Autism spectrum disorders offers a perfect example of the integrative/functional medicine approach to health in genetically susceptible individuals a variety of triggers lead to immune inflammation and biochemical imbalance.
These triggers include:
Infections (fungal, viral, bacterial)
Toxins (heavy metals, pesticides, plasticizers),
Allergens (foods, inhalants)
Irritants/sensitizing agents (gluten, phenols, etc.)
In addition to triggers, there are also relative deficiencies of minerals (such as zinc and magnesium), vitamins (such as B12, D, Folate), digestive enzymes, healthy intestinal flora, and a host of others.
This combination of toxicities, infections, deficiencies and sensitivities together comprise what is referred to as ‘total load’ which can be visualized as a large kettle. As the kettle fills up with these problems it reaches a threshold that leads to symptoms and disease.
Conceptually, the Integrative approach to treatment is very simple reducing total load by removing the things that don’t belong (triggers), and restoring the things that are missing (deficiencies). In practice, the work can be very complex. Finding the triggers can be as much art as science. Therapeutic regimens may be a combination of special diets, nutritional supplements and even pharmaceuticals. (Of course, behavioral therapies, speech therapy and OT/PT play important roles as well). The process is painstaking and comprehensive, but the payoff can be tremendous.