The number of children diagnosed with autism has jumped from just 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50. With autism rates continuing to grow, many parents are left with questions as to how they can treat it or how parents-to-be can prevent it.
Renowned physician, author and autism expert, Dr. Robert Melillo joined me this morning to discuss why autism rates are continuing to grow at such a rapid rate, whether it starts at birth or in the child’s first few years and whether or not autism can be treated with diet.
Candace Rose: Why are autism rates continuing to exponentially grow?
Dr. Robert Melillo: “In my book, the first chapter really addresses this- are we really facing an epidemic or not? It’s a big question because there’s controversy on either side. The numbers are increasing dramatically as you mentioned. We went from 1 in 10,000 children with autism to now 1 in 50. ADHD is increasing, and all these other disabilities are increasing.
The question is are we just recognizing it more or does it represent a real increase? I really addressed that and looked at this. What I’ve been able to see from the research is about 50% of that increase is probably due to improved recognition, changes in diagnostic criteria and diagnostic substitutions and other things like that. But at least 50%, more like 60 or 70% of the increase represents new cases. If we’re looking at new cases that are actually coming on each year and increasing that number, the only way you can describe that is by environmental factors meaning you can’t blame that on a genetic mutation because genetic mutations take generations to come into the population. And generally those are only ones that are beneficial. It must be environmental factors that are driving this increase, which is the reason why I wrote this book is because that means if environmental factors are ultimately the cause and are increasing these disorders, then ultimately the cure is going to be prevention by identifying them and being able to measure them before somebody is even pregnant.”
Candace Rose: Does autism start at birth or does it develop in the first few years?
Dr. Robert Melillo: “We believe that it starts prenatally. Based on what we see in the brain, that a child is born already with the beginnings of what could be autism. And again, autism, ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s- they’re all basically the same thing in the brain. That’s really one of my main areas of expertise is trying to understand what is actually going on in the brain of these children. The only way we can really say how something is causing is when we first understand what it is.
So what we see happening in the brain of these children is what is called a ‘functional disconnection’. It’s basically a developmental imbalance that effects the way their brain connects and the way their brain is able to communicate with itself. Primarily there seems to be a delay in development in the right side of the brain which is starting in the womb, meaning the right side develops first in the womb and for the first two to three years of life. So something that interferes with that growth and development, not causing damage but just causing a stunting of its growth in the womb and in the first two to three years of life has the potential to create this imbalance which may be significant enough that it may end up being labeled as autism or ADHD. We believe that that’s what happening but we also know that that’s reversible.
So even if the child is born with this imbalance, in my first book “Disconnected Kids” I really showed parents how to identify this in children, to measure it and then how to put together a plan to really reverse it. And we also have Brain Balance Centers, which are centers across the country that are really dedicated solely to really help to reverse these issues.”
Candace Rose: Is it true that parents can help treat their children’s autism with diet?
Dr. Robert Melillo: “Absolutely. Not just diet but a combination of things. In my book “Disconnected Kids” I talk about how identifying food sensitivities is very helpful at reducing stress hormones and inflammation in the child. Giving certain nutrients and supplements, being able to reduce inflammation and help heal the gut, these are things that are very important. But most of those problems, most of those dietary and nutritional problems I believe are secondary to what’s happening in the brain. The brain regulates the autonomic system which regulates gut and digestion. It regulates the immune system, it regulates the hormones so what we see in these children is that they have imbalances in their hormones, they have imbalances in their immune system, they have imbalances in their autonomic system or in their body’s regulatory system. And these imbalances really start with an imbalance in the brain. So although doing dietary and nutrition is important that ultimately if we don’t correct this imbalance in the brain we’re not really dealing with the core issue. And to deal with the imbalance in the brain we need to do things like motor exercises, sensory simulation, cognitive based exercises, as well as modified behavior and lifestyle, along with these dietary and nutritional changes. If we do those in the right combination we can completely eliminate and reverse these issues.”
Candace Rose: Where can viewers go for more information?
Dr. Robert Melillo: “I have a website: DrRobertMelillo.com that they can go and find more about what I do and my books. Also BrainBalanceCenters.com, they can go there and find more about our centers and my books. And of course they can get my books on Amazon or in any major bookstore.”