Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Thyroid-Autism Connection

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Thyroid-Autism Connection

Article excerpt

The center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that 1 in 110 children in the US have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), up from 1 in 150 in 2007. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics in October 2009 revealed similar numbers. Parents of 1 in 90 children reported that their child has ASD. That report is now 1 in 58. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability affecting more children than cancer, diabetes, and AIDs combined.

Another disease reaching epidemic proportions is thyroid disease. According to a study published in the journal Cancer, July 13, 2009, thyroid cancer doubled in the last 10 years. Some researchers feel that the significant increase in thyroid cancer is related to the significant increase in auto immune thyroid disease that goes untreated. Subclinical hypothyroidism associated with an elevated TSH can stimulate the thyroid gland, leading to the increased risk of cancer. Additionally, according to researchers, if the upper portion of the normal range of TSH (the routine thyroid blood test) was lowered to 3 as The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist (AACE) recommends, approximately 20% of the population would be hypothyroid.

One doesn't have to look very deeply to appreciate that these two disorders are interconnected. Firstly, both are associated with the increasing burden of environmental toxicity. Both the brain and the thyroid are very susceptible to toxins. Additionally, neurotoxins such as PCBs and Dioxin, likely to be associated with neurological disorders such as autism, exert some of their effects on the brain through their effects on the thyroid. Hypothyroidism can have a profoundly deleterious effect on the developing brain, thus significantly contributing to the web of causes of autism. Other toxins which can contribute to both autism and hypothyroidism include lead and mercury. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 1983, 143 (2) 220- 224 lead, a heavy metal commonly found in children with autism and ASD, can also cause hypothyroidism. Mercury, another metal associated with autism and ASD, can also cause hypothyroidism, and researchers address the possibility that high exposure to mercury may perturb neurodevelopment processes by selectively affecting thyroid hormone function. Thus, many of the neurotoxic effects of mercury may be mediated through the thyroid as well. Hypothyroidism can also lead to impaired detoxification, leading to secondary buildup of lead and mercury.

There are yet other reasons to believe that there is a thyroid-autism connection. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, known to be a factors contributing to autism, are also associated with other autoimmune disorders such as autoimmune thyroiditis, a cause of hypothyroidism. One of the most effective therapies for autism, ASD, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) is a gluten free diet. Studies show removing gluten can also heal secondary autoimmune disorders such as hypothyroidism. Perhaps one of the reasons why the gluten free diet is so effective in children with autism is that it can help heal the underlying thyroid disorder.

Thyroid hormone is essential for normal brain development during a critical period beginning in utero and extending through the first 2 years post partum. It regulates neuronal proliferation, migration, and differentiation in discrete regions of the brain during definitive time periods. Thyroid hormone also regulates development of cholinergic and dopaminergic neurons in the brain. Deficiencies in thyroid hormone during this critical time can have significant behavioral and cognitive effects.

Thyroid disease in children and autism therefore have many overlapping signs and symptoms. These include but are not limited to:

* Feeding problems

* Prolonged jaundice

* Poor muscle tone

* Gastrointestinal abnormalities

* Constipation

* Sleep disturbances

* Developmental delays

* Trouble holding up head

* Protrusion of belly

* Hyperactivity

* Lethargy

* Lack of play and interaction with others

* Dry skin

* Poor Hair Growth/Bald spots

* Pale complexion

* Frequent infections

* Cold intolerance

* Cold extremities

* Weight gain

* Difficulty gaining weight

* Allergies

* Bed wetting

* Poor bone development

* Fear

* Anxiety

* Depression

* Decreased ability to concentrate

* Speech delay

* Fading of the personality's color and vivacity

* Progressive loss of interest and initiative

* Slowing of mental processes

Other researchers are beginning to appreciate the thyroid- autism connection as well. …

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