It has been well documented that B12 deficiency can cause developmental delay, hypotonia, withdrawal, social and language delays, behavioral issues and problems with fine motor movement. If you didn't know that this was supposed to be a post about B12, you would think I was describing the symptoms of Autism. Many times, children with autism symptoms are actually mimicking a B12 deficiency. According to an article from TACA, "Analysis of several studies showed significant improvements in autism symptoms from MethylB12 (supplement). These included:
Personal and domestic daily living skills
Coping social skills
Other clinical improvements observed with B12 included improvements in:
Nonverbal intellectual quotient
Nocturnal enuresis (bed wetting)
Sounds like a simple fix, just give them some B12! But of course, it isn't as simple as that. Just like autism has a root cause, so does this vitamin B12 deficiency. Yes, supplementing with B12 is a help but there are many more layers to it. A child will have B12 deficiency because:
they have gut dybiosis
they have a gene mutation that affects methylation of B12 into a bioavailable form
they are a picky eater and do not eat the good sources of vitamin B12
In order to truly fix a B12 deficiency, all three of these areas need to be intervened on.
First, the gut. Gut dysbiosis can include gut infections where the bad microbes consume the B12 before it gets absorbed and used in the body. Doing a stool test and/or seeing a gastroenterologist can help identify and fix any issues that may be happening in the gut.
Genetics can absolutely play a role in B12 deficiency. Genetic polymorphisms such as MTHFR, COMT, MTRR, and VDR Taq, effect B12 absorption. There are four forms of B12 and knowing which genetic variant your child has will help you to be able to pinpoint which B12 they would be able to tolerate. For instance, often times people with a COMT variant can not handle methylated B12 and so taking hydroxocobalamin may be the preferred B12 supplement for this person. You can get a genetic test done to find out which variants your child may have and then see which form of B12 would be best. You can also just experiment. Most doctors will start with a methylated B12 product. If your child has side effects from this form, then the doctor can stop it and try a different form. Look out for a future post on where I go into details on the different forms of B12!
Lastly, food sources. Where is B12 found in food? Mostly in the foods that picky eaters do not eat. B12 is found in meat - especially red meat. It is found in fish, organ meats, eggs and dairy. Many children with autism do not eat these foods. Often dairy is also asked to be cut out because of the links to gut dysbiosis. So you are not left with many food sources for B12 with these kids. Once the gut health of a child improves, these foods will find their way back into the child's diet. But until then, trying to just improve B12 through food is not a viable option for these children.
So what do you do now that you have all of this information and feel that you want to try this with your child? Talk to you child's physician and ask for their opinion on a B12 supplement. If you feel you want an assessment of your child and a plan on what steps to take to help identify and possibly treat their B12 deficiency, we offer that and more as part of our action plan. You can schedule an appointment with us here.
The biggest take away from this is that there are many underlying causes to your child's symptoms and B12 deficiency is one of the many. Advocate for your child. Do not let them just be thrown into the autism black hole. Help get your child on a path to healing. Starting with B12 supplementation is a great first step!
Autism: Pathways to recovery by Dr. Amy Yasko
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