CHAPTER ONE: THE CHILDREN
New Haven, Connecticut
It was the most ordinary of family moments. the baby was just starting to talk, and Mom wanted a video of it.
Lynne Avram handed the video camera to her husband, and he started shooting the playful interactions between Lynne and the baby—chubby little Paul, with his bright eyes beaming–focusing almost entirely on his son, instead of his wife, as new fathers are prone to do. To him, and to Lynne, too, the baby—and every ordinary thing the baby did—was absolutely unprecedented. It was as if no child had ever before taken so majestic a first step, or burped so remarkably.
Dad narrated as he filmed. “This is the day before Paul’s very first birthday,” he said, getting a close-up of gleeful Paul, tottering around barefoot in his red-striped shirt. “Can you say hi, Paul?”
“Ha-ee! Ha-ee!” Paul responded, waving at the camera.
“Hi, sweetie!” said Lynne. “Hi-hi!”
Paul grinned at Lynne, and his face was lit with love, easy to read, in that striking nonverbal way that toddlers have of telling the world how they feel.
“Ha-ee, da-duh!” said Paul.
“Can you say, ‘Hi mama?’ ” Lynne asked.
Paul gazed happily at his mother, and brushed at his nose. His nose was a little runny. It had been runny for several days. Lately, he was picking up every cold that came around.
“Pauly,” said Lynne, “can you say ma-ma? Ma-ma?”
“You think this is pretty funny, huh?” Lynne said, laughing.
“Uh-uh!” said Paul, shaking his head emphatically. “Uh-uh!”
What a unique child! What an extraordinary family moment!
Truth be told, of course, it was all quite ordinary.
In the years to come, though, Lynne and her husband would watch this video many times.
It was a video of one of their last ordinary family moments.
Paul’s runny nose lingered for several days. Then he started to get better, but caught something else. Paul seemed to have a bad case of the common malady that parents call the day-care flu—catching every germ in town—even though Paul stayed at home with Lynne.
Paul, in fact, still had his cold on the day he was due for his next- to-last round of immunizations, at fourteen months. He needed a measles-mumps-rubella shot, and a booster to protect him against a form of meningitis.
Just before the appointment, Lynne called Paul’s doctor and asked if it was safe to give vaccines to kids when they were sick. The doctor told her not to worry—it happened all the time. If parents waited for perfect health in their toddlers, he said, the kids would never get all their shots. These days, he said, there were more shots than ever, and they were all important. Whole epidemics had been wiped out!
But Lynne still felt uneasy. Jittery. Couldn’t shake it. She was a registered nurse at a prominent hospital near the Yale University campus, and it seemed to her that it went against medical common sense to provoke a powerful immune response in a child whose immune system was already battered by illness. But she told herself that her fear was just garden-variety parental paranoia. After all, she worked with some of the finest physicians in America, and she had a flint- hard faith in their expertise. As a nurse in one of the world’s best coronary intensive care units, she regularly saw doctors snatch patients’ lives back from the shadow of death. They worked miracles.
So Paul got his shots, and everything was back to normal. Lynne and Paul went home and played. Later, Lynne made dinner for her husband, Wesley—who was a Communications professor at Yale Divinity School— even though she was exhausted. Getting simple chores done was tough with a baby in the house. But she knew it wouldn’t last. Kids grow up. Easier times were ahead.
Over the next few days, though, Paul’s nose and eyes grew disturbingly red, against his now ghostly skin. Dark circles began to droop under his inflamed eyes. Patches of scaly skin grew on his soft face. He no longer wanted to play. He was always tired and congested, irritable—not himself. Lynne told herself that she would have to wait a little longer for the easier days.
One evening, a couple of weeks after the immunizations, while waiting for Paul’s latest bout with a cold-bug to end, Lynne took him to the window and started to play a familiar game, in which she would point at something and say, “I see a tree”—prompting Paul to repeat “tree.”
“I see grass,” she said. But Paul didn’t seem interested.
“I see the sky.” No response.
“I see car-car. Car-car!” Nothing.
Paul was changing. Lynne didn’t want to believe it, but it was undeniable. The changes, frighteningly, did not seem to be just predictable responses to pervasive symptoms of colds and flu. Paul’s whole personality was changing. More precisely, it was just evaporating. His trademark mannerisms, his unique facial expressions, his words, his eye contact, his hugs and kisses, his lopsided grin: gone. His playfulness was gone. His child’s joy was gone. Replaced by nothing.
Paul couldn’t sleep through the night. He woke up screaming. His digestion and elimination suddenly soured, as if his belly were now filled with a wet, noxious mix of food and poison. It soaked his diapers and burned little lesions into his bottom, no matter how often Lynne changed him. His new nickname was Poopy Pauly.
He started to suffer from almost constant ear infections. The pain and the crying never seemed to let up. Wesley and Lynne took the relatively drastic step of having plastic tubes inserted into Paul’s ears to drain the congestion, but the infections just shifted to other areas, including his throat, lungs, and buttocks.
Instead of playing with his toys, Poopy Pauly started rambling around the house in a strange state of stupor that was punctuated by sudden meltdowns. He ignored everyone. Nothing penetrated—not love, not a raised voice, not constant attention. As Paul stumbled around the house, he would often bruise himself, but he didn’t seem to notice. Lynne could only follow in his wake, cleaning up his messes and keeping him safe.
Sometimes Paul drifted into what seemed to be his own mental purgatory, standing for hours in front of a running faucet on his spindly, weak legs, mesmerized by the water, acting almost as if he were high on drugs. Lynne and Wesley began to alternate on what they called Paul Duty. One would work or do chores while the other was on Paul Duty, then they’d switch, fall into bed, and wait for Paul to wake up screaming. Another month crept by, then another.
Lynne made a video approximately eight weeks after Paul’s immunizations, and it portrayed a child who was vastly different from the child in Paul’s first-birthday video. In the new video, Lynne coaxed Paul to interact, but he just sat mutely on the floor, drooling and wooden, his eyes vacant. At one point in the video, Wesley entered the room and said, “Hi, Paul.” But his voice sounded very different in this video. He spoke to Paul in a sad monotone, as if he expected no reply, the way one might speak to a person in a coma. After that, there weren’t many more videos.
Summer came and went, as Lynne embarked on a pilgrimage to the medical world. But no doctor offered a diagnosis or proposed a treatment. None would even confirm Lynne’s certainty that something dreadful was happening, and that her child should not be trying to eat Christmas tree decorations, or stick metal objects into electric outlets, or run away so often that they had to fence the yard and put locks on all the doors. She was told that kids developed at different paces. She was told that toddlers were a handful. She discovered that the medical world was much different for the patient than it was for the professional.
A year somehow crawled past, with Lynne constantly searching for signs of improvement, but never finding any. Family outings dwindled to trips to just one playground, which had a high enough fence to keep Poopy Pauly, still in diapers, safe.
After another exhausting summer, the holidays came. Theoretically. But there was no way to have a holiday in the Avram home. At Halloween, Paul—almost three now—was completely oblivious to the costumes and candy. Kids would come to the door and he wouldn’t even look up, so Lynne turned off the lights. Thanksgiving dinner, of course, was completely impossible with Paul in the house, and at Christmas Paul just tore open everyone’s packages, with no interest whatsoever in their contents. Normal activities ceased. Bike rides? Not possible. The movies? No way. The mall? Out of the question. Church, where Wesley was the minister? No—Lynne and Paul sat outside on the curb. Play dates? With whom? Paul Duty didn’t consist of play dates.
Ordinary family life was over, practically before it had begun.
Then one night Wesley was channel-surfing and came across a scene of a child staring hypnotically at water running out of a faucet—like Paul! It was a segment on Cable News Network. The moment it was over, Wesley hurried to his computer, dialed-up the relatively new Internet, and typed in A-U-T-I-S-M.
“Lynne. You’ve gotta look at this! I think Paul has autism.”
Lynne vaguely recalled hearing about autism in nursing school. Back then, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, autism was considered a very rare mental disorder, not nearly common enough to merit much study. Lynne hadn’t heard about it since. None of Paul’s doctors had ever mentioned it.
Lynne sat next to Wesley and they paged through the painfully slow Internet.
When they finished, Lynne felt sick. The symptoms of autism applied to Paul. Uniformly. Why had no one mentioned this?
Autism: incurable. Cause unknown. No medical treatments. Inability to communicate. Emotional sterility. Halfway houses. Institutionalization.
It was as if Paul, right then and there, had died. It was really that bad. Or—God help Paul—maybe even worse.
Lynne became, in her own words, The Crazy Mom. She began to confront doctors about why no medical treatments were available. They responded that some treatments actually were available, but that they were all psychological therapies, not biomedical treatments. Standard therapy consisted mostly of just behavior modification. Besides, the doctors said, Paul had not yet been formally diagnosed as autistic. That could not happen until he was slightly older, and by then he might outgrow his quirky behaviors, and learn to speak, look at people, and use the toilet. Remember, they said, Albert Einstein was a late bloomer!
What about the physical symptoms, Lynne asked—the digestive disorders, the diarrhea, the persistent eczema, the recurrent infections, the poor muscle tone? The doctors said that none of that was pertinent. Autism, they reiterated, was a psychiatric disorder, defined by behavioral characteristics. They assured Lynne, though, that she shouldn’t blame herself, because poor parenting had recently been ruled out as a cause. For many years, they said, doctors had thought that kids became autistic because their mothers were emotionally frigid—“refrigerator mothers,” in the psychiatric lexicon. In these more sophisticated times, they said, it had become apparent that autism was simply genetic, and therefore inevitable for a tiny percentage of children.
But if it were strictly genetic, Lynne argued, Paul would presumably have been born with some of its symptoms, when in fact he had been quite normal his first year. To which the doctors responded, in effect: No, he was never normal, but Crazy Moms who can’t handle the reality of this tragedy just see what they need to see.
One thing they did recommend was that Lynne carry a card, the size of a business card, that briefly explained autism, and could be handed to people in public situations when Paul went wild.
Lynne sometimes broached the subject of immunizations causing autism— which was mentioned on the Internet—but most doctors patiently explained that this theory was a myth, invented by distraught parents. Other doctors were quite condescending about the theory to Lynne, even though she was a medical professional who could speak their language. A few doctors, particularly pediatricians, got angry about it. Pediatricians administer most immunizations, and some of them seemed to take it personally when Lynne raised doubts. It’s not the shots, they insisted.
Then why, Lynne asked, did there now appear to be a virtual epidemic of autism—with rates soaring far beyond those of her nursing school years? And why did that epidemic appear to start right around 1991, when a whole new batch of vaccinations had been mandated? The answer was quite simple, most of the doctors replied. There was no epidemic. Just better diagnosis.
Their essential message was: Give up. Accept it. Move on. But Lynne kept swallowing her pride and plugging away. She and Wesley spent over $100,000 on behavioral and educational therapies, which decimated their finances, and did little good.
Then one day, through a network of parents who had autistic kids, Lynne heard about a dietary approach. It consisted of eliminating most grains, along with milk products.
It sounded rather simplistic to Lynne. But what did she have to lose? She tried it. A few days later she woke up—and it was morning. Paul had slept through the night.
The next day, while they were riding on a bus, Paul looked at Lynne— right in her eyes—and said, “I hungry.” He was there.
“Paul? What? Hungry?”
He was gone again.
Lynne turbocharged her efforts to find a medical treatment for autism, and discovered a nurse in New Jersey who knew more about the disease than anyone Lynne had ever met. “There’s a doctor you should consult,” the nurse said. “He’s in a little town called Rhinebeck, up in New York. His name is Ken Bock.”
“Does he have a treatment?”
“He has recoveries.”
Syracuse, New York
When the ugly rash on Kevin Densak’s head and back hit the one-year mark, his mother knew she needed to find a new doctor. She had already seen a dozen doctors about Kevin’s rash, and his other problems, including hyperactivity and chronic diarrhea, but nobody knew what to do. The dermatologist had given Kevin a cream for the rash, the pediatric gastroenterologist had prescribed a thick white liquid for the diarrhea, and the family doctor had given Kevin medication for the hyperactivity, but nothing had achieved lasting results. The treatments for some problems had even made others worse.
The doctors had put two diagnostic labels on Kevin: ADHD, and Asperger’s syndrome, which is a type of autism. But the labels hadn’t helped him heal.
Kevin’s rash of red, circular welts blanketed his back, and was starting to migrate to his neck and head. It was making his hair fall out, and was creeping into the corners of his eyes. His preschool teacher told Kevin’s mom, Denise, that if it got worse, Kevin would have to leave school. But Denise knew that Kevin needed the structure of that school. Two years earlier–right after his measles shot–he had suddenly become almost uncontrollable. He now careened around in whirlwinds of pointless motion, destroying things, angering people, not listening, and losing his temper. He was a wreck, and he was getting worse as he grew older, not better. Lately, he was waking up at 4:00 A.M. every night, laughing hysterically. It was chilling to be awakened in the dark by that laugh.
One weekend, Denise drove all the way to Boston to attend a conference on hyperactive kids.
At registration, Denise asked a coordinator which speeches she would suggest.
“You should definitely go to this one,” the coordinator said. “It’s by Dr. Kenneth Bock. You’ll hear things you’ve never heard before.”
Livingston, New York
It was the worst night ever for little Keri O’Mara, and that meant it was the worst night ever for her mom, too. To Keri’s mom, Donna, the only thing worse than the suffering of a child was the pain of the parent who had to watch it.
Keri’s eyes were wide with fear and hurt as she fought for air. Donna held her, trying to somehow absorb some of Keri’s pain into herself, and trying to transfer some of her own strength into her little girl.
For the past hour, ever since Keri had awakened in the middle of the night wheezing, she had been struggling to force enough breath into her lungs to keep from passing out. If she blacked out, there was always the chance, with asthma as severe as hers, that she would die. Keri’s diaphragm and chest were exhausted, and exhaustion is the leading cause of death from asthma.
To Keri, it felt to her as if someone were smothering her with a wet pillow. Keri felt the shock of this slow drowning all over her body, even in her toes and face, which were beginning to turn purple. The pain in her chest–the one that she called the zipper pain, because it felt as if her lungs were zipped shut–was worse than ever. It was even worse than it had been during the times when her chronic lung infections had flamed into full-blown pneumonia, causing her chest to gurgle with algae-colored mucus.
Was it time to rush Keri to the hospital? Donna didn’t know. The doctors there couldn’t do much more than she could do here, with the nebulizer, the inhaler, and the standard meds.
Donna shepherded Keri to the bathroom and blasted hot steam into the bathtub as Keri hunched over the sink. Keri vomited from the congestion in her throat and from the spasms that choked her chest. Her red, curly hair stuck to her chalky face.
When Keri’s stomach was empty the vomiting subsided, and she started getting a few gulps of air. Then a few more.
When it was over, Donna lay in bed with her eyes open, listening to Keri’s room with the baby monitor. It was quiet, but Donna kept getting up to check. Quiet might not be good.
The next morning, Keri’s pediatrician, a doctor Donna genuinely loved for the times he’d saved Keri from acute crisis, looked sad and bewildered.
“I can’t help anymore,” he said. “I need to refer you to a colleague. He seems to help kids that nobody else can. He mostly works with autism, but he gets results with asthma, too. And he’s close. Up in Rhinebeck.”
Rhinebeck, New York
I arrived at my office early in the morning, as usual, but by the time I got there, the waiting room was a scene of controlled chaos, as it often is, with autistic kids and hyperactive kids bouncing around, heedless of their mothers’ admonitions, and asthmatic and allergic kids coughing and wheezing.
“Dr. Bock,” my receptionist said, “your first patient is ready. It’s Paul Avram. He’s here with his mother, Lynne.”
Little Paul Avram was very withdrawn when he and Lynne sat down in my office for his first visit. He wouldn’t look at me. His eyes were dead as marbles.
This was a few years ago. It was at the same time that I also met Keri O’Mara and Kevin Densak. I recall that it seemed slightly unusual to be seeing only kids from my own part of the country, because I tend to treat children from all over America and throughout the world. When I first opened my clinic with my brother Steven, about twenty years ago, I would never have predicted that we would someday have an international clientele, but that’s how it’s turned out. Families come from afar to see me because, over the years, I have developed a very special treatment program: a biomedical program for autism. This same program has also been extremely successful for children with ADHD, asthma, and life-threatening allergies.
These four disorders–the 4-A disorders–are the new childhood epidemics. All four can destroy children’s lives.
Just when modern medicine had almost eradicated the traditional childhood epidemics of measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, polio, and tetanus, these even more insidious new disorders began to haunt our children with unprecedented occurrence.
The end of one set of epidemics and the beginning of the other was not a coincidence. The medical technology that defeated the old epidemics was created by America’s burgeoning industrialism, and this industrialism also created the ubiquitously toxic environment that has indirectly triggered the new epidemics.
Furthermore, the immunizations that were directly responsible for ending the old epidemics were also directly responsible for helping to create the new ones. The newspaper reports and parents’ accusations that you may have heard are true: Vaccinations, administered with toxic levels of mercury in them, helped cause an epidemic of autism. They also contributed to the new epidemics of ADHD, asthma, and allergies.
The tragic irony of this would be overwhelming, except for a single, salient fact: The new epidemics can be defeated. They are epidemics of metabolic dysfunction and toxicity, and they can be overcome by rebalancing the metabolism, and reversing that toxicity.
Most doctors don’t yet realize this. Some doctors, however, do realize it, and I have worked with these doctors to develop a new pediatric Healing Program, which has had unprecedented success. By reversing metabolic dysfunction and reducing toxicity, I have helped a robust percentage of my young patients to achieve remarkable improvement, and even full recoveries.
Treating these four new epidemics is quite complex, and can often be baffling. However, in plain English:
Autism can be reversed, especially in young children who regress after a period of apparent normalcy. The conventional belief that it is biomedically untreatable is wrong. Children with other disorders on the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome, can also greatly benefit.
ADHD can be reversed in many children, without Ritalin or other drugs that may have significant risks of adverse effects, and be required throughout life.
Asthma can be reversed, even when it is so severe that it’s potentially fatal. Asthma is generally caused by many of the same factors that cause autism and ADHD.
• Allergies can be reversed, relieving kids of terrible symptoms that make them miserable, stunt their development, and sometimes even kill them. Allergies also contribute to full-blown autism, ADHD, and asthma.
I know that these reversals can occur, because I have helped to make them occur a great many times.
As I developed my Healing Program, I also became aware of another fact that is still unknown to the majority of physicians: There is a powerful link–of both cause and recovery–among autism, ADHD, asthma, and allergies. To most casual observers, and even to most doctors, these 4-A conditions appear to be largely unrelated. However, beneath the surface there is an unmistakable, unshakable web of interrelationship among the 4-A disorders, characterized primarily by toxicity in the brain and body, which causes metabolic dysfunction. For example, food allergies–which can profoundly affect the brain–can grossly exacerbate not just autistic symptoms, but also ADHD symptoms, and also asthma. In addition, severe ADHD can so closely mimic autism that I personally have come to consider severe ADHD as part of the autism spectrum. Also, simple deficiencies in brain nutrition, caused by our unhealthy and often toxic food supply, can contribute to the onset of not only full-blown autism, but also ADHD, allergies, and asthma.
The causal links among these disorders go on and on. These links even extend, to a significant degree, to other modern childhood epidemics, including those of learning disabilities, depression, teen suicide, substance abuse, speech pathologies, diabetes, childhood obesity, and recurrent ear infections. It is not your imagination: All of these problems are on the rise, some are running wild, and many are intimately related.
Because there is such a strong common denominator of toxicity and metabolic failure among the 4-A disorders, there are many common traits and experiences among the children who suffer from these disorders. When I first meet these children and their parents, they often seem to feel completely isolated, as if their ordeals are cruelly unique. But even during that first visit, they usually begin to see that they are not alone.
If a child you love has one of these problems, this program can probably help your family, too. We’re all in this together. We all love our children. And we can defeat the disorders that are limiting their lives.
CHAPTER TWO : THE HEALING PROGRAM
I live my professional life in an atmosphere permeated by pain, working with families who are still often shocked by the depths of their own suffering. But I also work in an atmosphere that is charged with the most generous and powerful form of love that exists, the love of a parent for a child. The moms and dads I meet, like so many parents, would gladly take on all of their children’s pain, if only it were possible. Love is the only thing that brings children to my office. The parents I meet are extraordinary.
When I break through the barrier of aloneness that surrounds these parents, I never forget the experience. I still remember Lynne Avram’s first visit quite distinctly.
She and I began to go through my standard work-up. It covers the fundamental physical aspects of autism, which have traditionally been ignored in conventional autism treatment.
“Has Paul had bowel problems? Chronic diarrhea?”
“Yes, chronic diarrhea.”
“When did this begin?”
“Right after his MMR shot, March before last.”
“Was he sick when he had that immunization?”
“He had a cold. They said it didn’t matter.”
“And did he get sick more frequently after that?”
“Does he often show signs of inflammation?”
“Yes, in his ears, his skin, and his bottom.”
“Food allergies? Food cravings?”
“Definitely allergic to dairy and wheat. Loves his chicken nuggets. Is all this common? ”
“It seems to be.”
She told me more about Paul’s life–the story I told you–and by the end of it I was certain that Paul had a clear case of regressive autism, a disorder in which children begin to develop normally, but then regress severely after a sudden assault upon their vulnerable, undeveloped systems. Regressive autism is the type of autism that has soared in incidence over the past twenty years. It now accounts for the vast majority of all current cases. The incidence of kids actually being born with autistic symptoms, which is known as classic autism, is still extremely rare.
In Paul’s case, as in those of many autistic kids, one of the primary assaults on his system was probably from vaccinations that contained high levels of toxic mercury. This assault appeared to have harmed his brain and the rest of his body. The net result was chronic physical distress, accompanied by profound, secondary psychiatric symptoms. Autism is still classified as strictly a psychiatric disorder, but that’s a diagnostic error. It certainly doesn’t start from emotional problems. It starts from physical harm to the brain. Therefore, it’s actually a neurological disorder. More specifically, it’s a neurotoxic disorder, because it’s caused primarily by the presence of destructive elements that injure the brain:
Immune cells that attack the brain.
These harmful forces wreak havoc upon the brain, and also cause terrible damage to the rest of the body. They are especially damaging to the very sensitive gastrointestinal systems and immune systems of young children. That is why I consider autism to be a three-faceted illness, with direct damage to:
The immune system.
The gastrointestinal system.
The nervous system.
After these three systems have been damaged, they begin to further injure one another, in a vicious spiral of interwoven destruction. This destruction includes:
Inflammation of the brain and gut.
Viral infiltration of the brain and gut.
Severe nutritional deficiencies.
Food reactions that have neurological consequences.
Autoimmune attacks upon the brain and body.
Immune system overactivity and underactivity.
Undernourished muscle tissue.
Unfortunately, most of these problems can not be easily observed. All that can be readily seen is the behavior that they cause.
I have trained myself to be a medical detective, however, and to see beneath the surface of this behavior, and solve the underlying root problems that result in the misclassified, misunderstood, dooming diagnosis of autism.
As Lynne and I talked, Paul stared off into space, oblivious to us and to the toys that are in my office. He kept repeating the same gesture with his hands again and again, an autistic trait that’s called stimming, because it stimulates these children’s brains. He also kept saying the same sound repeatedly, which is known as perseveration. Doing this seems to bring some sense of order to the chaos in these kids’ minds. His belly was bloated, his eyes were watery, and he had poor muscle tone. But other than that, he was an adorable-looking little kid, with a sweet face, and I took an immediate liking to him, as I do to most kids. I believed I could help him, because his problems were so similar to those of other kids I’ve helped. Of course, by conventional medical standards, his recovery would be an absolute impossibility. However, the kids I work with often seem to achieve the impossible, no matter how hard it is for them. They’re great kids.
Paul–the real Paul–was in that tortured little body somewhere, lost and alone, sad, scared, with an inflamed belly, a sore throat, a raw butt, aching muscles, a stuffy nose, a confused mind, and no way to tell his mom. He lived in a world of pain. But he lived in a world of love, too. That was easy to see. Lynne watched him tenderly, then looked at the floor and said softly, more to herself than me, “How did this happen?”
How It Happened
Contrary to conventional medical wisdom, the cause of autism is not primarily genetic, but is a complex combination of genetics and environment. Genetics, so to speak, load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.
Genetics alone don’t cause epidemics. Genetics are essentially constant from one generation to the next. Epidemics occur when genetic vulnerabilities are assaulted by environmental changes–introductions of a new virus, a new bacteria, or a new toxin.
The current rates of autism and the other 4-A disorders are now undeniably epidemic.
Autism has increased, according to most estimates, from approximately one in every 2,500 to 10,000 births to one in every 150—166 births, over just the past twenty years. This is a fifteen-fold to sixty-fold increase: 1,500 percent to 6,000 percent. Now at least a half-million American children have autism-spectrum disorders, and some experts believe it to be as high as 1.5 million. Better diagnosis does not account for this, because the diagnostic criteria have not changed significantly for many years. Besides, if this epidemic were just a matter of more accurate diagnosis during childhood, where are all the thirty-year-old autistics?
ADHD has increased by at least 400 percent over the same twenty years. Now, 3.5 million children suffer from it. The very worst symptoms of ADHD are similar to those of children on the autism spectrum. American kids now consume 90 percent of the world’s Ritalin, the most popular ADHD medication.
Asthma has increased by 300 percent over the same time period, and asthma deaths have increased by 56 percent, despite improvements in acute crisis care. Now 6 million American kids have asthma.
Allergies have increased by 400 percent over this period. Now approximately 20 percent of all kids have some type of allergy. Peanut allergy, one of the most common fatal food allergies, has more than doubled since 1997. Two hundred people, many of them children, now die from food allergies every year.
Add together all of the children who have these disorders, and it comes to 20 million kids, or almost one-third of all American children. Of these 20 million, at least 10 million have serious problems: autism-spectrum disorders, ADHD, asthma, or severe allergies. These conditions limit their lives, define their identities, and haunt their families.
These new childhood epidemics were caused primarily by four fundamental, catastrophic changes in the environments of American children. I am convinced that I now know what these changes were, because of the clinical successes I have achieved by addressing the damage done by the changes.
THE FOUR CATASTROPHIC CHANGES
1. Toxins Proliferated. Over the past 20 years, our water has become so increasingly polluted with hydrocarbons, pathogens, and waste that many people now buy it in bottles. Our air has been saturated with mercury from coal-burning plants, with IQ-damaging lead, with diesel exhaust (which is particularly linked to autism), and with other pollutants. In some cities, such as Leominster, Massachusetts, open smokestacks have created “autism clusters” of extremely high incidence. Furthermore, our oceans are so full of poison, especially mercury, that it’s now unsafe to eat more than one can of tuna per week. Also, our foods have been fouled with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics to a level that was unheard of twenty years ago. The total toxic burden on the average American is measurably higher than it was even ten years ago.
2. Nutrition Deteriorated. The average intake of essential nutrients has steadily declined since the 1980s, and the eating of unhealthy foods has increased. Children, significantly more than adults, have been lured into the seductive sump of fast foods and processed foods. Obvious results, including obesity, are less destructive than subtle metabolic damage, which contributes to the 4-A disorders. Without the right nutrients, the body can’t properly protect, detoxify, or restore itself.
3. Vaccinations Increased. They doubled in number since 1991, which increased the load of toxic mercury, increased the frequency, and increased the probability of children receiving multiple vaccines in a single injection. Mercury has now been removed from most vaccinations. Many integrative physicians believe, however, that damage has already been done, although this perspective is controversial.
4. Ability to Detoxify Dwindled. The toxins that entered children’s bodies over the past ten to fifteen years became more likely to stay there, due particularly to damage among millions of children to two important detoxification processes known as methylation and sulfation, which are responsible for removing mercury and other toxins. Ironically, a gross overload of mercury debilitates the process of methylation. Therefore, the increased presence of mercury, from the environment and vaccinations, has robbed many children of this protective process. My colleagues and I have learned how to restore it, though, and to help kids once again experience what I call the miracle of methylation.
These four catastrophic changes created a veritable perfect storm of physical and neurological insult, which struck hardest at our society’s most vulnerable members: our children.
Adults have suffered, too, as is apparent in the rising rates of cancers linked specifically to toxins, such as bladder cancer and lymphoma. But kids, with their smaller bodies and immature metabolisms, have absorbed a disproportionate blow. As evidenced by the new childhood epidemics, children are our society’s proverbial canaries in the coal mine, the probable harbingers of increased, widespread illness among all Americans in the future.
If any one of these four deadly changes had been avoided, the epidemics might not have occurred. The most easily avoidable, and therefore the most tragic, was the increase in immunizations, and the way these immunizations were administered. This was a classic example of a horrific mistake that seemed like a good idea at the time.
In 1991 the federal government, with seemingly good intentions, recommended inauguration of a new series of immunizations, for hepatitis-B, to begin on a child’s day of birth. A year later the government added three new shots for a potent form of meningitis. In response to these recommendations, the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry began to increase the use of multiple vaccinations in single injections to save time and money, and to ensure better compliance. Later, the government began to recommend annual flu shots containing mercury to all children who were six months or older, and to pregnant women.
This doubled the number of immunizations from eleven to twenty-two in a child’s first eighteen months, and crammed them much closer together, which increased the vaccinations’ toxic burden.
Most of these vaccinations contained a form of mercury called thimerosal, which is a preservative. It’s long been known that mercury is the second most toxic substance on earth, after uranium, and is especially damaging to the human nervous system, because it tends to selectively lodge in brain tissue.
These extra vaccinations gave kids too much mercury. Even just the three vaccinations given to two-month-old infants contained 99 times more mercury than the Environmental Protection Agency regards as safe. The amount of mercury given to newborns on their first day of life was 36 times too much.
In addition, the viral material in the vaccinations can be toxic by itself, when immunizations are given in excess, or over too short of a time period, or to a child with an already compromised immune system. The viruses, plus the mercury, combine to create a double hit against the immune system, which can skew its normal function, making it too inactive to respond properly to even weakened viruses, or so overactive that it attacks healthy cells, including brain cells.
Astonishingly, no one in a position of authority, it now appears, ever made these simple observations about toxicity, or added the cumulative totals of mercury. Furthermore, no one made allowances for important extraneous factors, such as a child’s illness at the time of vaccination, or the presence of other toxins that the child may have been exposed to.
The risks of the new vaccination programs were not brought to the attention of the public until years later, when journalists and public health advocates, including David Kirby, Dr. Stephanie Cave, Dr. Sidney Baker, and Robert Kennedy Jr., began to write about them.
By that time, terrible damage had been done. This lack of recognition by the medical authorities had caused a medical tragedy of historic proportions, which may even exceed other tragedies that have been caused by pharmaceutical medication, including the recent deaths of thousands of people from arthritis drugs and pain medications.
When legions of parents began to complain that their children had become ill soon after their vaccinations, while still controversial, the government studied the situation and in 2001 began to gradually phase thimerosal out of the vaccinations. Even with this gradual removal, however, the damage was done. Now there are countless new cases of autism, with more emerging every day, and there are also millions of other children with very serious cases of the other 4-A disorders, which are also partly due to the unsafe vaccinations.
Furthermore, the government still allows thimerosal to be put into flu vaccines, and still recommends these vaccines be given to children and pregnant women. In addition, health authorities still cling to the accelerated schedule of immunizations.
Despite all this, I am absolutely not anti-vaccination. I am simply in favor of safer vaccinations, administered properly, to healthy children, without thimerosal, over an extended time period. In this book, I will tell you about safer ways to have your children vaccinated. Please see Appendix #1 for more information.
The vaccinations, though, are by no means the only reason for the onset of the autism epidemic, or the other 4-A epidemics. The widespread exposure to environmental toxins from food, water, and air are a huge part of our current problem. Genetics are also partly responsible, and so is inadequate intake of detoxifying nutrients. All of these factors, working together, created this problem.
The problem, though, is not the focus of this book. The focus is the solution: the Healing Program.
THE HEALING PROGRAM
The Healing Program creates recoveries by:
Eliminating further exposure to toxins.
Flushing existing toxins out of the system, primarily by detoxification, and by restoring the miracle of methylation.
Healing the damage that the toxins have triggered.
Restoring proper function of the nervous system, the immune system, and the gastrointestinal system.
All of these goals must be met for recovery to occur, and only a comprehensive program can achieve this. Because my Healing Program is so multifaceted, it can help kids recover from not just autism, but also ADHD, Asperger’s, asthma, and allergies, all of which have so many causal links.
Not all kids, however, need to follow every element of the program to recover. If a child’s condition is relatively mild–such as a single food allergy or occasional asthma–the program can be simple. It might consist of just eliminating a particular food and taking some supplements. If the problem is more critical–such as autism, severe asthma, or life-threatening food allergies–the child may need to strictly follow a detailed program. That’s what little Paul Avram had to do. But Paul and his parents, like so many of the families I work with, were fantastic about following the program.
The Healing Program consists of four synergistic elements. Following is a shorthand version of it. I’ll give you all the details later.
THE HEALING PROGRAM
1. Nutritional Therapy
Whole, organic, nutrient-dense foods must be eaten. Children must exclude tuna; avoid any meats that have been treated with arsenic, hormones, and antibiotics; and restrict foods with pesticides and herbicides. Wholesome foods have an extraordinary ability to restore proper metabolic function.
No allergenic foods may be eaten. This includes foods that cause the sometimes more subtle reactions of food sensitivities and food intolerances. These allergenic foods can wreak havoc upon the brain.
Yeast-proliferating foods must be avoided by some children, because excess yeast, or candida, acting as a fungus in the intestines, harms digestion and sends toxins to the body and brain.
Gluten-free, casein-free foods must be eaten by the children who react to gluten and casein. This means no wheat, and no dairy products. In some kids, these foods cause horrible neurological and gastrointestinal problems.
• Carbohydrates are limited for some kids, to stabilize their blood sugar, and to improve the health of their gastrointestinal systems. Low blood sugar can trigger some autistic and ADHD symptoms.
2. Supplementation Therapy
Detoxifying supplements, such as methyl-B-12, folinic acid, and dimethylglycine, are tremendous for restoring the detoxifying process of methylation.
Metabolism-supporting supplements, such as multivitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acid supplements, kick-start the body’s repair.
Energizing supplements, such as carnitine and coenzyme Q10, stimulate the proper function of energy-deprived cells in the body and brain, and help overcome autistic and ADHD symptoms.
Herbal supplements help kill the fungi, parasites, and bacteria that attack the gastrointestinal tract and nervous system.
Probiotics, such as acidophilus, restore proper digestion, and control yeast overgrowth.
Brain-supporting supplements, such as phosphatidylcholine and amino acids, improve cognition and mood.
Chelation therapy, an FDA-approved procedure for removing some heavy metals, has triggered many recoveries by eliminating excessive mercury and lead.
The miracle of methylation, once restored, rescues innumerable children from severe problems. It can be boosted not only by supplements, but also by subcutaneous and intravenous administration of specific substances. So can the similar process of sulfation.
• Stimulating the organs of detoxification and elimination, including the liver, kidneys, colon, and skin, is very important, and can be achieved with uncomplicated lifestyle techniques, such as drinking extra fluids, and increasing a child’s degree of sweating and detoxification with far-infrared saunas. As toxins exit the body, changes in behavior and cognitive ability frequently occur.
Antifungals, such as fluconazole, kill the yeast and other fungi that can harm digestion and send disruptive partial-proteins and other toxins from the gut to the brain.
Antibiotics can help kill the bacteria lodged in the gut that can impair immunity, and can trigger autoimmune responses. Certain antibiotics also kill neurotoxic bacteria.
Antivirals can help overcome the various viruses that disrupt proper neurological, gastrointestinal, and immune function.
Anti-inflammatories can directly fight inflammation in the brain, and also can decrease gastrointestinal tract inflammation, which can strongly contribute to impaired cognitive function.
Highly individualized medications help various patients. These can include drugs ranging from psychoactive medications to antihistamines. There is no single magic bullet for any of the 4-A disorders, but a carefully chosen and monitored medication program can be a valuable contributor to healing.
This Healing Program, along with behavioral and educational interventions, are the treatments most kids need in order to recover, except for one other thing: their parents’ love. Love–and all the attention, talking, teaching, helping, and work that comes with it–is the final element that brings these recovering children out of darkness, into light.
It was love, ultimately, that held the key to Paul Avram’s recovery.
CHAPTER THREE: THE RESULTS
I knew paul avram was lost in the unlit chaos of his own mind, but I didn’t know quite how lost until I studied his lab work–work that no other doctor had yet performed. His mercury level was literally off the charts. He also had high levels of arsenic, as well as elevated cadmium, aluminum, and tin. In addition, he had enough lead to significantly lower his IQ. People often seem to think that kids need to eat paint chips to have high levels of lead, but that was only true in the long-ago days of fewer environmental pollutants. Previous testing had shown that even though Paul mostly avoided dairy products, he still had enough maldigested partial-proteins from milk in his system to create pseudo-morphines, which can be so intoxicating that they make kids space-out into their own inner worlds, and become fascinated by mundane things, such as running water or the movements of their own hands.
Paul’s overall metabolism was just a mess. He had numerous food allergies, gross deficiencies of many nutrients, and excesses of others. All of this was combining to bombard his brain and his body in endless cascades of related dysfunction. Despite the roundness of his yeast-infested, allergy-inflamed belly, the cells in his body and brain were starving. It was a wonder that he had any energy at all, or any ability to focus.
However, these were all problems that could be fixed.
Not easily, though. That was up to Lynne, and the strength of her love. She later told me that when she left my office that day, she felt totally overwhelmed by the changes she would have to make. She said that on the way home she felt like having a nervous breakdown. But then Paul would be stranded. She postponed it.
Gradually, though, the changes in diet, supplementation, detoxification, and medication began to take traction, as they generally do when moms, dads, and kids start fighting this disorder as if it were death itself. A few isolated words came. Touches. Looks. Play. Paul was still Paul, struggling to stay alive inside the solitary confinement of his own mind– and he was beginning to occasionally come outside of himself.
Paul had first seen me in the summer, when he was three, and by Halloween he was cognizant enough to go to the door and hand out candy. Lynne was thrilled by this simple act of normalcy. Shortly after that she and Paul drove up for another office visit.
He still looked lost, and he couldn’t converse. His belly was bloated, and his diarrhea, which had abated, was back. He was fidgety, stimmy, and his eyes wandered aimlessly. But Lynne was buoyant about his improvement, and that was encouraging. Moms know.
I adjusted his program once again, adding several new nutrients, some of which are known to significantly boost the detoxifying process of methylation. Methylation is so powerful! I also recommended the use of chelation therapy, in which a substance called DMSA is administered, to help flush out heavy metals. In addition, I began to give Paul the medication known as secretin, which is a neurohormone that has many receptors in the brain’s amygdala, a primary memory center that is closely linked to fear and to understanding facial expressions. In the late 1990s, a doctor had achieved some amazing results with secretin, and had promoted it as a magic bullet against autism. However, when studies were done, they were understandably inconclusive, since there is no single, isolated substance that can overcome this complex disorder.
More changes! More words. Better eye contact. Better behavior. More emotion. Increasingly complex thought processes began to occur, as Paul’s educational therapy finally began to penetrate his mind.
On Paul’s fourth Halloween, he dressed up in a costume and went trick-or-treating for the first time. It was a magical night for Lynne and Wesley. After so many years of Paul Duty, they were beginning to feel as if they had the chance to have a normal son. A normal family. A normal life.
Lynne brought Paul to see me right after Halloween, about eighteen months after his first visit. Paul was very introverted, emotionally flat, and evasive. He still had some skin problems, he had significant abdominal bloating, he suffered from poor digestion, and he had a tendency to tantrum. But before he left, Paul spoke to me. He pointed to the room in which he’d first had secretin administered, and said, haltingly, “I wanna feel better. In that room.” Lynne was so proud of him. I was proud of both of them.
Right after Christmas, though, Lynne called in a panic. Paul was regressing, she said. He was losing his newfound ability to converse. He was turning into the old Paul. He threw fits. His stomach was grossly distended. He was pale, with dark circles under his eyes. Lynne and Wesley were back on Paul Duty.
It was bad news. The worst. What was happening? Had he just eaten more Christmas candy than he could handle? Or had something more threatening happened? I couldn’t be certain.
Lynne made it very clear, though, that even with this setback, she considered Paul’s treatment to have been extremely successful. Prior to it, he had been largely vacant from his own life, and now he had a life. Helping severely autistic children to at last reach out of their painful haze and be part of the world is always a blessing to the kids and their families. Even just helping a twelve-year-old autistic boy to finally get out of diapers can make a huge difference in the lives of that boy and his mom and dad.
I always hope for complete recovery, of course. That’s the goal. But I’m always grateful for whatever degree of recovery the kids achieve. And their parents are invariably even more grateful.
Keri and Kevin
When you’re a clinician, as I am, you can’t allow yourself to become overly preoccupied with just one case, even one as important as Paul’s, because too many other people depend upon you. Keri O’Mara and Kevin Densak were, during this same time, depending completely on me to help them recover from their respective cases of severe asthma and ADHD. Compared to Paul’s situation, these kids’ problems were less clinically complex, but to these children and their families, recovery meant everything.
Keri, whose asthma was so severe that it was life threatening, went on the Healing Program right around the time Paul did. Keri, of course, didn’t have an autism-spectrum disorder, but labels like autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD don’t describe the real, root problems that most kids have. The real root causes of most of the 4-A disorders are metabolic dysfunction and elevated toxicity. At first, Keri had many of these same metabolic and toxic problems as Paul, though they had manifested themselves as asthma, instead of autism. Keri, I discovered, had food allergies that were so severe that they clogged her lungs with mucus. At one point the congestion was so out of control that Keri was tested for cystic fibrosis. The test was negative, but the doctors who administered it neglected to test her for the much more common condition of allergy. Modern medicine is often myopic, with doctors seeing the world only through the lens of their own specialty. Unfortunately, the new childhood epidemics are invariably caused by multiple factors, and require generalism, not specialism.
Keri’s other problems included poor digestion, which was linked to her allergies. She also had a deficit of calcium, which was related to both poor digestion and to allergies. Furthermore, she suffered from severe inflammation, which was related to everything.
The key to treating Keri, as it is with practically every child I see, was to treat the whole person. Doctors need to treat the person that has the disease, not the disease that has the person.
After less than a year on the Healing Program, Keri’s asthma went away almost entirely. It never came back, except for one minimal episode when she had bronchitis. Her health is now excellent, and she’s finally free of the fear that just catching a cold could kill her.
I’m still in touch with Keri’s mom, Donna, who says that Keri only vaguely remembers the crying at night, the choking, the vomiting, the “zipper pain,” the gasping, and the burning feeling in her lungs. But Donna remembers every moment of it, and that makes every moment now that much better.
Kevin Densak, who’d been labeled with ADHD and Asperger’s, was somewhat harder to treat. When he first saw me, he was still waking up in the middle of the night laughing hysterically, which was very disturbing to his mother, Denise. It was hard to even run simple tests on him, because he was always bouncing off the walls.
Kevin had many of the same problems that affect most of the kids I treat. He was very sensitive to wheat, gluten, corn, soy, and dairy. His previous testing had missed these sensitivities, though, because it had consisted of a standard allergy test that I consider incomplete for food reactions.
In addition, Kevin had a streptococcus bacterial infection, which was triggering an attack upon his brain. The name of the infectious disorder was PANDAS, which stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus. Many doctors are not familiar with it, but I’ve treated a number of kids who’ve had it. I gave Kevin the antibiotic Zithromax, followed by a long-term course of preventive antibiotics, and it really helped quell the infection and calm him down. I had to do this very carefully, though, because antibiotics are often harmful for kids with ADHD, Asperger’s, and autism, because they kill healthy bacteria and promote yeast overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract. They can also increase mercury toxification. In fact, it’s not uncommon for kids to first show symptoms of autism-spectrum disorders after they’ve gone on a long course of antibiotics. To prevent the possibility of the antibiotics causing yeast overgrowth, or intestinal candidiasis, I gave Kevin the antifungal drug nystatin.
Kevin also went on a low carbohydrate diet, and took a form of B-12 called methylcobalamin, or methyl-B-12, which revives the miraculous process of methylation.
The last time I saw Kevin, he gave me a dazzling grin, sat down, and said, “Hi, Dr. Bock.” I had a nice conversation with him, as one might with any well-behaved child. He was delightful to be around.
His mother, Denise, recently told me that Kevin still has to watch his diet, but that he never fights her about it, or sneaks food. On Halloween, he goes trick-or-treating, hands his candy to Denise, and says, “Give this to my brothers.” How could you not love a kid like that?
I was right, thank God, about Paul’s Christmastime regression. It was due to candy and cookies. Autistic kids are so sensitive.
Lynne redoubled her efforts, and the changes came faster and faster, and built upon one another. There is a terrible, powerful synergy to the causation of disease, but there is an even more dynamic synergy–driven by the positive force of life itself–to the process of healing.
As Paul continued his chelation, the mercury in his body decreased considerably, allowing the process of methylation to charge into overdrive. His gastrointestinal problems vanished. His skin became clear and his eyes glowed. His own metabolism was no longer his worst enemy. He played with other children, talked to his parents, and even started school in a mainstream classroom. He was still a little emotionally fragile, though, and would sometimes cry when Lynne left for work.
One day, though, as she was leaving, expecting the usual insecurity from him, he came to her and said, “Mama, when you go to work, I’m lonely. And when you’re lonely, it means you miss someone. Later he said, "I love you and you love me. You will always be right here in my heart and I will always be in yours.”
Lynne felt as if she could not breathe.
Rhinebeck, New York
As the Healing Program has become increasingly effective over the past few years, I have become ever more busy, seeing kids from many different states and countries. I also now travel extensively, speaking about the program, and about the new childhood epidemics.
I consider myself one of the most blessed physicians in America, due to the success I have had in adapting the new approach of integrative medicine to our devastating new childhood epidemics. Just yesterday, I saw three autistic kids who had recovered: three–in one day! That’s what can happen when you’re a good medical detective, and keep looking for root causes. But I get tired. Sometimes, exhausted.
I was bone-tired the last time that I saw Paul Avram. A long day was waning, and with it, my energy.
Paul came in with Lynne. He looked great–pink and vibrant with health. He was in Little League, he skated, played hockey, played the strategy game Pokemon with his friends, and was a great student. He was doing all those boy-things that boys remember for all of their lives.
Soon he would be a fine young man, off on his own, and his suffering would seem like another life, long ago. Would he even remember me?
The second he saw me, he ran across the room and threw his arms around me. He held on for dear life, and didn’t seem to want to let go. I didn’t want to, either.
It was hard for me to believe that this was the same little Paul, who just two years before had been unable to give of himself at all. What a miracle he was! Tears burned at my eyes, but I blinked them back and swallowed. I tried to say something to Lynne, but failed and swallowed again. I could feel Paul’s vast child’s energy flow right into me. As Lynne stood above, I could also feel the powerful, flowering force of her mother’s love.
These are the moments for which I now live. These moments, these mothers, these children: We all have so much, when finally connected, that we can give.
From the Hardcover edition.