein free diet allows eating of vinegar, pickles, and other foods containing toxic yeast chemicals which are quite toxic to the brains of autistic children. Except for elimination of malt, there is no overlap between foods eliminated on a gluten free/casein free diet and foods eliminated on Stage 1 of the anti-yeast diet (as described in An Extraordinary Power to Heal and Feast Without Yeast). Malt (which is actually a specially sprouted barley product) should be eliminated on a gluten free/ casein free diet and malt is the number 1 item to eliminate on an anti-yeast diet. However, too many other foods containing toxic chemicals can be left in on a gluten free/casein free diet, to use this diet as the only therapy.
What about high doses of vitamins and minerals? Vitamin B-6 neutralizes one of the yeast chemicals and this yeast chemical takes the place of magnesium at important sites in the body. The neutralization of this chemical may explain why vitamin B-6 and magnesium are sometimes helpful. However, I think it is much better to clear out the yeast, so that the chemical is no longer made rather than to try to neutralize it. There are many other yeast chemicals which are not affected by vitamin B-6 and magnesium.
Parents who continue the high doses of vitamins and minerals and then try to add nystatin often find that nystatin is not helpful. I suspect that one of the vitamins, perhaps vitamin B-6, binds to nystatin, making it ineffective. I now recommend to parents not to use the high doses of vitamins and minerals while giving nystatin.
Acidophilus helps yeast grow. Acidophilus clears out another bad microorganism, Clostridia, but acidophilus does nothing for yeast. Acidophilus makes an anti-bacterial chemical. Acidophilus should only be used short-term, not long-term.
Why can the body's immune system not clear Candida? The Candida has many tricks to evade the body's immune system. The immune system then calls in the reinforcements. These immune cells attack the yeast and generate the signals for inflammation. Inflammation is a defense, like a wall to keep out the Candida. The Candida is still there, which means the inflammation remains.
In the intestine, this continued inflammation leads to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Sometimes these immune cells circulate and find yeast cells in other places. There is yeast on the skin. Again the yeast is evasive and the immune cells generate the signals for inflammation. The yeast is not cleared and the inflammation remains. This leads to skin problems from itching and eczema to psoriasis.
The Candida has also evolved to look like our own cells. Candida has the body's own connective tissue receptor on it, which it uses to anchor itself into our tissues. Sometimes the immune cells, as they attack the yeast, attack anything which looks like the yeast. What else looks like the yeast? Body cells which have the connective tissue receptor. This attacking of body cells leads to "autoimmune diseases" such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In these diseases, the body's immune system appears to be attacking the body's own tissues. The immune cells are attacking the yeast and then attacking anything which looks like the yeast.
The yeast chemicals slow the brain down. The gut has its own brain to make sure all the food goes through the intestinal tract at the right rate. What will happen if yeast chemicals put the gut's brain to sleep. The result will be constipation, sometimes very severe. Diarrhea is the body's attempt to clear the yeast. The diarrhea can be present at the same time as the constipation, which is why they can alternate.
What happens if the yeast chemicals slow down the body's nerves and put them to sleep. Then the child can't feel anything or nothing feels right. The hardest parts of the nerves to numb up are the parts which carry pain. This is why light touch, instead of feeling pleasant, now feels painful. If the nerves are numb, sometimes pain feels better than nothing at all. This is why these children bang their heads. Even the pain feels better than numbness.
The lack of proper sensation in the mouth is a reason why these children can become picky eaters. Foods, especially new ones do not feel right to them. The picky eating improves with anti-yeast treatment.
Why do autistic children have such trouble sleeping? There are many chemicals which put their brains to sleep. But the brain does not want to go to sleep from these chemicals. How does the brain fight these chemicals? The brain stays awake. When the chemicals are removed, children sleep better.
These chemicals also cause headaches and abdominal pain.
What about pregnancy after having an autistic child? Pregnancy may seem about the scariest thing imaginable after having an autistic child. If we understand that the yeast chemicals cause major disruptions in development, we can reduce the risk of autism by clearing these chemicals. How? A woman who wants to have another child should follow the anti-yeast diet and take nystatin for a few months before becoming pregnant. She should continue this program during pregnancy and while nursing. The child should not be given antibiotics. The child should not be given any foods which help yeast grow. This program will substantially reduce the risk of a second autistic child.
How does one avoid giving antibiotics to children? Children who do not have yeast. are much more resistant to infections. Why?
Back in the days before high tech, researchers asked much simpler questions. They asked whether Candida and tuberculosis like each other. Do they grow better together. The answer is yes. Candida's capsule helps tuberculosis to grow. This kind of experiment has been done with other infectious microorganisms and yeast helps other bad microorganisms to grow. I suspect that Candida helps the microorganisms at the back of the mouth to grow and to grow back after antibiotics. The Candida helping the bad microorganisms is why children get ear infection after ear infection.
There is also homeopathy, a non-toxic alternative medical system which has many treatments for acute illnesses.
I will include here a basic explanation of homeopathy.
Homeopathy is an alternative form of medicine which was discovered and developed by a doctor in Europe named Samuel Hahnemann starting in about the year 1800. This doctor was experimenting with quinine, a treatment for malaria. He took quinine and found that in him, who did not have malaria, quinine caused fevers. He thought this result to be very interesting because malaria is a disease of fevers. He restated what other medical philosophers had said before, a law, like cures like. That which causes a symptom in a healthy person, can knock that same symptom out of someone sick with that symptom. This concept is totally opposite to the concepts of western medicine.
Dr. Hahnemann took his research further. He diluted and shook and diluted and shook the quinine. He was hoping to get rid of the bad parts of the quinine and preserve the good parts. He found that not only did he get rid of the bad parts but the resulting dilutions were actually more powerful than the original quinine. In fact, he diluted and shook the quinine so much that nothing was left of the original material. Yet, the mixture was still more powerful. No one in regular medical circles believed him but some people learned his methods and developed his insights and knowledge further. When antibiotics came out, academic medicine organized to eliminate homeopathic medical schools. In the United States, all such schools closed or became traditional medical schools and very little homeopathy was taught.
Dr. Hahnemann and others after him investigated other compounds found in nature. He found what symptoms these other compounds and natural materials might produce in healthy people. Then he would know which natural substances to use when he was treating a sick person. He would match the symptoms of the sick person to the symptoms he knew the natural substances could produce in healthy people. For each natural substance he shook and diluted it to make it more powerful.
Natural substances have effects on the mind. He found many "mind" symptoms which are produced by natural substances. These symptoms range from anxiety to recurrent thoughts to confusion and many others. These symptoms can be matched to those of a person with either a physical illness or disorders such as ADHD and autism. If the natural substance in homeopathic form is taken by the person with a disorder such as ADHD, then the ADHD symptoms improve.
How does homeopathy apply today to treatment of problems such as autism? I have tried a number of remedies for autism. One that parents might consider is special remedy #230, available from a lab in Madison, Wisconsin. This remedy helps to calm children and relieves pain at the ends of fingertips. Their phone number is 800-888-4066. Ask for a potency of 6C in a bottle size of one ounce pellets. Give three sugar balls at the same time in the morning every day. If you find the remedy helpful, the same dose of sugar balls can be given up to three times per day. This remedy is made from moldy leaves. In homeopathy, that which can cause a problem can also help that problem if the harmful substance is prepared homeopathically. This remedy cost $11 plus shipping. I highly recommend it to parents who have not been able to calm their kids and the schools are demanding that the parents start medicines such as risperidone.