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The Limbic System



Since Ryan was born in 2001, I have read hoards of information on Autism, child development, healthy eating, and alternative therapies to name but a few and as I have said previously I am in no doubt that foods play an important role in explaining some of Ryan’s difficulties.

I try very hard (but am not perfect) to maintain a healthy Limbic System as I believe it has a strong role in our health, wellbeing and development.

The Limbic system supports a variety of functions, including emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. It appears to be primarily responsible for emotional life and it has a great deal to do with the formations of memories.
Susanna Heinze

Obviously all of these are very prevalent characteristic ‘symptoms’ of autism, so by trying to maintain a healthy balance and approach I hope to better support Ryan on a day to day basis.

As warm-blooded mammals, we are dependent on the development of emotional attachment to the parents. We feel good when we are safe, well fed and we know where our parents are. In that state of well being, we learn and develop language and social skills. Conversely, when we are lost, hungry and in danger, we experience panic. That panic involves the immune system and begins with an adrenalin release. The immune system takes over from the emotional system, and we revert to a more primitive state of fight-or-flight, survival instinct. In that state, learning, language development and social skills are not important to survival.

It is believed by some that in autism, the immune system is reacting to lutein as if it were a life-threatening pathogen. The immune system takes charge of the body's vital functions - digestion, metabolism, breathing, heart rate, temperature - and all superfluous activity, including social activity, stops until the reaction ceases. But for the autist, the reaction doesn't cease because lutein is coming into the body too often. In the infant, there are generally few exposures to lutein, but during the second and third years lutein-containing foods begin to enter the diet frequently. The response to the first exposures might be fever, and many parents report fevers during early childhood. (I have already commented on Ryan’s illnesses and ridiculous fevers). The child often begins to refuse some foods (can can become a very fussy eater). The altered immune system often over-reacts to immune challenges as is seen in the frequent reports of adverse reactions to vaccinations. Then, as the lutein exposure becomes continual, the immune system has to adapt, as continual high fever is dangerous to the brain. With an ongoing immune system activity, the limbic system switches over to a state of defensiveness and survival. Development of social behaviour is arrested in favour of survival, defensive and coping strategies to minimise arousal and social expectations. Depending on the innate strength of the individual, mental and intellectual functioning may develop, despite the social handicap, in idiosyncratic ways. For some high functioning autists, the strategy of avoidance takes the form of developing unique skills, or intensive reading and studying, or focus on a particular branch of math or science or music.

Secondly The hippocampus is linked to learning and memory. When the hippocampus is removed from an animal, it will express a series of behaviours classified as self-stimulatory. These behaviours are repetitive body movements or movements of objects . For example, tapping ears, sniffing people, hand flapping, scratching, or rocking back and forth. Two hypotheses of this behaviour have been drawn. Either the actions are to stimulate (hyposensitive) or to calm (hypersensitive). In the case of the autistic person, the second hypothesis makes sense. To the autistic the environment is too stimulating and by doing a repetitive motion the environment can be blocked out. The environment is too stimulating because the brain can not process the sensory inputs as fast as they are being received. New information can not be entered into the memory quick enough.

From my own research I have complied the following information on e-numbers that particularly affect Ryan. Now I am not for one minute suggesting these are all inherently bad or that anybody should take my word as absolute fact and eliminate these as of right now. I am simply sharing my findings with anyone interested enough to know more about our journey with Ryan’s autism.

E 102 Tartrazine                         
E 110 sunset yellow FCF
E 120 cochineal                                  
E 124 ponceau 4R
E161 Lutein
E 211sodium benzoate
E 621 Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

For a full list of my e-number research see my separate page.

Go to the following website for tips on maintaining a healthy Limbic system.


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