Research on autism and CBD combined with chiropractic is offering positive new results for patients where ‘chiropractic adjustment may attenuate sensorimotor integration’
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that affects approximately one out of every 59 children according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This number is nearly triple what it was just 20 years ago — in the year 2000, roughly one in 150 children reportedly had autism — impacting young boys four times more often than girls.
The National Institute of Mental Health adds that treatment for autism should be sought as soon after the diagnosis is made as possible to “reduce individuals’ difficulties while helping them learn new skills and make the most of their strengths.”
Sometimes this treatment involves prescribing medications to assist with symptoms such as irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, and depression. Other times, children with ASD may benefit from engaging in therapy designed to teach them various life skills, improve their ability to communicate, and learn how to reduce the challenges they may face.
Another option to consider is helping autistic patients via a combination of chiropractic and CBD (cannabidiol) since research has found that both of these modalities can potentially help.
Chiropractic and autism
In 2011, the journal Explore published a systematic review conducted by three doctors of chiropractic (DCs). All of these doctors were in private practice, with one who also being affiliated with the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and Life Chiropractic College West.
In total, the DCs reviewed five pieces of research that met their specific criteria. Three were case reports, one was a cohort study, and the other was a randomized trial. While the authors did concede that literature in regard to chiropractic and its impact on ASD was lacking, they also concluded, in part, that “chiropractic adjustment may attenuate sensorimotor integration.” This was important because autism in general is characterized by abnormal sensory processing.
Research has also found a link between chiropractic and behavior in children with ASD. For example, in “Chiropractic Care of Special Needs Populations,” authors discuss how some case studies have reported that, after having twice-weekly adjustments to the subject’s first or second cervical vertebrae and various midthoracic regions, the children’s teachers noticed a number of behavioral improvements.
Among them were advances related to picking up their toys, engaging in less self-abuse, and improved language skills. Another case study reported how chiropractic helped a 16-year-old autistic male eliminate what had become frequent bowel accidents (encopresis), with his mother reporting that she felt her child was thinking more clearly as well.
Autism and CBD
Some studies also suggest that children diagnosed with autism can potentially function better after taking CBD.
In April 2018, the journal Neurology published a retrospective feasibility study involving 60 children who had been diagnosed with ASD. A large majority were boys (83%) and low functioning (77%). After receiving oral CBD with a 20:1 ratio of CBD to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, 61% of the patients experienced “much improved” or “very much improved” responses to behavior outbreaks. They also reported lower levels of anxiety and stress, and fewer communication issues.
Another 2018 study focused more specifically on the comorbid symptoms often exhibited by kids with ASD. This includes aggression, being hyperactive, and having higher levels of anxiety. However, after being administered oral CBD oil for approximately 66 days, 53 autistic children had noticeable reductions in these symptoms. Their sleep improved as well.
Combining treatments for optimal results?
If both chiropractic and CBD can help children who have been diagnosed with some level of autism, couldn’t combining these two treatment modalities potentially improve patient response?
Namely, whereas chiropractic could help improve the sensory processing of patients with ASD by correcting any existing subluxations, couldn’t CBD help reduce the symptoms that are often present in autism spectrum disorders?
In this way, these two treatments would work together to help patients from a couple of different angles, potentially providing them more relief.
Additional study results
The 2019 study, “Effects of CBD-Enriched Cannabis sativa Extract on Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms: An Observational Study of 18 Participants Undergoing Compassionate Use,” pointed out the difficulties in undertaking studies of autism patients and CBD since autism patients are many times already taking drugs that may interact with CBD.
The study concluded, “The findings presented here, taken together, support the notion that many autism symptoms are associated to neuronal hyperexcitability, and indicate that CBD-enriched CE yields positive effects in multiple autistic symptoms, without causing the typical side effects found in medicated ASD patients. Most patients in this study had improved symptoms even after supervised weaning of other neuropsychiatric drugs. The intrinsic limitations of the present study, due to its observational nature, are the lack of control groups, the small cohort size, and potentially significant placebo effects. Further clinical trials are warranted to confirm these initial findings.”
Among the 15 patients who adhered to the treatment (10 non-epileptic and five epileptic) only one patient showed lack of improvement in autistic symptoms. Due to adverse effects, three patients discontinued CE use before 1 month. After 6–9 months of treatment, most patients, including epileptic and non-epileptic, showed some level of improvement in more than one of the eight symptom categories evaluated.
Some endocannabinoids are reduced in autism patients, which gives researchers hope that CBD and cannabinoid compounds can fill these receptor gaps.
As the study states, “Changes in the expression of peripheral cannabinoid receptors were verified in autistic patients, suggesting possible deficiencies in the production and regulation of endogenous cannabinoids…Together, these findings strongly support the need for testing Cannabis sativa extracts (CEs) and isolated phytocannabinoids as pharmacological approaches to control severe symptoms in both epileptic and non-epileptic ASD patients. Furthermore, CBD has been shown to have anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects in humans. It is plausible to assume that such effects are, at least in part, mediated by CBD-induced accumulation of the endocannabinoid anandamide.”
For more information on chiropractic and CBD go to the CE Hemp Oil and CBD Resource Center at chiroeco.com/guide-hemp-oil-benefits.