Vitamins, Supplements and Chelation Detox
If your child has a learning disability, are there any vitamins or supplements that will help? The answer is maybe. Since learning disabilities are categories for symptoms rather than underlying causes, it is difficult to predict how well any given treatment will work. As a starting point, we can consider what seems to help many autistic children.
Defeat Autism Now (DAN) is a group of concerned parents and doctors with a special interest in autism. In May of 2001, a group of 27 DAN doctors released a protocol for treating autism. This protocol is a consensus of the most effective medical interventions designed to improve autistic symptoms. The DAN protocol is a combination of detoxification, digestion and supplementation therapy. It assumes that the autistic patient has toxic levels of heavy metals (most notably mercury), yeast impaired digestion and various vitamin or mineral imbalances. To address toxic levels of mercury, the prescription drug DMSA, administered by an experienced physician, is recommended. Several methods of yeast suppression are suggested to improve digestion and minimize the absorption of improperly digested molecules. And various supplements are recommended with the warning that copper should not be among them. The 2001 DAN consensus is presented in the table below. The doses are for a 100 pound patient and should be scaled to a child's actual body weight.
Description of DAN Protocol
|DMSA (plus alpha lipoic acid) intensive treatments,
to be administered by an experienced doctor.
|Lactobacillus from yogurt and odorless garlic pills.
Prescription antifungal drugs like Nystatin.
|Zinc (50 mg/day)
Selenium (150 mcg/day)
Magnesium (200 mg/day)
Vitamin C (500 mg/day)
Vitamin E (250 IU/day)
Vitamin B6 (500 mg/day)
|Other||Melatonin (2.5 mg/day)
Glutathione (500 mg/day)
Taurine (500 mg/day)
|Notes||Do not supplement with copper or cysteine.
Magnesium is recommended to mitigate side effects
of vitamin B6 although it is not part of the protocol.
The DMSA (dimercapto succinic acid) detoxification treatment is usually administered by a physician over a weekend and then repeated as necessary. Why do DAN doctors think detoxification is helpful? They feel that our current life style exposes us to unhealthful levels of toxic chemicals that find their way into the nerve cells of susceptible children. Mercury, in particular, is a toxic metal that is well known to cause brain damage. In historical England, "Mad Hatter's Disease" drove many people insane as they handled hat bands impregnated with mercury. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency issued warnings about dangerous levels of mercury in ocean fish. A mercury compound, thimerosal, is used as a preservative in several of the childhood vaccinations given to every infant in this country. And, many people are suspicious of the mercury in dental fillings as time and stress allow small amounts to leach into saliva. The American Dental Association claims that the mercury stays put but, as a rebuttal, the government of Sweden has simply banned mercury in all dental amalgams.
DMSA is not the only therapy available to detoxify heavy metals like mercury. EDTA (ethylene diamine tera acetic acid) has been administered intravenously to detoxify lead for over 50 years. EDTA is also effective for other toxic conditions and is available as an over-the-counter supplement in pill form. As a pill, it is less effective than as an injection but that makes it more gentle, too. It is suggested that one month of EDTA supplements are equivalent to one injection and a 30 day supply of EDTA costs much less than an injection. Additionally, alpha lipoic acid, garlic, cilantro and chlorella algae are reported to aid detox. All of these are available without a prescription as safe and convenient pills. Of course, garlic and cilantro are a healthy part of many diets.
Note that the DAN protocol warns against copper in multi-vitamins and supplements. In many autistic children, blood copper levels (or ratios to other minerals) have been found to be unusually high. Copper is one of those minerals that is necessary in small amounts but harmful when excessive. So, supplementing copper in autistic children is unwise. And since zinc tends to suppress copper, zinc is recommended. If your child has a learning disability, it might be prudent to ask your doctor to check for blood mineral levels. Not only would this give you information about copper but also other minerals that might be out of range.
Fatty acids are an important part of human brain, eye and nerve tissue. Not surprisingly, fatty acid supplementation has shown promise in several studies including one at Purdue University. Many children with learning disability respond well, especially those with attention deficit disorders and dyslexia. The fatty acid supplements most often mentioned include evening primrose oil, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) usually from fish oil and AA (arachidonic acid). In some cases of hyperactivity, evening primrose oil is actually rubbed onto the skin but, normally, these supplements are just pills. For more information, you might want to read a book, "The LCP Solution" by B. Jacqueline Stordy, PhD. It may be available at your local library or you can order it from Barnes & Noble online.
Depression and mood swings can be a common problem for children with learning problems. They must deal with all the normal difficulties of adolescence compounded by rejection and negative feedback within the classroom. If appropriate, supplements like St. John's Wort may be worth a try. St. John's Wort has a long history of successful use for depression, especially in Europe. It's key compound, hypericin, is thought to play a role in neurotransmitter metabolism. Vitamin B12 might also be beneficial for those with digestive problems. Vitamin B12 is often poorly absorbed in the intestines resulting in subtle deficiencies that can cause depression and forgetfulness. Improving outlook and attitude with cost effective supplements should not be overlooked in a quest for more exotic remedies.
Before attempting any medical or dietary intervention, please consult your doctor. Obviously if your child does poorly on any supplement, discontinue it immediately. This information is for your general knowledge only and does not pretend to be a substitute for competent medical advice nor is it intended to be a prescription for the treatment of any medical condition or disease.