Autism Treatments: Heavy Metal Detoxification and Metallothionein Promotion

Recent developments have been made to promote metallothionein (MT) in the G.I. tract, brain, and elsewhere. This protocol is based on 1,200 published articles describing MT synthesis, activation, and redox mechanisms. A total of 22 nutrients that enhance MT production were identified and tested in informal clinical trials involving staff and volunteer autism families. We found that aggressive zinc loading must precede full-scale MT Promotion therapy for best results. Each molecule of MT requires 7 atoms of zinc (Zn) for proper functioning. Premature synthesis of MT at intestinal mucosa can temporarily prevent Zn transport into the bloodstream, resulting in severe irritability. Our best clinical outcomes were achieved using a two-phase protocol: Preloading with Zn and augmenting nutrients, followed by: Cautious, gradual introduction of MT promotion nutrients. Treatment for Patients Found to Have Metallothionein Dysfunction

A good trial of the gluten-free, casein-free diet (at least 6 months) is highly recommended.

Step 1
a. Gut Clean-up – restore good levels of friendly bacteria and reduce overgrowths of   unfriendly organisms such as Clostridia and yeast

b. Supporting Nutrients – exact nutrients determined by testing
c. Reduction of elevated plasma ammonia (if necessary)

d. Aggressive zinc pre-loading
e. DMSA alone until very little mercury, lead or tin is excreted in urine (if necessary)

Step 2 – MT Promotion Protocol
Phase 1: Zinc Loading: Aggressive supplementation with Zn and augmenting nutrients for 4 to 8 weeks is recommended. Sensitive patients may require gradual build-up of Zn dosage. Plasma zinc levels should be greater than 100 mcg/dL prior to Phase 2 to minimize irritability side effects. Zinc dosages vary with body weight. A helpful rule of thumb for small patients is to provide a daily mg dosage of Zn equal to weight (lbs) plus 15-20 mg. For example, a 40 lb child would receive 55-60 mg/day during Phase 1. In addition, we recommend the following augmenting nutrients be given with the Zn: Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate, Manganese Gluconate, and Vitamins C and E. Also, Taurine may be used for patients with seizure tendencies. We have developed a compounded supplement for Phase 1, which we call the “Metabolic Primer”.

Phase 2: After Phase 1 is completed, GSH, Se, and the 14 amino-acid constituents of MT are introduced gradually, as tolerated. These nutrients are available in a compounded blend called the MTP supplement. Continuation of casein/gluten-free diets, probiotics, the Metabolic Primer, and other ongoing therapies is recommended.

Detoxification for Heavy Metals as a Treatment for Autism Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D. The concept behind detoxification is that heavy metals have accumulated in the child and that removal of these heavy metals (and other toxins) will improve symptoms. Some parents have reported that the effects of detoxification are as dramatic as those found with secretin. Nevertheless, since we do not yet know how biologically active secretin is (it could be working because of the Pygmalion Effect or working in subsets of children for reasons completely unrelated to current theory), we do not know with certainty whether detoxification is working due to biological principles or do to parents’ expectations.

One source of heavy metals is thought to be the timerosol in vaccines which is associated with mercury. The first step is often testing to determine if heavy metals are present. Typically, a 24 hour urine is obtained for heavy metals and then a dose of DMSA is given and the 24 hour urine is repeated. If heavy metals are present, they should increase when a chelating agent is given. Doctor’s Data, Great Smokies Smokies Labs and Great Plains Laboratories do these tests. During chelation therapy, lead is thought to come out first, then mercury, then tin. Typical treatments include the administration of DMSA, 10 mg/kf three times per day for three days and off 11 days. DMPS can be added for additional boosting of effect. Adding lipoic acid is thought to help remove mercury from the Central Nervous System. Detoxification is a long process and may take months. Liver enzymes and a CBC should be obtained – at first monthly, and then at regular intervals of 1-3 months to be sure that no toxicity from the DMSA is developing.  

Amy S. Holmes, M.D.


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