Despite years and years of battling autism and developing a better understanding of this syndrome, the number only continued to grow up to this day. However, there are several holistic therapies and treatments that have come a long way to prove that we can still fight back against autism.
Benefits of Yoga for Children with Autism
There are many yoga postures, meditation and breathing exercises that are beneficial for children with Autism. Sheetali, or also known as, ‘cooling breath’, is a form of breathing exercise, that can help in handling stress, frustration, irritation, and anger. Instead, it channels calmness and tranquility that relaxes the body. Other benefits you can gain from this breathing practice is that it also promotes proper digestion and better sleeping habits. Another helpful technique that can be practiced is, hum meditation for controlling aggression, enhancing relaxation, consciousness, and self-awareness.
Benefits of practicing yoga for Autism
It helps improve social-communication skills. Yoga is proven to be an effective tool for improving imitation and cognitive skills among children.
It reduces anxiety and helps the child become more aware and expressive of his/her emotions. Breathing exercises can assist children in managing their emotions. It is a useful outlet for them, to release uncomfortable emotions in a healthy manner, and effectively deal with challenging behaviors.
It promotes self-esteem. Practicing yoga poses for children is an exciting and effective way for a child to build up their self-esteem. It brings out their confidence, especially when working in pairs. This way, they get to develop their social skills or ability to express and communicate in a better manner with other people.
It is good for their motor skills. The balancing and standing poses are good for the muscle toning of the child and in order to develop flexibility, proper balance, and coordination. It also increases a child’s interest to be involved in physical activities and other routines.
Ayurvedic Practices and Medicine
Ayurveda has also shown promising effects for supporting children and adults with autism. It can help improve several aspects of their daily activities. One of the Ayurvedic medical traditions that have provided benefits for addressing autism is through Panchakarma. It “is one of the prominent Ayurvedic tools used to restore and balance the body.” This is achieved through body treatments like massages and other therapies to help get rid of the toxins in our system. As it promotes detoxification and rejuvenation of our body, it can help resume our “natural functioning without interference” (Conboy, L.A. et al, 2009). Few of the Panchakarma therapies are:
Snehana or Oleation therapy, a type of lubrication system good for the body
Swedana or Fomentation therapy, which is a steam treatment (Sweda means ‘to sweat or to perspire)
Vamana or therapeutic vomiting/Emesis therapy
Virechana or Purgation therapy
Basti or Medicated enema therapy
Shirodhara treatment, which includes herbal oils or other liquids being poured onto the forehead and hair
Nasyam or nasal cleansing treatment wherein herbs, oils, etc. are administered through the nose/nostrils
Ayurvedic herbs are also helpful to balance the three doshas, which are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Doshas are energies that make up our mind and body, and are considered vital for our physical and mental processes. Vata represents the elements space and air, Pitta reflects the qualities of fire and water, while Kapha represents water and earth. These herbs are:
Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) and Shatavari (Asperagus racemosus) – are brain tonics, that can alleviate anxiety, which is commonly associated with autism. It also improves memory, speech, and also beneficial as an antioxidant.
Ashwagandha (Withania Seomneifera) – this herb is good for aiding memory loss, anxiety, attention deficit, etc. In my previous article “5 Herbs that Help to Balance Hormones,” I mentioned Ashwagandha, is a popular herb in Ayurveda, as it promotes positive effects on our mental, emotional, and physical health as well.
Shankhpushpi (clitoria ternatia) – according to Dr. Devareddy Narahari (2017), this “increases the acetylcholine (Ach) content in the brain, the neurochemical basis for improvised learning and memory.”
Swarna pathri (Cassia augustifolia) – While some people with autism also suffer from the digestive problems, this particular herb has shown positive effects to prevent constipation, due to its ability to clean the digestive system.
Centella asiatica, Convolvulus pluricaulis, and Celastrus paniculatus – All of these herbs show commonalities when it comes to helping improve memory loss, intellect, and also helpful for certain mental disorders, such as, epilepsy.
Essential oils can also be effectively used to alleviate symptoms of autism, as they are good for the brain and can exhibit a calming effect to the body. The following essential oils can be beneficial: vetiver oil, lavender oil, cinnamaldehyde from cinnamon, carvacrol from oregano, thyme oil, clove oil, nutmeg oil, peppermint oil, frankincense oil, long pepper or tail pepper, and lemon balm (Narahari, 2017). Please note, that it is important to speak to an expert, before using essential oils for children. Essential oils can be quite strong, and not all oils are safe for children. Moreover, it is important to use it in the right method, some oils require to be diluted etc.
Detoxification and chelation are effective in nourishing our cells, and removing toxins like heavy metals, which are present in our body. This very important, especially since majority of individuals with ASD have undue levels of heavy metals, such as: mercury, cadmium, and lead. This method can be achieved by juicing fresh greens, apples, carrots, and beets.
Top Beneficial Foods for Autism
Omega 3. Research found out that a number of children with autism do not have enough essential fats or fatty acids, fiber, and protein. This is, due to the removal of the necessary fats from the brain cell membranes, which happens much faster than it should thus, the need for higher fatty acids. Experts recommend omega 3, which we can get from salmon, cod liver oil or fish oil, as it helps reduce inflammation, and improves behavior, mood, speech, and sleeping patterns.
Probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics and Prebiotics can be found in fermented foods like kefir, non-dairy yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi, and are said to be beneficial for promoting a healthy gut. Moreover, eating bananas, asparagus, beans or legumes, garlic, leeks, onions, and peas are indigestible fiber-rich foods that give an ideal environment for the bacteria residing in the gut.
Other supplements that indicate positive effects for the conditions that individuals with autism experience are: carnosine for improving vocabulary and picture recognition, Vitamin B6 to prevent sleep and gastrointestinal problems, Vitamin C to help their neurotransmitter function properly, magnesium for neurologic, sleeping, and developmental problems, and amino acids to promote good concentration, focus, and brain function.
Top Foods to AVOID
Dairy. Casein is commonly found among dairy products or foods that produce exorphin when mixed with stomach acid. The exorphin contributes to brain fog, difficulty to focus, numbness to pain and more. When removed from the diet, it can reduce hyperactivity and other digestive problems as well. Common alternatives to milk are: almond milk, rice milk, or hemp milk (as long as it says casein-free).
Gluten. Gluten can cause problems like leaky gut, due to its impact on zonulin production, but more than that, it also has a negative effect on the cerebellum. Thus, consuming gluten-rich foods for children with ASD can only worsen their symptoms.
Sugar. Especially processed sugar, which can be found in conventional candies, soda, fruit juices, and other sweets or desserts, can affect the blood sugar levels and lead to behavioral problems or hyperactivity of the child. It also causes fluctuations in their focus and activity levels, which do not help their brain function.
Artificial Ingredients. Some studies suggest that artificial food dyes are one of the main causes of hyperactivity. Other foods to avoid are processed foods, junk foods like crisps, chocolates, soda, nightshades, and soy products.
As some these foods are probably included in your child’s diet, The Autism Research Unit at Sunderland University recommends to gradually remove these foods from your child’s diet, so they can slowly adjust to the changes. Moreover, it is crucial to closely monitor your child’s diet, to figure out, which foods they do not respond well too, or are perhaps sensitive to.
Dealing with autism may never be an easy thing to handle, especially when it happens to your child. Fortunately, there are several natural remedies that can help alleviate the conditions they may experience, and more holistic approaches that can further strengthen and nourish their body and mind. So continue to be the best doctor that you can be for you and your loved ones!