Could Autism Be a Form of Encephalitis (Inflammation of the Brain)?

I would like to raise this very complex, very sad for many topic.

In medical literature Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts brain development causing most individuals to experience communication problems, difficulty with social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour. About 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html).

Because in my practice I routinely see children diagnosed with ASD, I was doing my own research to understand what is that disorder that “impacts brain development”? I could not find concrete information of what is exactly impacts brain development. For example, Mayo Clinic ranked #1 hospital in USA (https://www.mayoclinic.org) states the following: 

“Autism spectrum disorder has no single known cause. Given the complexity of the disorder, and the fact that symptoms and severity vary, there are probably many causes. Both genetics and environment may play a role.

•Genetics. Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. For other children, genetic changes (mutations) may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder. Still other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.

•Environmental factors. Researchers are currently exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications or complications during pregnancy, or air pollutants play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928) 

After reading a lot of articles one questions remained unanswered: Why, first of all, genes are to blame? Why, all of a sudden, there are so many individuals with genetic disorders? 

In order to understand if ASD could be similar or identical to other brain disorders for which causes are well known I referred back and studied signs and symptoms of ASD and illnesses that impact the brain.

According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of ASD are: 

A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction and communication skills, including any of these signs:

•Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times

•Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world

•Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression

•Doesn’t speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences

•Can’t start a conversation or keep one going, or only starts one to make requests or label items

•Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech

•Repeats words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them

•Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions

•Doesn’t express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others’ feelings

•Doesn’t point at or bring objects to share interest

•Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive

•Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people’s facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice

A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have limited, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities, including any of these signs:

•Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping

•Performs activities that could cause self-harm, such as biting or head-banging

•Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change

•Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes, and has odd, stiff or exaggerated body language

•Is fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn’t understand the overall purpose or function of the object

•Is unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature

•Doesn’t engage in imitative or make-believe play

•Fixates on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus

•Has specific food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or refusing foods with a certain texture (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928).

Comparing this list of symptoms to other brain disorders it became clear that ASD symptoms are most identical to the symptoms of encephalitis: “inflammation of the brain that occurs when a virus directly infects the brain or when a virus, vaccine, or something else triggers inflammation. The spinal cord may also be involved, resulting in a disorder called encephalomyelitis.” (https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/brain-infections/encephalitis) 

The most common symptoms of acute encephalitis are fever and chill; nausea and vomiting. Other signs include seizures, cranial nerve palsies, and focal cerebral signs. 

The development of brain oedema, or increased cerebral blood flow can increase intracranial pressure. 

Here I would like you to pay attention to cranial nerve palsies. Palsy is a medical term which refers to various types of paralysis, often accompanied by weakness and the loss of feeling and uncontrolled body movements. Lets look at functions of cranial nerves and what is affected when they are affected:

Cranial Nerve                         General Function

I       Olfactory                              Sense of Smell

II      Optic                                    Sight

III     Oculomotor                        Eye Movement

IV     Trochlear                            Eye Movement

V      Trigeminal                           Face: sensory, motor

VI     Abducens                            Eye Movement

VII    Facial                                   Face: Expression, and sensory

VIII   Vestibulocochlear             Hearing and Balance

IX     Glossopharyngeal              Tongue and Throat – motor and sensory

X      Vagus                                    Parasympathetic

XI     Accessory                            Head, neck, shoulder – movement and swallowing

XII    Hypoglossal                       Speech, Chewing and Swallowing  

If we look at ASD as a chronic inflammation of the brain we can see that all ASD symptoms listed above look exactly as signs of cranial nerve palsies due to inflammation process. 

What can trigger the inflammation of the brain? 

“Encephalitis represent a generalized infection of the parenchyma of the brain or spinal cord. It usually is caused by a virus, but it also may be caused by bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. The nervous system is subjected to invasion by many viruses, such as arbovirus, poliovirus, and rabies virus… A common cause of encephalitis in the United States is herpes simplex virus. Less common causes of encephalitis are toxic substances such as ingested lead and vaccines for measles and mumps… The pathologic picture of encephalitis includes local necrotising hemorrhage, which ultimately becomes generalized, with prominent oedema. There is progressive degeneration of nerve cell bodies. The histologic picture demonstrates some specific characteristics. For example, the poliovirus selectively destroys the cells of the anterior horn of spinal cord. Encephalitis, like meningitis, is characterized by fever, headache and nuchal rigidity. Patients experience a wide range of neurological disturbances, such as lethargy, disorientation, seizures, focal paralysis, delirium, and coma.”

                                                ~Essential of Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States

                                                                                                 by Carol M. Porth, RN, MSN, PhD 

Looking at autism as an inflammation of the brain opens up new ways of healing and allows to choose correct healing methods to bring down the inflammation and reduce or in some cases reverse ASD signs and symptoms. 

Unfortunately, traditional treatments of encephalitis are limited to antiviral agents, corticosteroids, anticonvulsant medications and painkillers. But there is no treatment options offered for ASD, except “stabilizing” solutions to lessen neurological or behavioural problems. According to Autism Canada: “There are widely differing opinions among researchers and experts regarding benefits and potential for harm when anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs and stimulant drugs are used for children with autism. All medications should be prescribed by and discussed in detail with a doctor who treats autism. People with autism often have very sensitive nervous systems and normally recommended dosages may need to be adjusted. When new drugs are being discussed or prescribed, ask about the safety of use in children with ASDs, appropriate dosage, how it is administered (pills, liquid), and any long-term consequences, side effects or monitoring needed. Sometimes there are laboratory tests required before starting the drug and during treatment. Also ask about any possible interactions with other drugs, vitamins or foods.” (https://autismcanada.org/living-with-autism/treatments/biomedical/medication/) 

Contrary to these solutions, as one of the healing modalities homeopathy can offer a number of remedies that are able to elevate inflammation of the brain and as a result elevate symptoms of ASD. Homeopathic remedies are prescribed according to individual symptoms of the disease.  They stimulate self-healing abilities of the organism to bring system back to its best health. 

As one of examples from my practice, the use of homeopathic remedy Helleborus Niger helped to bring down swelling of the head and convulsions while lying down on the side of the body for one of my patients, and signs and symptoms of ASD improved dramatically. Helleborus is known as a great remedy for brain disorders, dropsical swelling, convulsions, sensorial depression and general muscular weakness. Other remedies that I found helpful are Apis, Aconitum, Baryta Carbonica, Belladonna, Calcarea Carbonica, Hyosciamus, Lachesis, Phosphorus, Papaver and others.  

I always suggest to my patients that other healing modalities – nutrition, music therapy, sensory integration therapy, acupuncture, and massage can also be helpful. 

In conclusion, the non-traditional approach to understanding the causes and prescribing homeopathic remedies for the treatment of autism proves to be very effective and allows to achieve the results, which are sometimes beyond expectations. 

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