Sunday, May 15, 2011

Geri Brewster: Nutritional and Biomedical Interventions in ASDs

On May 4, 2011, in collaboration with the Beth Israel Division of Developmental Pediatrics, NAA NY Metro welcomed Geri Brewster, RD, MPH. CDN, to present the first of a two-part series on Nutritional and Biomedical Interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders. The purpose of part one of the series was to explore theories linking gastrointestinal ("GI") issues and ASD symptoms - particularly neurologic and immunologic symptoms - and discuss various dietary interventions that have been used by families of children with ASD. Geri's presentation provided a compilation of information, including the scientific bases underpinning the relationship between autism and GI issues as well as how effective certain dietary interventions are and why they may work.

Geri walked the audience through a brief history of ASD and even showed us that the majority of cases of autism first identified by Dr. Kanner in 1943 had GI symptoms! In fact, studies have shown GI symptoms to be more common in children with autism than in the general population. Geri pointed us toward many studies discussion GI problems in children with ASD - studies which confirm what so many parents of children with ASD long have reported. She also explained important links between the immune system and the GI system. She explained the scientific information that supports a link. She then went on to discuss, given this knowledge, the need to remove offending or disruptive factors, add supportive ones, reduce inflammation, support detoxification and optimize each child's well-being. She referred to the "4R" program - remove, replace, re-innoculate and repair. For many children, these offending and supportive factors might, at least in part, be nutritionally based and she recommended working with a nutritionist or doctor familiar in nutritional interventions to individualize your child's diet to his or her needs and to make sure that nutrient needs are being met.

Geri emphasized that there are many dietary interventions (GFCF, Feingold, SCD, low-oxalate, yeast-free and others) available to parents and walked through considerations for each. At a minimum, parents should look to which foods it is important to buy organic. She pointed parents to the Environmental Working Group website as a good resource on this issue. She also discussed reducing exposure to BPA as important to good health for all of us. She discussed concerns over genetically-modified foods as well.

Geri explained that there is no one diet solution that works for everyone - we must learn to respect the individuality of our (and our children's) bodies. She encouraged parents who explore dietary intervention to keep records of positives and negatives so that the professionals working with the child can tweak recommendations to fit the child's needs.

We are all looking forward to exploring these issues more in part two - on Thursday, May 19, 2010 at 6:30 at Beth Israel's Phillips Ambulatory Care Center, 2nd Floor, at the southeast corner of Union Square.

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