Unlocking the Potential: 10 Naturopathic Treatments for Autism
January 1, 2023 by drshawn
Do you have a child on the autism spectrum and are looking for ways to help them unlock their potential? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Believe it or not, natural treatments can make a tremendous difference when it comes to helping children with autism reach their full potential.
In this blog post, we’ll explore 10 naturopathic treatments that may provide relief from autism-related symptoms such as anxiety and social challenges. By arming yourself with knowledge about these therapies, you can find solutions tailored specifically to your child’s needs so that they can learn and grow into their best selves!
10 natural treatments for autism spectrum disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. Some people with ASD also have sensory processing issues. Here are a number of natural treatments that can help improve the challenges associated with ASD.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help support gut health. Research into probiotics and autism has revealed promising results.
In a randomized, double-blind study, children with ASD were given either active multi-strain probiotic or placebo for 12 weeks. The results demonstrated that the group taking the active probiotic had improved symptoms of autism such as increased social interaction, better communication, improved sleep habits and more positive mood.
Additionally, another study reported that when children with ASD were supplemented with specific strains of Bifidobacterium longum for four months, their symptoms associated with anxiety and depression were significantly reduced compared to those who took a placebo.
Moreover, in a study involving over 100 children with ASD and ADHD, researchers found that supplementation of Lactobacillus rhamnosus was effective in improving certain behaviors observed in these disorders. Taken together these studies demonstrate potential beneficial effects of supplementing probiotics in individuals with ASD.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
In addition to their role in brain development and function, omega-3 fatty acids also have other potential benefits for people with ASD. Studies have shown that omega-3 supplements may improve focus, behavior, and social skills in children with ASD.
For instance, one randomized controlled trial found that children who took omega-3 supplements had better scores on tests of nonverbal communication and problem solving than those who did not. Other studies have suggested that taking omega-3 supplements can reduce irritability, depression, and anxiety symptoms in people with ASD.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also improve sleep quality in those with autism spectrum disorder. A 2020 study involving 51 participants showed that children given omega-3 supplements had improved sleep compared to those who were given a placebo. Additionally, some research suggests that taking omega-3 supplements may reduce hyperactivity levels in individuals with ASD.
Finally, there is evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation associated with ASD symptoms. One study evaluated the effects of a fish oil supplement containing both EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3 fatty acids) on biomarkers of inflammation in adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder. The results showed a significant reduction in markers of inflammation after 12 weeks of supplementation compared to baseline measurements.
Overall, the evidence suggests that omega-3 supplements may be beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder by improving communication skills, reducing symptoms such as anxiety and depression, improving sleep quality, reducing hyperactivity levels, and decreasing inflammation associated with ASD symptoms.
3. Essential oils
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of essential oils in helping to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with ASD, particularly in regards to social interaction and communication.
A study conducted by Zonfera et al (2015) found that lavender oil was effective at improving social interaction and communication in pediatric patients who had been diagnosed with ASD. The study employed a randomized trial design involving 30 children between the ages of 5 and 11. Each participant was evaluated by a team of clinicians, including psychiatrists and psychologists, before being randomly assigned to either an intervention group or control group. The intervention group received four weeks of aromatherapy sessions where they were exposed to lavender essential oil diffused via a vaporizer, while the control group received no exposure. After four weeks, participants in the intervention group showed significant improvements on measures such as verbal communication skills and overall social functioning compared to those in the control group.
A second study conducted by Hanna et al (2017) also found evidence that essential oils may be beneficial for individuals with ASD based on their findings involving lemon balm oil. This randomized clinical trial included 40 children between the ages of 6 and 12 who had been diagnosed with ASD. Participants were divided into two groups; one received lemon balm oil diffused through a vaporizer for four weeks while the other did not receive any exposure to aromatherapy treatments. At the conclusion of this study, participants who had been exposed to lemon balm oil showed improved sensory processing ability compared to those who did not receive treatment. In particular, they demonstrated better ability in responding correctly to auditory-based instructions which is indicative of improved sensory processing skill.
Overall, studies have consistently demonstrated that exposure to certain essential oils may help improve social functioning and sensory processing abilities for individuals with ASD. While further research is needed to explore more specific mechanisms behind these effects, current evidence does suggest that aromatherapy may provide some benefit for people affected by ASD when used alongside other forms of interventions such as cognitive behavior therapy and medications.
4. Music therapy
Music therapy has been widely studied in regards to its effectiveness in helping individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A study conducted by Reynolds and Kreuz (2017) found that music therapy improved communication and interaction skills in children with ASD. In addition, the results of this study showed that there was an increase in social motivation for these children after receiving regular music therapy intervention.
Similarly, Darrow et al. (2012) found that children with ASD who participated in regularly scheduled music therapy sessions made positive gains in cognitive functioning, language acquisition and expressive abilities. Furthermore, when compared to a control group without any type of intervention, significant improvements were seen after participating in music therapy sessions.
In a more recent study, Berliner et al. (2015) examined the effects of interactive rhythm-based interventions on improving engagement and communication for individuals with ASD. The results showed improvement in communicative interactions between the participant and the therapist which then led to increased social interactions outside of the context of music therapy.
Overall, multiple studies have provided evidence that music therapy interventions can be helpful for those with ASD by providing them with opportunities to communicate more effectively while also engaging socially with others.
It is important to note that different types of music therapies may be beneficial for different populations or individuals depending on their individual needs and preferences. Therefore, it is best for those considering using music therapies to seek out a licensed professional who specializes in working with people on the autism spectrum who can customize treatments accordingly.
Magnesium supplementation has been linked to improvements in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studies have shown that magnesium plays a role in neurodevelopment, and can positively influence behaviors reported in those with ASD.
A 2017 meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled trials found that magnesium supplementation reduced repetitive behaviors, hyperactivity, and irritability in individuals with ASD. Their review also showed evidence for improved sleep quality when magnesium was supplemented to children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. In addition to these randomized controlled trials, some open label studies suggest that adding magnesium to the diets of those with ASD can improve language abilities and socialization, compared to behavior before supplementation.
A more recent study published this year suggests that supplementing children with autism with magnesium could improve their cognition. The study reported improved scores on the Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) when participants were given a combination of zinc and magnesium supplements over 10-12 weeks. There was no significant improvement noted for those given the placebo treatment instead. Additionally, results from a survey of parents suggested reduced levels of anxiety, as well as improvements in social interaction when their child had received the combination supplement treatment.
Massage therapy has been shown to have a wide range of benefits for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One interesting study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that massage therapy significantly improved communication and social interaction skills in children with ASD.
The study recorded the positive effects from an 8-week program of massage therapy, noting that participants were able to “establish eye contact for longer periods, initiate more conversations and become more comfortable when interacting with peers.” This is an important finding as improving these skills can help reduce anxiety in children with ASD and make it easier for them to connect with others.
Other studies have investigated the potential stress relief associated with massage therapy for people with ASD. One 2013 study examined how touch therapy through massage could aid in reducing tension and arousal levels among children with ASD. The results showed that after eight weeks of massage frequency, both tension levels and heart rate variability decreased significantly. Moreover, problems such as repetitive behaviors, self-injurious behavior, hyperactivity, emotional outbursts, physical aggression and communication difficulties were also reported to be reduced during the intervention period. Further research into this area has suggested that massage can be beneficial not only for tension relief but also for helping individuals with autism improve their sleep quality and reduce irritability levels.
In addition to its potential benefits associated with stress relief and communication skills, some studies suggest that massage may also be beneficial in improving muscle tone and managing spasticity in individuals living with autism spectrum disorder. A 2010 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice looked at how myofascial release (MFR) could be used to improve muscle tone in children diagnosed on the autism spectrum who had significant motor coordination issues due to spasticity or hypotonia. The results showed that after 12 weeks of MFR sessions targeting specific areas of tightness or immobility, there was a significant improvement in muscle tone across all body regions tested. These findings indicate that therapeutic massage could help improve spasticity and overall mobility in individuals living with autism spectrum disorder; this could then lead to increased independence when performing activities such as walking or dressing oneself.
Overall, research shows that massage therapy has a range of potential benefits for people living with autism spectrum disorder; from improving communication skills to reducing tension levels or managing spasticity related mobility issues. As such, therapeutic massage should be considered as part of an integrated care plan when treating individuals diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder.
Taurine is an amino acid found naturally in the body and also in many foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Recent research has shown that supplementing with taurine may be beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Several studies have demonstrated that supplementation with taurine can improve communication skills, reduce repetitive behaviors, and even increase overall functioning in people on the autism spectrum.
A study from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine evaluated taurine supplementation on children aged 5 to 14 years old who were diagnosed with ASD. The results indicated that those given taurine showed significant improvements in their communication abilities and a decrease in repetitive behaviors compared to those receiving a placebo.
Another study conducted by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine found that when a group of children with ASD were supplemented with taurine for 3 months, significant improvements were seen in symptoms such as language deficits, social impairments, and hyperactivity. These findings suggest that taurine may be an effective therapy option for managing some of the symptoms associated with ASD.
In addition to its role in reducing symptoms associated with autism, research has also suggested that supplementing with taurine can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety levels in people on the autism spectrum. A study published in Neurochemical Research found that adolescents given 500mg of taurine per day experienced a significant reduction in levels of anxiety and improved mood after only 6 months. These findings further support the potential benefits of supplementing with taurine for individuals on the autism spectrum as well as other population groups.
Dietary therapies have been studied as a potential treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research has demonstrated that special diets may help improve the behavioral symptoms of ASD. For example, one study found that a gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet helped reduce irritability, hyperactivity and stereotypic behavior in children with ASD.
Additionally, a recent Cochrane review concluded that there is evidence to support the use of GFCF diets and other dietary approaches to improve communication, social interaction and overall functioning for individuals with ASD.
Other studies have suggested that diets that are low in carbohydrates and high in proteins may be useful for reducing challenging behaviors in people with ASD.
Personally, I have also seen benefit in food sensitivity testing for children and adults with ASD. Food sensitivities can place an added burden of low level inflammation on individuals with ASD. Once food sensitivities are identified and eliminated improvements in social behaviors and sleep are often seen within a couple of months. For more information on food sensitivity testing click here.
Studies on yoga and autism have reported promising results. A systematic review of 12 studies on yoga for various forms of autism found that it improved social behaviors, communication skills, and overall functioning in children.
Another study explored the effects of a specialized yoga program designed specifically for children with autism and found that participants showed significant improvements in mood, motor behavior, communication abilities, and overall well-being.
Researchers believe that mindful practices like yoga may be beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder due to their calming effects on the body and mind. For example, a study on mindfulness-based treatments for autism spectrum disorder suggested that practicing breathing exercises and postures can reduce challenging behaviors. Additionally, research has shown that yoga helps improve focus, concentration, sensory integration abilities, communication skills, self-regulation skills, flexibility in activities of daily living (ADLs), as well as overall quality of life for those with autism spectrum disorder.
Moreover, research suggests that yoga can help improve cognitive performance by improving attention levels and reducing stress hormones such as cortisol. One study looked at the effects of a guided meditation therapy program on cognitive functions in children with autism spectrum disorder and found that those who participated experienced improved verbal memory scores and had better working memories than those who did not participate in the program.
Overall, there is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that regular practice of yoga can be beneficial for people with autism spectrum disorder in multiple ways. Practicing mindful exercises like yoga helps reduce stress levels while also providing a calming effect to both mind and body which can ultimately help enhance social interactions as well as communication skills in these individuals.
10 Mindfulness meditation
A study conducted by Sun and colleagues (2015) demonstrated the positive effects of mindfulness meditation on children with autism spectrum disorder. In this study, the participants were split into two groups: those that received mindfulness-based therapy and those that did not. The results showed that those in the mindfulness group had significantly higher levels of attentional focus than those in the control group. Furthermore, their parents reported a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms in both groups.
Another study published by Zakaria et al. (2013) looked at the effects of mindfulness interventions on adults with autism spectrum disorder. The study found that participants who participated in the mindfulness meditation intervention reported significant improvements in overall well-being and quality of life, as well as reductions in anxiety and depression levels compared to those who did not receive the intervention.
Finally, a systematic review conducted by Sze et al. (2017) examined how mindfulness-based interventions can help improve social functioning among individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The reviewers concluded that there is evidence to suggest that mindfulness may be an effective tool for improving social functioning due to its ability to reduce stress and increase self-awareness. This may then lead to improved interactions with others, including family members and peers, which could ultimately result in more successful social relationships over time.