Saturday, January 31, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup Contaminated With Mercury, New Study Finds

The use of high fructose corn syrup has skyrocketed over the past few decades. It not only is a food item that should be avoided because of its tendency to cause blood sugar issues, which can contribute to diabetes and heart disease, now we find out many versions of HFCS are contaminated with mercury. Mercury we know is a neurotoxin that even in very small amounts is a contributor to nerve cell damage and even death. The best advice is eliminate HFCS from you and your child's diet. Once you start looking for this ingredient in the food items you buy, and avoid it, you will immediately improve the quality of food purchased and your family will be healthier overall - Dr. Woeller

Minneapolis – Mercury was found in nearly 50 percent of tested samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to a new article published today in the
scientific journal, Environmental Health. A separate study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brand name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled ingredient—including products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.

HFCS use has skyrocketed in recent decades as the sweetener has replaced sugar in
many processed foods. HFCS is found in sweetened beverages, breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS. Consumption by teenagers and other high
consumers can be up to 80 percent above average levels. “Mercury is toxic in all its forms,” said IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and a co-author in both studies. “Given how much high fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the FDA to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply.”

In the Environmental Health article, Dufault et al. found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. Dufault was working at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when the tests were done in 2005. She and co-authors conclude that possible mercury contamination of food chemicals like HFCS was not common knowledge within the food industry that frequently uses the sweetener. While the FDA had evidence that commercial HFCS was contaminated with mercury four years ago, the agency did not inform consumers, help change industry practice or conduct additional testing.

For its report “Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup,” IATP
sent 55 brand-name foods and beverages containing HFCS as the first or second ingredient to a commercial laboratory to be tested for total mercury. Nearly one in three products tested contained detectable mercury. Mercury was most prevalent in HFCS containing dairy products, followed by dressings and condiments.

In making HFCS, caustic soda is used, among other things, to separate corn starch
from the corn kernel. For decades, HFCS has been made using mercury-grade caustic
soda produced in industrial chlorine (chlor-alkali) plants. The use of mercury cells to produce caustic soda can contaminate caustic soda, and ultimately HFCS, with mercury. “The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury,” said Dr. Wallinga. “The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stool Color Appearance - What is Normal and Abnormal

Many parents of children on the autism-spectrum report seeing black flecks in their child's stool when implementing anti-viral or anti-yeast treatment combined. People have theorized that these black flecks may be heavy metals or viruses detoxifying from the body. To date no one knows for sure. One explanation could be the accumulation of bile acid imbalances from poor liver function, along with cellular debris from the lining of the digestive system from chronic inflammation. Also, the accumulation of pigments from food could give the darkening appearance as well. Overall, it is difficult to say what these black flecks are exactly, but they do seem to occur with detoxification therapy.

White, frothy material - this has been speculated to involve yeast coming out in the stool. This certainly is possible particularly if you look at images of oral thrush (which is caused by Candida). However, it is likely too to be excretion of mucus (or mucus strands), along with sloughing epithelial cells from intestinal inflammation.

The normal appearance of stool should be dark to light brown in color. It may appear at times to be dark green depending on the level of vegetables consumed. Dark leafy vegetables have dark green pigments. If your child consumes beets this will turn the stool dark with almost a burgundy appearance.

Black stools - usually indicates blood in the stool normally caused from bleeding high up in the intestines.

Bright red blood in stools - indicates bleeding from lower in the intestines. One common cause of this is rectal irritation from hard stool, or internal hemorrhoids. If you see blood in your child's stool it is always recommended to inform your child's physician.

Normal pigment process of stools is caused by the breakdown of heme. Heme is part of the porphyrin system, and is involved in hemoglobin production (for oxygen transport throughout the body), as well as cytochrome reactions in the liver for detoxification.

Heme pigment breaks down from red to yellow to green to brown as it passes from the bloodstream to the liver to the upper intestine, and finally down to the large intestine. If stool is colorless this indicates a block somewhere in the initial breakdown of heme. If the stool is green (unless one is consuming large amounts of green powder drinks) it indicates increased transit time through the digestive system.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Regression - Sudden Onset

Regression is a problematic occurrence that happens with some individuals on the autism-spectrum after there has been significant gains being made in cognitive development, social interaction, etc. Sometimes the regression pattern is sudden. Here are some clues:

Dietary Infractions - this is high on the list. Sometimes a hidden ingredient, or a change in ingredients that you are not aware, i.e. from a Gluten-free, Casein-free food. Also, getting sabotaged with the diet - not necessarily intentional - from friends, family members, at school, a new therapist, your child getting into another child's lunch, etc.

Supplement Changes - sometimes a new supplement, or a new ingredient in a supplement can cause regression. An example would be a change in the amount of particular vitamin - such as B6, or a new flavor for Cod Liver Oil. Also, increasing the amounts of supplement(s) could contribute to regression.

Other Food Exposure - such as dyes, preservatives. Or new natural foods that are high in phenols - grapes, plums, bananas, etc.

Yeast Overgrowth - this is very common, and can come on quickly. Sometimes you will not know what caused it. I have seen kids get yeast issues following a cold, flu or even allergies from the environment. In Southern California there are Santa Ana winds that blow warm air in from the deserts about 4 to 6 times per year. This usually brings a lot of allergens with it. Other regions have their own unique environmental changes. Increase in allergy can cause a shift in the immune system with increased inflammation. A trial of anti-fungal medication like Diflucan or Nystatin, or natural remedies like Grapefruit Seed Extract can help. If it is a yeast issue, the behavior will shift for the better in 5 to 7 days. Also, if allergy is suspected taking an anti-histamine could help.

Time Cycle Changes - regression patterns can occur with time changes - summer to fall, fall to winter, winter to spring, etc. This commonly occurs with sudden changes in dark and light cycles - particularly in areas when the clocks move backwards or forwards twice yearly.

Stress - change at school or therapy. A new challenging task, new teacher, new kid(s) is class. Anything that is upsetting the routine that a child is use to. The same pattern can occur at home with new or sudden changes.

Recent illness or coming down with a cold/flu/Allergies - see above explanation under Yeast Overgrowth.

Constipation or sluggish bowels - many times a change in bowel function - usually with a child going through a period of sluggish bowels - can create a situation of increased bowel toxins. These toxins get absorbed and create imbalances in the body and brain. Giving some additional magnesium to bowel tolerance - as citrate - can help to improve bowel function. Bowel tolerance means the 'point at which loose stools occur' is the time to cut back on the dose of magnesium. Magnesium can also help with hyperactivity. If needed, a laxative or child's enema can help clear the bowel of stored up stool.

Growth Spurt - regression in kids can sometimes occur with a growth spurt. Many times when children go through growth spurts they have an increased appetite or sleep more soundly at night.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Autism - The Benefits of Low Dose Naltrexone

Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) is a medication that has been used to treat immune dysfunction and auto-immune diseases. Its success has been seen in cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Lyme disease, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic fatigue/ fibromyalgia and any condition relating to allergy and inflammation. LDN has also been used with good results as a biomedical autism intervention for autistic children (ASD).

The primary role of naltrexone is to block opioids. At face value this may not seem to be desirable. However, the result of the opioid block is that the body compensates by producing even more of its natural endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can stay elevated for up to 18 hours.

Opioids can act as cytokines – the major signal and communication chemical that cells of the immune system use to talk to each other. By balancing cytokines we can modulate aspects of the immune system known as Th1 and Th2 – which are commonly a problem in autism. These two aspects need to exist in balance – but often, Th2 becomes dominant over Th1. Inability to mount a sufficient Th1 response can result in chronic infections, while a dominant Th2 response can trigger allergy and play a role in auto-immune disease. Therefore getting these two back in harmony can go a long way in promoting healthy immune function and preventing chronic illness. LDN has shown to be an effective biomedical autism intervention. Many parents report that their children are healthier overall, and do not get the frequency of illnesses, i.e. colds, ear infections after starting it.

Side effects of LDN appear to be minimal. There is no known toxicity associated with the medication. I have seen a few children experience earlier wakening the first few nights after starting LDN, as well as some initial hyperactivitiy as well. These can be avoided by starting on ½ dose for the first few days. LDN as a biomedical autism treatment has been compounded into a transdermal form (TD-LDN) which is easy to apply once nightly to the skin between the hours of 9 to 12 pm. The benefits I hear most frequently from adult patients are improved sleep, decreased pain, better digestion, and general resolution or improvement of symptoms. In ASD kids, parents report better mood, ‘happier kids’, improved sleep and behavioral gains.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What is the Difference Between Nystatin and Diflucan as a Biomedical Therapy in Autism

Nystatin (a non-systemic anti-fungal medication) and Diflucan, Nizoral, Lamisil, and Sporanox (systemic anti-fungal medications) are effective therapies for individuals with chronic candida and other yeast infections - including children on the autism spectrum. The difference between the two groups has to do with absorption and overall effectiveness.

Nystatin is considered a local anti-fungal medication, i.e. local to the digestive system. It does not get absorbed into the blood stream (or at least to any significant degree) and therefore has its effect locally to yeast inside the digestive system. I equate Nystatin to Pepto-Bismal. Pepto-Bismal coats the stomach, while Nystatin coats the intestinal tract. Therefore, in order to get maximal benefit it needs to be dosed multiple times throughout the day because the coating wears off quickly. Because it does not get absorbed it can be taken for prolonged periods of times (months, and in some cases years) without requiring blood work to check for liver function stress.

Diflucan (along with Nizoral, Lamisil and Sporanox) are all systemic anti-fungal medications. This means they have some effectiveness in the digestive system, but they also get absorbed into the bloodstream and have more of a systemic effect on yeast throughout the body. There half-life is longer than Nystatin and only need to be dose once, and sometimes twice daily. However, because these medications do get absorbed into the bloodstream and are metabolized through the liver periodic blood work (every 2 months) is necessary to evaluate liver function.

Both groups of anti-fungal medications are effective, and can play a role in anti-candida therapy for children on the autism-spectrum who have difficulties with chronic yeast issues.