Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2015
Written by 

Safe, simple and scientific: The functional medicine approach to autism health

As indicated by recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 68 children. This rate has increased sharply over the past few years and is now considered to be a worldwide epidemic. Autism has been observed to affect boys four times as often as girls. However, these statistics do not even begin to tell the story.

“Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects people differently,” according to the Autism Research Institute (ARI). Just as it affects people differently, it is now thought that there are many causes of autism. A few researchers have even suggested a name change to “autism spectrum disorders.”

The word autism literally means “aloneness” or “living in one’s own world.” It is common for individuals with autism to feel cut off or to cut themselves off from others. Sadly, some family members also feel alone or cut off as they pursue answers and try to find resources. According to Dr. Janet Lintala, functional medicine practitioner, author, speaker and mother of an autistic child, the best approach to working with individuals with autism is a team approach.

First and foremost, the parents must lead a team of professionals who are highly skilled in their respective disciplines. One team member needs to be a doctor familiar with the health problems often associated with autism. The Autism Research Institute, states that some of the health problems often “associated with autism are gastrointestinal problems, nutritional and metabolic deficiencies, toxic metal burden, and immune dysfunction.”

Although individuals with autism and their families face many unique challenges, it has been our experience that they are incredibly resilient, resourceful and creative.

A treatment approach that is rarely considered but extremely effective is functional medicine. Beginning with a comprehensive health history and detailed physical exam, the parents and doctor collaborate to discover the best way to help the patient. The parents are the true experts on their child and have a wealth of information that is beneficial to the doctor. Having a doctor who takes the time to truly listen is essential.

When working with patients with autism it is also important to learn about their behavior, discover how well the individual eliminates, and how well they sleep. There are a great number of details to consider when creating a treatment plan. Each patient has his or her own unique health picture and symptoms, and therefore needs his or her own unique individualized treatment plan.

With a team approach consisting of the child, parents and knowledgeable professionals, the child can experience health and a reduction of symptoms to the greatest extent possible. An individualized treatment plan that is safe, simple and scientific will be the most effective.

References: “The Immune Response in Autism: A New Frontier for Autism Research.” Journal of Leukocyte Biology. P. Ashwood et al. 2006.

“Gastrointestinal Pathology in Autism: Description and Treatment.” Medical Veritas. Arthur Krigsman, M.D. 2007.

“Novel and Emerging Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Annals of Clinical Psychiatry. Daniel A. Rossignol. 2009.

“Evidence Linking Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, and Inflammation in the Brain of Individuals with Autism.” Frontiers in Physiology. Daniel A. Rossignol and Richard E. Frye. 2014.

“CDC Estimates 1 in 68 Children has been Identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Christine Vander Wielen, MSW, LCSW,  and Scott Vander Wielen, DC

Christine serves as the office manager and lifestyle educator at Vander Wielen Health & Wellness Diagnostic Center. She is an author, speaker, radio personality and licensed clinical social worker.

Dr. Scott Vander Wielen is a licensed chiropractor, board-eligible chiropractic internist, certified nutritional counselor and functional medicine practitioner. He owns and operates Vander Wielen Health & Wellness Diagnostic Center, LLC, a patient-centered practice employing techniques promoted by the Institute for Functional Medicine. To best service his patients, Dr. Vander Wielen provides an array of chiropractic services, including functional medicine, nutritional counseling, spine and extremity care, stress management, advanced diagnostic testing and in-office lab work.

Dr. Vander Wielen and Christine are committed to helping others achieve their optimal health through knowledge and compassion. Learn more about Vander Wielen Health & Wellness at or call 920-722-2100.

Subscribe Today
Community Partners Directory
Find a Complimentary Copy
Community Calendar