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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Complementary Health Approaches: What the Science Says

April 2016

Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Complementary Health Approaches

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Natural Products and Biologics

Melatonin

There is some limited evidence that suggests melatonin may help with sleep problems in children with ASD.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation

At present, there is insufficient evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is an effective treatment for ASD.

Probiotics

The current clinical evidence does not support the use of probiotics to modify behavior in people with ASD.

Secretin

Evidence suggests that single or multiple dose intravenous secretin, a gastrointestinal hormone, is not effective as a treatment for ASD.

Vitamin B6 and Magnesium

To date, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of vitamin B6 and magnesium as a treatment option for ASD.

Chelation

There is no evidence that indicates the effectiveness of pharmaceutical chelation as an intervention for ASD. Furthermore, there is substantial evidence that there is no link between heavy metals and autism.

Special Diets

Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Diet

There is evidence that parents commonly put their children with ASD on exclusion diets. Despite this common practice, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of gluten-free and/or casein free diets as an effective treatment for children with ASD. Nutritionists have raised concerns about potential harms and risks of such diets, but evidence to support these risks is lacking.

Ketogenic Diet

There is limited evidence that the high-fat, very low carbohydrate “ketogenic” diet may help with seizures, which are sometimes associated with autism.

Mind and Body Practices

Acupuncture

Results of clinical trials on the effectiveness of acupuncture for ASD have been mixed, but there is currently no conclusive evidence to support the use of acupuncture for the treatment of ASD.

Music Therapy

There is some evidence that music therapy may help to improve some social and behavioral skills in children with ASD.

Other Approaches

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Current evidence does not support the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as an effective treatment for ASD.

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

Copyright

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