The actress discussed how she was able to help her autistic son using alternative medicine treatments in an op/ed piece for CNN.
In the piece written in support of World Autism Day on Wednesday, April 2nd, the 35 year old Hollywood star talked about her son Evan's recovery from autism and the treatments which she says made it happen.
The actress started by clarifying what she means when she says Evan has 'recovered'.
"when we say "recovering" from autism. They confuse the word recover with cure. While you may not be able to cure an injury caused in a terrible car accident, you can recover."
McCarthy described autism as an environmental illness and said "We believe what helped Evan recover was starting a gluten-free, casein-free diet, vitamin supplementation, detox of metals, and anti-fungals for yeast overgrowth that plagued his intestines. Once Evan's neurological function was recovered through these medical treatments, speech therapy and applied behavior analysis helped him quickly learn the skills he could not learn while he was frozen in autism."
While many are quick to dismiss her claims and what they see as "Hollywood fad" diets and treatments, there is enough evidence to suggest that these interventions, though not conclusively proven effective, may be helpful in autism.
Research first carried out in the early 1990s by Reichelt found that autistic children had increased amounts of opiate-like peptides in their urine. Further research revealed that these peptides originated from gluten (from wheat and other grains) and casein (a milk protein) in the diet.
Based on his own research and that of others in 2003 Reichelt proposed that elevated opiate peptides from incomplete gluten and casein digestion could be causing autism symptoms and may be due to a genetically based digestive enzyme deficiency and/or because too many of these peptides are being absorbed because of damage to the gut. Other research has shown that both gluten and casein can themselves damage the gut by triggering inappropriate immune responses.
A number of small trials of the gluten-free, casein-free diet in autistic children have provided inconclusive results but have nevertheless suggested that it can reduce some symptoms of autism. Researchers who have analysed the trials so far have said there is enough evidence to make further research worthwhile.
References to nutritional deficiencies in the medical literature are common with deficiencies of vitamin B12, folic acid and others being reported in prestigious journals such as Neurology.
Researchers at the biochemical genetics laboratory at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute found that close to 80% of children with autism have reduced levels of glutathione and its precursor nutrients such as the amino acids, cysteine and methionine. Glutathione is the body's master antioxidant and is required to protect the body from damage due to free radicals. Professor Jill James, who headed the research states:
"[Our findings] suggest that these kids would be more sensitive to an environmental exposure and would be less likely to detox from heavy metals."
Which leads on to Jenny McCarthy's use of detox methods with Evan. Heavy metals such as mercury are now widespread in the environment and in the diet (e.g. fish/seafood). Then there is the potential contribution of the mercury preservative thimerosal in vaccinations.
Research shows that autism is a neuroinflammatory condition (there is inflammation of the brain) and that mercury is a cause of such inflammation.
The anti-fungal diet and treatment is aimed at controlling an overgrowth of the common yeast Candida in the intestines. Many believe that intestinal Candida overgrowth can overburden the body with toxins as a result of the fermentation of carbohydrates in the diet. These toxins (e.g. ethanol, acetaldehyde) are said to cause a wide range of symptoms including disrupting the brain and nervous system which may result in autistic symptoms.
Many parents of autistic children report that anti-fungal treatment has greatly benefited their kids. Such treatment has also been used in conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At this point however there has been very little quality research on the subject.
Dr. William Shaw of The Great Plains Laboratory and formerly of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that autistic children consistently have elevated levels of certain organic acids in their urine. He first noticed this in two autistic brothers who also had occasional muscle weakness and published his findings in the Journal Clinical Chemistry in 1995.
Dr. Shaw reports that children with autism have elevated levels of tartaric acid, citramalic acid and 3-oxoglutaric acid which he suggests are being produced by an overgrowth of yeast in the children's intestines. He also reports success with anti-fungal treatment.
Now that Evan is doing so much better doctors claim that he was misdiagnosed and never had autism in the first place.
"When Evan meets doctors and neurologists, to this day they tell us he was misdiagnosed -- that he never had autism to begin with. It's as if they are wired to believe that children can't recover from autism," says McCarthy.
She maintains that vaccinations were the initial trigger for Evan's autism and says she has spoken with many other parents of autistic children who feel the same.
McCarthy writes: "We think our health authorities don't want to open this can of worms, so they don't even look or listen. While there is strong debate on this topic, many parents of recovered children will tell you they didn't treat their child for autism; they treated them for vaccine injury."
"When it comes to vaccines we are operating as if our kids have a universal tolerance for them. We are acting like ONE SIZE FITS ALL. That is, at the very least, a huge improbability," she said.
The medical profession as a whole however now deems that there is no connection between vaccinations and autism, pointing to epidemiological studies showing that autism rates have continued to rise despite thimerosal being removed from most vaccinations at the turn of the century.
The issue may not be as clear cut as this however with biomedical studies suggesting autism stems from the interaction between genetics and multiple environmental factors, not just vaccines or mercury.
Jenny McCarthy chronicles her son's recovery in her book: Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism.
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