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I'm on a Mission to Get My Son Better — and Help Others

Toxic Clues

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.)

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