Can Autism Be Prevented?

Photo: Subhadip Mukherjee
One of the staggering facts I shared with the Expectant Mamas' Group on Monday was that the
Center for Disease Control now claims that 75% of all healthcare spending goes towards the treatment of preventable diseases - most of which are linked to diet.

In a world where women are usually responsible for, well, everything - from birthing to bringing home the bacon (and then making sure that it's perfectly cooked) - hearing that we are also responsible for preventing disease can just add another layer of stress.

If you're like me, one way of dealing with that added pressure is to ignore it. That's what I did, for years, until my body literally shut down and forced me to listen.

As women, we tend to put others' needs before our own. I put the needs of my job wayyyy before my own, and it finally caught up with me. My body didn't appreciate my work hard, play hard lifestyle.

But I couldn't (or didn't want to) face the prospect of adding even more tasks to my plate. Working out, food shopping, cooking ... these things take TIME. And time is a precious commodity these days.

Luckily, what I've learned since then is that taking better care of myself wasn't really as hard as it seemed. Which brings me back to my current stance on disease prevention: why bother kicking the can down the road when you can take small actions now that will help your health later?

A great time to do that is when you're pregnant, because it's so much easier to justify taking care of someone else instead of yourself.

Studies suggest that pregnancy super-nutrient folate can prevent autism - even when consumed BEFORE conception!

The tricky thing about folate is that supplements usually include the synthetic version, folic acid. Folic acid has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, maternal infection, and low birth weight infants. In addition, an estimated 40% of the population has a genetic variant that prevents the metabolism of folic acid.

A better choice is true folate.

In supplements, that means 5-methyltetrahydrafolate (or 5-MTHF). The prenatal supplements I like contain this kind of absorbable folate, but you can only order them through a practitioner (head to my store to check them out).

Luckily, absorbable folate is found abundantly in beans and greens, among other food sources.

The bottom line? Choosing folate-rich foods and taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin are two easy steps you can take to help prevent autism. There are many other factors in the development and prevention of this disease, but starting with small, easy modifications is the best way to make lasting change.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." While it's not easy to add prevention to your list of things to do, these simple steps have a potentially powerful outcome.

And hey - we might even be able to change those CDC stats.