Dr. Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D.

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Medical Emergency

Speech Loss is a Medical Emergency!

What would you do if your two year old suddenly stopped walking?

What would you do if your 18 month old gradually became blind?

What would you do if your 20 month old stopped using one of her arms?

You would get help! You would take that child to a doctor!

Would you take for an answer “just wait and see what happens for 6 months”? NO!!!! Because you know this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Whenever a child loses a critical skill that he or she already has acquired, something is terribly wrong.

But every day, when parents notice their 18-24 month old children losing speech, they are told to “wait and see.” THIS ADVICE IS WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. You will miss a critical window of time in which you can intervene. Once that window closes, no amount of therapy will re-open that window.

Speech loss in young children is every bit of a medical emergency as the loss of any other life skill. And, you as a parent MUST treat this as an EMERGENCY and take matters into your own hands to treat–because you CAN treat it.

What is a medical emergency?

An emergency is “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action:” Merriam Webster’s online dictionary.

When children lose speech at any age, you need to take immediate action. When children lose speech before 18 months of age, you have a true medical emergency.

Normally developing children do not lose words or the ability to talk. Some children begin to lose words or speech after they have begun to talk. Parents rightly become alarmed because there is nothing normal about such a situation.

However, parents are often told to “wait and see.” I see patients every week who tell me that their pediatricians tell them to wait 6 months to see what happens. Unfortunately, the usual situation is for the loss of speech not to be taken seriously and for the doctor to simply tell parents to wait. But this advise leads to a child being lost to a life of autism. I see autistic children regularly. Most of them have a history of losing speech before 18 months of age. Most of the rest simply never developed speech.

I view this advice to wait and see as not only wrong, but permanently harmful to the child. By waiting and seeing, you will lose the chance to reverse speech loss and may end up with a child who will never be able to speak. This is a medical emergency. This is the time for action. If you saw an adult losing their speech or their words, you would intervene. You would not wait 6 months. Loss of speech is not normal. Unfortunately, these kinds of delays are what often occur in pediatricians’ offices every day.

Why is it so important to intervene at the first sign of speech loss?

Speech loss at this age is the beginning of autism.

What is occurring? Nobody really knows for sure what causes autism or speech loss. However, based on my research and my clinical experience, the best I can understand is that children’s brains are responding to toxic chemicals in the blood and are beginning to shut down. The loss of speech is the evidence of this response. Unfortunately, the brain shutdown does not stop with loss of speech. Autism is a long-term condition that is characterized by global developmental delays. Autism affects every aspect of development. Speech loss is just the first symptom that becomes obvious to parents and doctors.

One possible cause of autism is toxic chemicals affecting the brain. Again, I state this based on my own research and my clinical experience in treating autism. By treating autism as a response to toxic chemicals, I have been able to reverse speech loss in young children.

Let me explain.

The child at this time is taking in toxic chemicals from food and from the intestinal yeast Candida albicans. These chemicals reach the brain. The brain cannot handle these chemicals. It cannot detoxify them, so what does the brain do? It shuts down so that these chemicals have less impact. This might be a temporary solution for the brain but unfortunately this temporary solution becomes permanent over time. Then we have autism in which the child may never develop speech and may never function normally.

Where are these chemicals coming from? These chemicals come from two sources. First, in food there a number of chemicals which slow down the brain. The food ingredient and additive malt or barley malt contains 20 chemicals called alkyl pyrazines which are compared in toxicity to phenobarbital, a chemical which puts the brain to sleep. In malt there are twenty such chemicals in food quantities, not in milligram quantities like phenobarbital pills. Vinegar contains ethyl acetate, a chemical which also slows down the brain. Many foods contain vinegar or malt. Vinegar is found in ketchup, mustard, mayonaise, salsa, salad dressing and pickles. Malt is found in almost all baked goods, children’s breakfast cereals, bagels, breads, cookies and crackers and many other foods. These chemicals are simply not good for a child with any problems with their developing brain.

The second source of such chemicals is intestinal yeast called Candida albicans. Candida albicans makes toxic alcohols, the coma producing chemical acetone and the nerve poison hydrogen sulfide. These chemicals are known to disrupt development. How does Candida albicans come to be present in the intestinal tract. When we start life, we have mainly bacteria present in the gut, with a little yeast coming in from food. After antibiotics are given, antibiotics kill the bacteria. Then yeast can grow to fill in the space. Yeast line the gut wall and adhere very tightly. Then they make all these chemicals, which are then absorbed into the circulation. Unfortunately, these chemicals are not cleared easily and they can reach the brain and disrupt development.

How can yeast be present if your child has never taken antibiotics? Food also contains chemicals which kill bacteria and make room for yeast. One of the only consistent findings in autism is that the brain is slowed down. Why? The best hypothesis is that these chemicals slow down the brain. But I think the brain also shuts itself down to protect itself from all the chemicals. I compare this situation to someone who wishes to run outside but somewhere nearby there has been a fire and the air is not good. So the person waits until later to run so that he or she does not take in so many chemicals. I think that the brain does the same thing. If the blood is full of bad chemicals, the brain slows itself down, hoping the situation changes. But if the situation of all the chemicals does not change, eventually the shut down becomes permanent. One of the first observable signs that this shutdown is taking place is the loss of speech not long after speech starts to develop.

The critical issue for parents is that YOU–yes YOU, with or without the support of your doctor–can do something to help your child. If you see that your child is losing speech, YOU CAN INTERVENE today, not tomorrow. Every day that you wait is a day lost to possible autism. Am I being alarmist? No. I am being practical. I am worried sick about all of the children who are in the six month limbo of “wait and see,” only to be followed by months of observation and testing. By the time they are diagnosed, the damage is permanent.

However, if YOU, as a PARENT, take action NOW–not tomorrow–you may be able to reverse speech loss and never get to the point where you need a diagnosis. I have seen this happen many times.

If your child is younger than 18 months, the situation is easily reversible. You should change your child’s diet. You do this by taking away foods containing toxic chemicals from your child. These are foods such as vinegar, malt, chocolate, pickles, aged cheese, worcestershire sauce and all aged sauces, and soy sauce. These foods all contain chemicals which slow down the brain. Malt is a sprouted barley which is then heat killed to form the raw material for making beer. Malt contains many growth factors for yeast and must be removed from the diet, if the child is to clear the intestinal yeast.

You can take away these foods today.

You follow up by helping your child get used to this new diet. Remember, your child has only been eating for a few months. Just as you can train your child to do other things, you can train him or her to eat well at this young age. Then you proceed further by eliminating some of the other foods on the lists in Feast Without Yeast. These foods help yeast grow by killing bacteria and making room for the yeast. For example, vinegar is used in bread making to kill bacteria and leave the yeast alone. Vinegar does the same thing in the human gut.

After you have started changing your child’s diet, the next important step is for the child to take nystatin oral suspension. Nystatin kills yeast but is not absorbed and cannot hurt. Nystatin has to be prescribed and the starting dose is 2 mls three times a day. Your health care practitioner may be willing to assist you by prescribing Nystatin.

If you as a parent take action and start your child on this program as soon as you see that your child is losing speech, the developmental problems may reverse and the speech and other developmental processes may all resume normally. I would hope that your doctor or health care practitioner would support you in this effort. Remember, there are NO side effects to changing diet and there are usually no side effects to starting nystatin. Rarely, there are some minimal side effects, none of which can compare in scope and severity with a lifetime of autism. The therapy of dietary change and nystatin will not harm any child and will reverse the loss of speech in young children if this therapy is started promptly when the speech loss is observed. For more information on Autism and diet, click here.

If you would like help from a doctor, please come see me in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I will make room for you in my schedule. Call 1-877-332-7899. For more information about my practice, click here. Unfortunately, I cannot treat patients over the phone or by email, although I can respond to general questions. I am happy to assist other doctors and health care providers if they contact me requesting assistance.

If you would like more information, please see our books, Feast Without Yeast and An Extraordinary Power to Heal.

Page updated November 29, 2009

This page is based on the clinical experience and research of Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D., a Board Certified child psychiatrist and doctorate nutritionist, and parent of a young adult with autism.

For more information about the personal story of Dr. Semon’s son, see Reversing Autism: the story behind Feast Without Yeast.