Sunday, December 13, 2009

Enzymes and Autism

On November 18, 2009, Dr. Devin Houston, the founder and CEO of Houston Enzymes, presented to our group on the scientific basis supporting enzyme use in children on the autism spectrum and the practical ways in which enzymes can have a profoundly positive effect for many children. Dr. Houston was kind enough to travel – along with his wife Tricia – all the way from Arkansas to share with us his knowledge as a biochemist and a pioneer in the field of enzyme research – especially with respect to children with ASD. Dr. Houston holds a PhD in biochemistry and before founding Houston Enzymes worked in academia and research (researching with respect to enzymes and other areas) as well as the enzyme industry for several years. (photo: Sujata Setya (NAA-NY Metro), Dr. Devin Houston, Tricia Houston)

In his presentation, Dr. Houston defined enzymes, discussed the different types and sources of enzymes and differentiated system enzymes from the digestive enzymes, about which he was presenting. He discussed how and where in the GI tract enzymes were active, and why. Following all the science, he gave parents good practical advice about choosing enzyme products: what to look for in enzymes, enzyme safety, and what dosing to consider.

So many children with ASD have gastrointestinal issues stemming from a variety of causes, including GI inflammation, allergies or the immune system dysfunctions, malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies. Enzymes can be an important adjunct to special diets or a stand-alone therapy in lieu of special diets (when families are unable to, for whatever reason, implement a special diet) to help many of these children. Enzymes help us to break down foods into an absorbable form and therefore can help many children with ASD (and others!) whose own bodies cannot properly process various foods. As Dr. Houston explained, different enzymes work on breaking down different types of foods, and therefore, if you know that your child has difficulty with certain foods, you can actually choose enzyme products that target your child’s needs. As one example, Dr. Houston showed us how the enzyme DPP IV broke down casomorphin and therefore would potentially be helpful to those with a casein (dairy) issue.

Dr. Houston’s presentation helped parents and others in attendance to better understand the science behind enzyme therapy in children with ASD (and others with gastrointestinal difficulties) as well as the practical application of enzymes. His tips on what to look for in enzyme products to choose a quality product were practical and easy to follow. For example, he told attendees that “mass units” such as milligrams were not a useful in indentifying potency in enzymes – rather, each enzyme has an “activity unit” (such HUT for fungal protease) that identifies its and that activity unit is what should be provided on the packaging by the manufacturer. With respect to dosing, he advised that dose should be based on the size of the meal, and that you have to work up to a dose that works for your child – everyone is different. He also recommended taking enzymes that the beginning of a meal, in this way, the enzymes are in contact with the food from the get go. He also reminded us that not everyone needs every enzyme – if you can determine which foods your child does not tolerate, you can more specifically target your enzyme therapy with enzymes that affect those foods.

Many thanks also to Jillian, Tara and Ben (pictured below) who volunteered to help our event run without a hitch!

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