Is This Autism’s Perfect Storm?

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Is This Autism's Perfect Storm?

In the pharmacy profession, vaccinations are becoming more and more prevalent, as many pharmacies have begun running their own vaccination clinics. As a pharmacist, I believe it is about personal choice, where the person or parent has access to all of the relevant facts in an unbiased fashion. Although, this is often not the case and often a patient or caregiver proceeds on blind faith instead.

Acetaminophen is a common over the counter pain reliever, which is found in numerous products from pain relievers, cough and cold, and sleeping products. It goes under the name of paracetamol in the United Kingdom. I believe acetaminophen is one of the most over used medications, much due to a belief that it has an inherently large window of safety.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO's) are so pervasive in our food system, that it is estimated that over 75% of all foods in your neighborhood grocery store has a genetically modified component, and this can come with many implications on one's health.

Autism has risen by leaps and bounds since the 1980's, and the numbers continue to escalate. Back in 2000 approximately one in 150 children were diagnosed with autism, but in 2008, it has risen to one in 88, and today, one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism.

Autism is a major issue that impacts our whole society, from patients, parents, caregivers, teachers, to practitioners. It seems the mainstream medical establishment has been ignoring the issue, offering a cause of autism loosely based around genetic factors or prior undetected brain abnormalities.

There has been the belief that the increased incidence of autism is due to an improved diagnosis.  This has been disproven in a study on the increase rates of autism in California, which was published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology. Written by Irva Hertz-Picciotto and colleagues, it shows  that perhaps 12% of the increased autism diagnosis could be attributed to improved diagnosis, which is far from the 7 to 8 fold increase California has seen since 1990.

Incidentally, these researchers also suggested that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California's children. These are topics we will cover today.

Many experts believe that autism is a disease of impaired detoxification, leading to a toxic overload that overwhelms the body's immune and detoxification system, leading to the neurological development disorders noticed in autism.

Looking at the idea that autism is a disease of impaired detoxification, we must ask, "What has changed so much since the 1980's that can be overloading people's detoxification systems?"  My goal is not to point out one culprit in particular, but instead for you to understand the power of an accumulative toxic load from three core players; vaccinations, GMO's, and acetaminophen. Hopefully this will bring about the necessity to make more educated and conscious decisions for your health, and not throw it up to blind faith of the person in the lab coat.

Impaired ability to detoxify in autism is often present in genetically or metabolically susceptible children. This does recognize that some children are more genetically susceptible than others, although it also recognizes that lifestyle issues of toxin overload from environment, medications, vaccinations, and foods can play a very big role.

Often in cases of autism, there is a defective sulfation pathway in the liver which greatly inhibits their ability to detoxify.  This then leads to an overproduction of a toxic metabolite known as N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone (NAPQI) which then further reduces the ability to detoxify all of the other toxins our bodies come into contact with, increasing oxidative stress and damage from free radicals.

NAPQI also has the ability to deplete brain glutathione, which further reduces the body's ability to detoxify toxins, and leads to the loss of brain cells known as Purkinje cells, which are characteristically depleted in cases of autism.

The intestines are ground zero for whole body's immunity, and are a major organ of detoxification, especially for endotoxins (toxins which the body creates itself) through unbalanced micro flora, as well as overgrowth of yeast, bacteria, and other pathogens.

The work that Dr. Andrew Wakefield had done in children who have been diagnosed with regressive autism who received the MMR vaccine, showed significant bowel disease, accompanied by the presence of vaccine induced measles virus. Please keep this in mind as we talk about acetaminophen below.

To add insult to injury, Clostridia bacteria is a common overgrowth in the intestinal tract in cases of impaired detoxification, such as autism. The Clostridia bacteria can then cause an overproduction of brain dopamine and reduced concentration of brain norepinephrine. Too much dopamine can lead to obsessive and compulsive behaviors. Too little norepinephrine can lead to reduction of curiosity, learning and exploratory behaviors. All of these are characteristic of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD.)


Regardless of your belief of whether vaccinations cause autism or not, you cannot disagree that the vaccine dose schedule has risen at a meteoric pace, along with the rates of autism. Between 1960 and 1980, a child would receive about 25 doses of childhood vaccinations. In 2010, a child received about 70 doses of childhood vaccinations during the same age brackets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has held strong to its opinion that there is no relationship between mercury in the form of thimerosal in vaccines and autism rates in children. Although, a new study published in Biomed Research International has shown otherwise.

According to the review, "There are over 165 studies that have focused on Thimerosal, an organic mercury (Hg) based compound, used as a preservative in many childhood vaccines, and found it to be harmful." The researchers also pointed out that a study conducted by CDC epidemiologists found a 7.6-fold increased risk of autism from exposure to Thimerosal during infancy. It's important to note, that the CDC has drawn their conclusion that thimerosal is safe from just six CDC coauthored and sponsored studies, thus highlighting a possible conflict of interest.

Thimerosal and mercury aside, as I mentioned, this is most likely a story of an accumulative toxic load. Even in vaccines that are thimerosal free, there are many more toxins to challenge the body's immune system, and which could lead to overload. Adjuvants, which many experts believe can further target the immune and detoxification system, while also triggering intolerant or allergic reactions include; monosodium glutamate (MSG), human and animal cells, formaldehyde, latex rubber, gelatin, and genetically modified yeast, bacterial and viral DNA. This certainly supports an argument for green vaccines.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's)

Books can be written on the health challenges that GMO's pose, although I would like to talk about the role which they play in challenging the health of our intestines, as we have already addressed the intestine's critical role in  immunity and detoxification.

Proponents of GMO seeds might say that the herbicide, glyphosate (Roundup®) which the seeds are resistant to, is non-harmful to the human beings since human cells do not contain the shikamate pathway. Glyphosate kills organisms by disrupting the shikamate pathway which is the biosynthetic sequence employed by plants and bacteria to generate the aromatic amino acids: phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan.

Your cells may not, but the good bacteria that is in your gut does in fact contain the shikamate pathway, and this is where GMO seeds can be detrimental to your health. By disrupting the beneficial bacteria which we rely on to crowd out the pathogens, pathogens then begin to overgrow, thus leading to an issue of dysbiosis. This leads to inflammation, which then leads to a leaky gut, where toxins readily spill into the bloodstream and can even make their way to the brain. This process opens the door for wide spread nutritional absorption issues, which lead to deficiencies, and opens up the possibilities for inflammatory and auto-immune conditions, as well as disease of detoxification.


Back in the 1980's when autism rates began to rise, it was a time when acetaminophen replaced aspirin as the over-the-counter fever reducer and pain reliever of choice, mostly due to the fear of a Reye's Syndrome being linked to aspirin in children. In fact, commercials from the popular brand of acetaminophen, Tylenol® would tout, "the pain reliever hospitals use most." Add that to the fact that there have been numerous large scale production issues and recalls of acetaminophen products, where true concentrations exceeded labeled values.  In addition there has been a contamination issue with bacteria and other toxins, all which may have increased the chances of children receiving over-dosages of acetaminophen. A large scale recall happened just last year in South Korea, which incidentally has the highest rate of autism in the world.

There is a theory that the trouble with vaccinations might be related to acetaminophen dosing. A side-effect to vaccinations is often a fever. Acetaminophen is the drug of choice to reduce a fever in children, thus is it often recommended. Prophylactic acetaminophen dosing has even been recommended, which in itself has been linked with the onset of autism symptoms, before any vaccination dose was given.

What many people don't know is that Cuba has one of the highest vaccination rates. They also have one of the lowest rates of autism, and use very little acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is by prescription only in Cuba, and is seldom prescribed by physicians, as they choose alternatives.

An online survey of parents who had given their children the MMR vaccine, which revealed that children with autism had more adverse reactions to the MMR vaccine and were more likely to have been given acetaminophen than ibuprofen for those reactions. Children with autism who regressed in development were four times more likely to have taken acetaminophen after the vaccine, and there were no increased incidence of autism associated with ibuprofen use.

Of particular historical interest is that after the cyanide laced acetaminophen scares of 1982 and 1986, as well as in 1977, when warning labels were recommended for acetaminophen products, use of acetaminophen dropped as you would expect, as did the number of new autistic disorder cases in the State of California.

These facts open up the question of, "what affect does acetaminophen usage by an expecting mother have on the unborn child," especially considering the fact that acetaminophen is the most commonly used medication for pain and fever in many countries.

The insight to this question comes from a study was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.  In the study, mothers who took Tylenol while pregnant were significantly more likely to bear children with behavioral problems, poor language and motor skills, and communication difficulties – all signs of autism.

The study evaluated data on more than 48,000 Norwegian children whose mothers took a survey evaluating medication use at weeks 17 and 30 during pregnancy, six months after birth, as well as a follow-up survey at 3 years of age, around the time when most autistic children are diagnosed.

Comparing rates of drug intake with diagnosis, the researchers found a strong link between taking acetaminophen and children with developmental problems. About 4 percent of the women surveyed took Tylenol for at least 28 days during their pregnancy, and children born to those mothers had many more functional and behavioral problems than did those born to mothers who took less or no acetaminophen.

Like the MMR vaccine survey mentioned above, other common pain drugs like ibuprofen did not have the same results.

To further prove this study was not a fluke, acetaminophen usage in pregnant mothers was studied in 64,322 children and mothers enrolled in the Danish Birth Cohort during 1996-2002.

This research concluded that maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk for hyperkinetic disorders (HKD's) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - like behaviors in children.

Lastly, earlier I mentioned characteristic elevation in the toxic metabolic NAPQI, as well as brain Purkinje cell death in relation to depletion of brain glutathione in patients with autism. Increased acetaminophen usage has been implicated in increased levels of NAPQI, as well as being responsible for depletion of brain glutathione.

Knowing this information, what steps can we take?

  1. Understand that autism and related disorders most likely have an accumulated environmental/impaired detoxification component.
  2. Arm yourself with information and do not act on blind faith of practitioners' recommendations.
  3. Ask questions of your practitioners. Do not make accusations of causes of autism and related disorders. It is best if you can find a practitioner who will work with you in assessing and understanding your needs, but understand ego often plays a very big role in these relationships. If your practitioner is not willing to work with you and respect your concerns, it might be time to search for one who will.
  4. Clearly identify and understand the risk-benefit ratio of vaccinations.
  5. If the choice is to vaccinate, ask for preservative free single vaccinations, avoiding multiple dosages given at one time.
  6. Eat as much of an organic, non-GMO diet as possible.
  7. Research, and work with your practitioner to understand when the need for acetaminophen use might be necessary. Do not indiscriminately take the medicine if it is not needed.
  8. Be especially aware of acetaminophen in combination products, such as sleep aids, and cough and cold products, which might not have a clear need, thus it is best to avoid them. Identify what alternatives there are for acetaminophen which don't come with the above risks.


UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute study shows California's autism increase not due to better counting, diagnosis

Taking Tylenol While Pregnant Could Raise Likelihood Of Autism

Study Finds Evidence for CDC Cover-Up of Link Between Autism and Mercury In Vaccines

Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Behavioral Problems, and Hyperkinetic Disorders

Cerebellar neurodegeneration in the absence of microRNAs

Ground-Breaking Theory Proposes Acetaminophen Use Linked to Autism

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