I'm on a Mission to Get My Son Better — and Help Others
Ryan's overabundance of yeast was only one of several issues his doctor
wanted to address. After reviewing the results of tests that analyzed Ryan's
blood, stool, and urine, Radoff had found a number of irregularities, including
high levels of aluminum, mildly high amounts of mercury and lead, a lack of
some key vitamins and minerals (children with autism often have trouble
absorbing various nutrients), and an infection in his digestive system.
"All of these issues can lead to symptoms of autism, such as sleeplessness,
head banging, and digestive problems," Radoff told Nicole and Tim, who
listened to the report in disbelief.
"I was thrilled to finally get answers," says Nicole, who was hungry
for clues about what may have been behind her son's symptoms. "But I was
also so angry about the amount of metals in Ryan's body," she adds. "I
wondered where they came from and what I might have done to cause those
problems. I felt like in some way I hadn't protected my son enough."
With tears in her eyes, Nicole grilled Radoff about possible sources of the
metals — particularly the aluminum, which was very high. (Some studies in mice
have shown that overexposure to aluminum can damage the nervous system, and,
though the results have been mixed, some research in humans has found that high
levels of the metal in the body may cause Alzheimer's disease.) Radoff
explained that there are many sources of aluminum in the environment, from
certain types of cookware to tap water to canned food. Nicole shook her head,
saying that her family barely used any of those things.
Then Radoff mentioned that some vaccines contain aluminum. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the small amount of this
metal included in vaccines has been used safely for 75 years and makes
immunizations more effective; without it, a child might need more shots or have
less protection from disease. But when Nicole heard the word vaccines,
her stomach dropped. "Ryan's regression began right after he had five shots
at 17 months," says Nicole. "I do believe my son has genetic
differences that are partially to blame for autism, but my gut always told me
that vaccines were connected too. Now, I was finally confronted with that fact.
Since Ryan's diagnosis, I've had friends and even strangers who see the 'Think
Autism, Think Cure' bumper sticker on my car ask me what I think about vaccines
and whether they should get their child immunized. My answer is: 'I'm not
anti-vaccine, but you just might want to ask your doctor about a slower vaccine
schedule so your child doesn't have to get so many at once.'" (See "Do
Vaccines Cause Autism?" on Redbook.com for more information on the
controversy around kids' immunizations.)