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Scalp Acupuncture and Autism


I recently went to Chicago for official training in scalp acupuncture.

Scalp acupuncture is an interesting form of acupuncture, in which needles are applied in the scalp over particular anatomic brain regions.

Using this techniques allows us to treat a variety of neuromuscular conditions, including weakness (due to strokes, concussion or other conditions), speech disturbances, frontal lobe issues(such as attention, executive functioning and brain fog).

As I have a strong interest in autism spectrum disorders and have a daughter on the spectrum we decided to give it a try on our 12 year old daughter.

Our daughter has had difficulty with speech apraxia, attention and she also struggles with delayed processing and learning disabilities. She does quite well in her home environment where her language is well understood, but she struggles to make coherent conversations in the school environment.

Upon learning the technique of scalp acupuncture I proceeded to needle areas of the scalp that overly the attention, receptive and expressive speech areas(Broca’s and Wernicke’s for those who are knowledgeable in neuroanatomy), Speech motor area and apraxia areas of the brain. These are all areas that my daughter struggles with. I also needled an area known as the frontal triangle in acupuncture, this focuses on frontal lobe functions. Finally I needled over Foot motor sensory area bilaterally. All the needles were maintained for approximately 30 minutes( stimulating them 2 times each).

It was amazing to see the results! With blinding, her TSS immediately noticed an increased attention span when working and much clearer and more concise speech.

I also noticed differences, but I am unblinded, therefore my observations, are likely biased. Our daughter has always been aloof, she would have friends over, but would lose attention in them, she would do inappropriate things to gain their attention, and often times they would wind up doing their own independent activities.

After three scalp acupuncture sessions I found Becky spending an entire day with her friend and an amazing improvement in reciprocal interactions. This was something I had never witnessed. She also had an expansion in her vocabulary and length and appropriateness of her comments.

I proceeded to investigate the use of scalp acupuncture in autism further and found several articles, including the one listed below.

Interestingly, in studies they found the same results that I observed with my daughter. It has also been suggested by several practitioners that scalp acupuncture may offer a quicker neurologic response in this patient population, than many other therapies.

If your child is struggling with developmental delays, especially speech delays, consider this safe and beneficial treatment!
Be wise and be well!

Genetically Modified Mosquitoes!

Genetically modified mosquitoes! The whole concept reminds me of the Tracker jacker from the Hunger Games

The Tracker jacker from the popular teen novel series was designed for ill will, to show the people of Panem that the Capitol was very much in power. The tracker jackers were genetically modified wasps designed to attack anyone that disrupted their nests. Their venom was used to “hijack” memories as well as cause hallucinations and if stung multiple times it was a sure death.
Unlike the fictional tracker jacker, according to an article from the New York Times, the new genetically modified mosquitoes were originally designed with a lofty purpose, to combat dengue fever. Researches at Oxitec in Britain have inserted a gene to decrease native populations of Aedes aegyptae mosquitoes. The Aedes aegyptae mosquitoes are known to carry dengue fever, yellow fever and are now implicated in the “explosive spread” of Zika virus.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been known to cause birth defects like microcephaly and brain damage. Traditional mosquito control has not been effective as these mosquitoes often bite during the day and they do not require much water for breeding.
The gene that has been inserted into the biologically engineered bugs, prevents the “friendly Aedes aegyptae’s” new offspring from reaching the adult stage. These genetically engineered insects have actually been released by the hundreds of thousands in Brazil and one study revealed that introduction of this species can decrease native mosquito larvae populations by 80 percent.
This is very impressive, however, the biologist in me wonders what this modification will do to our environment? Will there be mosquitoes that mutate into a more virulent form, one that is more resistant to this modification, as we have seen with weeds and gmo crops? Or will the potential future loss of a pesky species like the mosquito, affect the populations of other species on our planet, like bats and other wild life that feed on these insects and perhaps humans? Will this affect pollinators, considering that we already have a bee population problem? On the up side, will this change the course of many mosquito transmitted illnesses? The jury is still out on this. Although science is rapidly progressing, I feel that the precautionary principal should apply. The impact of introducing new species into the wild cannot be reversed. Consideration for all of these factors should be taken into account.
According to this New York Times article, other methods of insect control are being considered including reopening the possibility of using DDT and also infecting large populations of mosquitoes with bacteria that can impede transmission of viruses.
To learn more, check out the article from the New York Times listed below.…/new-weapon-to-fight-zika-the-mosquito.html

Air Pollution and Autism

Air Pollution Exposure during Pregnancy and Childhood Autistic Traits in Four European Population-Based Cohorts Studies: The ESCAPE Project

Environ Health Perspect;  Guxen et al. 2016 January Issue 1. DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408483

Dr. Kathy’s review of the recent publication.

Air quality is of great concern for many reasons. Poor air quality, for example has been associated with an increased incidence of heart attacks, asthma exacerbations and autism spectrum disorders (especially in children living close to a large highways).

The study listed above was recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives and is free and available on line for our review (See link below).

This study lends controversy to some of the thoughts on air pollution and it’s effect on neurodevelopment.

In this study 8,079 children were included. Maternal exposure to air pollution was determined by nitrogen oxide levels and particulate matter absorbance in four European countries (Sweden, Italy, Spain and Netherlands)

Levels were extrapolated to the exact time of pregnancy and children between the ages of 4-10 years of age were assessed for autistic traits or true clinical autism based on four different autism testing scales.

Interestingly, the highest rates of autism and autistic traits were found mostly in boys with a higher proportion of moms with low education levels and who smoked compared to children without autistic traits.

There was no statistical difference in rates of autism or autism traits in relation to airborne particle matter and nitrogen oxide levels in this European study.

In comparison, several studies performed in Los Angeles California showed a positive association between air pollution levels and autism spectrum disorders during the prenatal time period.

Why the difference? Many possibilities exist including the following; the age range of children in the California studies was 2-6 years old as opposed to 4-10 years old, the air pollution levels including particulate matter and the nitrogen oxide levels were also higher in California than the European study. Finally we could be dealing with many other confounding environmental and perhaps genetic variables that are contributing to this finding.

What is the take home point? According to the article, there have been studies published that strongly demonstrate that animals exposed to urban pollutants have an increase in brain toxicity.

The increased incidence of autism is seen not just in the United States where the rates are 1 in 68 but also in Europe, where in 2007 the rates were 1 in 86. In the United States data, there is a strong association between autism and air pollution. Further investigation comparing differences between the European and United States studies would be of benefit to explain the opposing outcomes.

Prudence tells us to keep our environment clean, as this study reiterates, avoid smoking during pregnancy and limit toxic exposures. The study presented in this article is conflicting but the obvious elephant in the room is that the prevalence of autism is increasing and will be an ever-larger burden on our society if preventative and investigative measures are not taken.

The true cause of autism is not known, however, it is felt to be a combination of genetic propensity combined with environmental factors, such as diet, toxic exposures, infections and perhaps air pollution. I encourage you to read the article below.


I recently went to the dentist to have a routine cleaning performed. They know me and asked IF I wanted a fluoride treatment. I responded “no”, not because I have strong teeth, they are actually quite sensitive, but for other reasons.

Having access to functional lab testing I had run a 24 hour urinary halides test a few months earlier, interestingly, I was sufficient in Iodine, normal, if there is a normal on bromine and high in fluoride.
So, where was I getting the fluoride from? In our home we use reverse osmosis water with a whole house chlorine filtration system, which should theoretically remove most of the fluoride from our chloramine treated public water. Perhaps toothpaste?
There was a recent initiative proposed to decrease the public water fluoride concentration from .7-1.2 to no more than .7.

Why was this passed? Due to an increase in fluorosis or spots and pitting on teeth from extra fluoride consumption.
I present this because too much fluoride is known to compete with another necessary halide known as Iodine or Iodide.

Why do we need iodine and how does it relate to fluoride? For a healthy thyroid, we know that insufficient iodine can lead to goiter and thyroid problems. With our love of Chlorine in our water supplies and pools, as well as the increased use of Bromine in baked goods and flame retardants(products like Gortex and children’s PJ’s). These all compete with iodine and may therefore can decrease thyroid function.

Thyroid function is important as we age but it is also important as we develop. There are several studies which have been published that correlate low iodine with lower IQ’s in children.

So what are some things that you can do? Consider decreasing fluoride and bromine exposure. Be sure your children completely spit any extra toothpaste out, if you choose to use fluoride toothpaste(Use a fluoride free toothpaste). If you have fluoride water consider not getting extra fluoride exposure at the dentist. Consider an effective filtration system to remove extra fluoride.

The topic of fluoride in drinking water is quite widely debated. I present just the iodine consideration, but there are other concerns including increased risk of hip fracture, arthritis and perhaps association with increased risk of cancers. I encourage everyone to investigate the pros and cons of its use and advocate appropriately in your communities.
The following is a link which describes some of the controversies in fluoride use:

Pesticides and Infertility, ADHD and Obesity

Pesticides on fruits and vegetables have been linked with lower sperm counts and infertility in men. This is a headline, which has reached most newspapers and medical websites this morning.

The original article was posted in the Journal of Human Reproduction last month. The main outcome showed that men who consumed significant amounts of fruits and vegetables with high pesticide concentrations had on average a 50% lower sperm counts and 32% of their existing sperm was deformed.

The alarming aspect of this study is in the details. This study looked at 155 men, who were being seen in a fertility clinic. The men with the lowered sperm counts and deformed sperm were considered to be eating a high amount of pesticides from fruit/vegetable intake. High intake was considered o be 1 ½ servings per day!!!!!

This translates into 1/2 cup of berries and one small apple, or perhaps a spinach salad at a restaurant. I think it is safe to say that many Americans are trying to maintain a healthy diet and weight. In the process of doing this they are focusing on fruits and vegetables. With this in mind if we are not eating organically, we are likely increasing our body burden of these chemicals, which have multiple effects beyond fertility.

In 2010 there was another study published in the journal, Pediatrics by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. This was a larger study with 1,139 participants. These participants were children aged 8-15. It was found that 10% of these children, the ones who were also diagnosed with ADHD had significantly higher levels of pesticide byproducts. This article linked ADHD with pesticide exposure. In this study there was no geographical, environmental reason for the 10% of children to be exposed to pesticides, beyond those that they were consuming in food.

A third study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health linked paradichlorobenzene a fumigant pesticide with obesity in adults in 2014. Many more articles link diabetes to pesticides in our environment. These pesticides have even been given a new label “diabesogens”.

When we vote, we are given the opportunity to exercise our freedom to choose the persons who will represent us. Many people do not realize that when we shop, we are voting financially. The best and loudest way to make changes in our food supply is by voting with our dollar. Shop wisely, purchase organic products and learn about the food that you are eating.

What can you do to limit pesticide exposure?

1. Shop for organic foods and non-genetically modified as they will have less pesticides and herbicides sprayed on them.

2. Go to and support organizations like the Environmental Working Group at The EWG provides plenty of advice on shopping for clean produce.

3. Consider starting your own backyard garden. It is a great activity for the whole family.

4. Consider joining an organic community shared agriculture like Spiral Path Farms in Central Pennsylvania.

5. Buy local produce, less chemicals are needed to store these products while they are being shipped.


My daughter recently received a popular lunchbox treat for participating in an athletic event. When I looked closely at the label what seemed like a simpler treat on the outside was quite revealing. First look at the ingredient list below and note how many ingredients there are.

Ingredients: Toasted rice cereal(Rice, sugar, salt, malt flavoring, niacinamide, reduced iron, riboflavin (Vitamin B2, Folic acid), Marshmallow(Corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, natural and artificial flavor, Fructose, Margarine(Vegetable oil(Soybean and palm oil with TBHQ for freshness, water, Natural and artificial butter flavor(Contains milk), DATEM, Acetylated monoglycerides BHT for freshness, vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D, Corn syrup solids, contains two percent or less of Dextrose, glycerine, salt, niacin amide, pyridoxine, hydrochloride(Vitamin B6), Thiamin hydrochloride(Vitamin B1), Riboflavin(Vitamin B2), Soy lecithin.

There was an intriguing ingredient, that I had never heard of. Mostly, because I shop on the perimeter of the grocery store and rarely purchase processed snack food when I go shopping. DATEM seems like a benign name, is it related to Dates?

Here is what I found in Bakerpedia. The description of DATEM on most sites including were consistent in their description of what DATEM is.

DATEM Diacetyl Tartaric Esters of Monoglycerides

An emulsifier used in bread making to strengthen the dough during processing.

Chemically synthesized from soybean oil.

Though not completely understood, it functions at the air/water interface within gluten proteins and flour lipids to improve gas holding capacity of the dough. This provides for a stronger dough that can be processed in a high stress system, and a finer crumb grain with higher bread volume, as a result of this system.

DATEM is made by reacting diacetyl tartaric anhydride with mono- and diglycerides resulting in the above structure.

The above description is a lot of chemistry for me. On a less complex note, I do know a little bit about mono and diglycerides. These substances are manufactured fats and contain trans fats as a result of the processing.

As mono and diglycerides only have one and two branches, unlike the three branched triglyceride structure this product does not have to be labeled as containing trans-fats(even though it does!).  Why is this important to your health? Well, trans fats are known to be inflammatory and to be strongly linked to coronary vascular disease, elevated dangerous cholesterol levels and many other medical conditions.

There are many basic label recommendations. Michael Pollan a well known author of “The Omnivores Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” is often quoted, “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” Next time you go shopping, take a moment to read the labels, see how many ingredients are listed and if you can pronounce what you see easily. If not, reconsider your purchase for a healthier option.

Autism and Pregnancy

Autism and Pregnancy

By Dr. Kathy Ferraro

April is Autism awareness month. The CDC reported just a few days ago that the incidence of autism increased from 1 in 88 just a few years ago to to 1 in 68.

This is a nearly 30 percent increase in the incidence of autism.

Per the CDC’s reports it is almost 5 times more common in boys than girls, an incidence of 1 in 42 boys versus 1 in 189 girls. Another staggering statistic is that 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability, data from 2006-2008.

What is responsible for this increase? The typical answer is “We don’t know, it is likely an interaction between an individual’s genes and their environment.”

This is a disability that affects more than just the child, but their family and as I have come to learn the community as a whole. We must be vigilant and educate ourselves and our friends and families of the risks of this condition and what we can all do to help decrease it.

The literature has reported many risk factors for developing autism. Extremes of age of mothers and fathers, viral infections in utero, exposure to air pollution and countless chemicals have been associated with an increased risk of the disease. There are many other conditions that have been associated, and now we have an article from the New England Journal of Medicine, just published this past month.

This article reports the results from the examination of brain tissues from 22 children who died. 11 children with varying severities of the autism spectrum disorder(mild to severe) were compared with 11 typical children. The study revealed patches of brain tissue that did not develop an appropriate genetic signature in 10 of the 11 children with autism. Interestingly, these patches were found in the areas of the brain, which are responsible for understanding language and social cues, two of the symptoms strongly associated with autism spectrum disorders. These abnormal patches were only identified on examination of the brain tissue in 1 out of the 11 typically developing children.

Based on these findings, it is suggested that the abnormalities in brain structure likely occurred in utero, when the brain tissue is first developing. As the brain continues to rapidly form for the first 2 years of life, the need for earlier interventions becomes even more apparent. The biggest gains in autism therapies often occur at earlier ages because the brain is rapidly changing during that time.

This brings me to my concern, pregnancy. Developmental disabilities are incredibly burdensome to our society, our families and the individuals affected. They have a great impact considering the fact that there is an estimated 1.2 million children and teens affected with autism in this country.

We must take care of our pregnant mothers. We must allow them to rest when they need to. Decrease their stresses, as the maternal stress hormone cortisol, has been shown to affect their children in later life. Hold the door open for them and give them your seat on the bus. If you are not well, don’t expose a pregnant mother.

As for our mothers and future mothers; use environmentally safe cleaning products and lawn care products. Supplement with B-vitamins and limit processed and artificial foods and preservatives that contain many petrochemicals. Eat real foods and quality foods, as Sally Fallon author of Nourishing Traditions stated, “In the past, butter from cows that consumed the rapidly growing spring grass was specifically saved for pregnant women because of its nourishing attributes.”

As a parent and a mother with a child with autism, I now have a greater respect for these suggestions. I unfortunately contracted viral meningitis during my pregnancy with my daughter during the first trimester. I had taken lots of Tylenol, a substance known to decrease your bodies natural antioxidant abilities. At the same time I was also going through the severe stresses of taking an oral board exam in Emergency Medicine.

I cannot change these situations of the past, but I can tell you that that experience has been and forever will be a lifelong lesson. Keep pregnancy sacred and respect it.

Genetically Modified Organisms

  “Seeds of Deception” by Jeffrey M Smith
Book Review by: Dr. Kathy Ferraro
     I recently had the pleasure of reading this book that discusses the potential dangers of genetic engineering in the US food supply.  Assuming that all of the 
 documented information is correct, this book offers a LOT of “food for thought.”
 Genetically Modified organisms(GMO’s) are very present in the Standard American 
 Diet.  According to this book as many as 70% of processed foods contain GMO’s.
So what is the fuss?  The fuss is that genetic engineering is a relatively new science and the risk of adverse outcomes from using these foods/products is not completely known.  Many food products that are currently being consumed by livestock that produce milk and meat, these feed/food products have not had rigorous testing to prove their safety.  They have been approved by the FDA and declared to be no different than traditional food products.  Frighteningly, they have been introduced into our food supply for well beyond a decade.
Some of the potential risks suggested by Jeffrey M Smith, author of this book are risk of allergic reactions, increased antibiotic resistance, decreases in nutrient density of foods, changes in hormone levels of milk as well as risk of introduction of new viruses into our environment. 
Another obvious concern is the use of round up ready seeds and even more powerful weed blocking chemicals that allow for the increased use of these chemicals on the foods that we are consuming. It is noted that more weeds are becoming resistant to round up as well. 
There are many other concerns that are suggested in this book.  
These are several suggestions that were made to decrease your exposure to GMO’s: 
     Buy Organic Non GMO as much as possible
     Avoid processed foods that are non organic
     Avoid generic vegetable oil, unless stated organic
     Olive oil is generally organic
     Major GMO crops are corn, soy, cotton, sugar beets(sugar on labels)
     Other GMO crops include hawaiin papaya, yellow squash and zucchini
     Many vitamins are made from soy and GM corn sources
     Avoid additives and preservatives
For more information, read the book, it is an insightful read.  You can also visit the website listed below and obtain a shopping/consumers guide that can be ordered or printed for free from your computer.

Know your Labels

By Dr. Kathy Ferraro

Many people are not aware of what Labels actually mean. This section is meant to be informative and helpful. It is by no means 100% accurate and is meant solely as a guideline to help you in your shopping. Please investigate your products fully to be certain that you know what you are eating.

Labeling of ORGANIC ingredients:

1. 100% organic- this implies that each ingredient must be 100% organic
2. “Organic” – This implies that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic
3. Made with Organic Ingredients- Implies that 70% of the ingredients must be organic, the non organic ingredients are not supposed to be GM. The non organic ingredients do not need to be tested as non GMO.

4. Natural- Products without antibiotics and hormones, does not imply livestock was fed non GMO grains.

Reading your PLU label:

1. If there are only 4 numbers in the PLU code this implies that the item was grown conventionally. The example is Banana’s with PLU code of 4011.

2. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with 8, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable.

3. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with 9, this tells you that the produce was grown organically and is not genetically modified.

What is Fair trade?

This is the definition:

“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seek greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of international trade”

There you have it. For more information look on the website for the International federation for produce standards as well as the following:

Snow Days and Flu Days

 I wish everyone a warm and pleasant evening, hopefully with their families, safely at home today.
  It has been snowing all day and I am enjoying it this afternoon! We cancelled our appointments and this created time for me to reflect, relax in the solitude of my office and remind everyone about staying well during the cold months ahead.  These are some safety and health tips for you during the cold season.  Stay well and be safe!
Influenza has been declared to be Widespread and peaking at this time in Pennsylvania by the Department of Health. The H1N1 flu is expected to affect 5-20% of Pennsylvanians. The best means of prevention include frequent hand washing, avoiding exposure and also getting your immunization.
If you are unable to immunize or choose not to there are several supplements that you can use to boost your immunity.  Upon exposure to the flu, use of supplements such as elderberry syrup and echinacea can help your body fight viruses.  Another supplement which has been helpful at decreasing duration of the flu is the homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum. These are available at local grocery stores and health food stores.
Increasing vitamin C intake, zinc as well as vitamin D has been shown to improve immune function in various studies.  Discuss these and all supplements with your physician.
Cold Weather Woes
Polar vortexes and  useasonably cold weather is also challenging on your immune and adrenal systems.  Protect yourself when you go outside:
1. Wear multiple layers and keep skin covered.  Prevent heat loss by wearing a hat at all times. Use mittens and loose fitting clothing.
2. Avoid extended periods of exposure
3. Be sure that your car windows are fully defrosted and your gas tanks are full.
4. Watch for slippery black ice during low temperatures
5. Be prepared for power outages

  • Stock up on food and fresh water.  Keep batteries, candles, flashlights, Sterno fuel, extra blankets and a battery-operated radio on hand, as well as your cell phone charged.
 6.   Be alert for symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite. Symptoms can include slurred speech, sluggishness, confusion, dizziness, shallow breathing, unusual behavior and slow, irregular heartbeat. Frostbite can also occur quickly in extremely low temperatures, symptoms include grey/white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness and a waxy feeling to the skin. Warm the body, but avoid rubbing tender skin.  Seek emergency help immediately if these symptoms occur.
7.  Keep your pets safe. Follow similar precautions for pets during these extreme weather conditions and do not leave them unattended in a vehicle during that time.


  Indoor Allergies
Things to do to decrease allergen exposure in your home:
(Adapted from Institute for Funcitonal Medicine Toolkit)
1. Houseplants- keep them on the dry side to decrease mold growth.  Keep them out of the bedroom.
2. Blue jean buttons- if you have nickel sensitivity, apply clear nail polish to the back/skin exposure side of the button.
3.  Minimize use of perfumes(they contain Volatile organic compounds)
4.  Candles- minimize use
5. Soaps and Detergents- choose ones without phthalates
6. Carpeting- remove it and minimize area rugs- they harbor dustmites and dust allergens
7.  Spices- limit the key offenders coriander, poppy seeds, pepper, paprika, cumin and saffron
8. Wall paint- choose low Volatile organic compound paint, such as Harmony brand from Sherwin Williams
9. Beer and alcohol-these products tend to be high in gluten and also high in sulfur dioxide
10. Dry cleaned clothes- find an earth friendly dry cleaner, consider airing out clothes outside
11. Change your HVAC filters with the change of each seaseon
12 Keep pets out of the bedroom
13. Consider a Dairy free and Gluten free diet to decrease overall sensitivity.