Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Thoughts on Jenny McCarthy's Latest Book on Autism

In April 2009, Jenny McCarthy has published another book about Autism; this one is about preventing Autism and healing children from Autism.

I requested a review copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program.

I am 100 pages into the book and have some thoughts to share today. This is not a book review, just thoughts.

This is the first book that I have read by Jenny McCarthy. The co-author is a physician; a physician she used for the treatment of her son who she says has been cured of Autism.

I know the medical community (doctors and Big Pharma) hate it when a non-medical doctor writes a book about medical conditions, treatments and cures. So while I was surprised to see the format of this book I now applaud it as it removes any criticism that McCarthy may otherwise have gotten. What I am talking about is the entire book is in Q&A format. McCarthy asks a question of the doctor and he answers it. The doctor is Dr. Jerry Kartzinel (he is an M.D.).

I am used to books being professional in tone, so what I dislike the most is the use of mild profanity and slang. The book goes beyond colloquialism in my opinion, regarding McCarthy's words. Some of this slang and mild profanity is also in illustrations (cartoons) "bad ass" being one of them.

I am not sure which one of these reasons is why the editor and publisher allowed this book to use this style. I have some ideas.

1. To keep the book exciting to certain readers who would tire of a more professional tone

2. The paraphrasing with slang and the happy exclamations and mild profanity may appeal to some readers who can identify with speaking in that way so that reader remains open to continue reading the book to get the important information to help their child (broadening the reading audience). "Dumbing down" the content. (If that is the case I am willing to take it since the information will reach more people.)

3. Make the book feel like more of a friendly conversation between another nice mother or have the tone of a 'girls night out' dishing session.

4. This is the way Jenny McCarthy talks in real life and she wanted to keep her personality intact in the book. (If this is true I'd be disappointed in her because I have higher standards for standard English and professional tones in nonfiction books and feel the author's voice can still come through while being professional.)

5. Jenny McCarthy has no desire to clean up the conversational tone, slang and profanity as she thinks it is 'fine and well'. (If that is true it is part of the casualization of American culture and I don't like that.)

Okay I'll put the writing style issues aside onto the actual content.

I am happy to see content in this book that explains in layman's terms some medical things that are very hard to find in written literature especially books for the layperson.

Here are specific thoughts of mine.

For the first time I have found a great explanation of 'leaky gut'.

This is the first book other than "Is This Your Child?" by Doris Rapp M.D. that discusses the fact that food and drinks can have adverse effects on the body.

This book mentions (briefly) the huge issue of conflicts of interest with the people in the CDC who approve vaccinations (something rarely mentioned in books).

This book covers information also applicable to other issues like OCD and ADD/ADHD.

I feel this same information can apply to some lesser conditions such as one of my son's bad reactions to foods even though he never had an Autism diagnosis. In other words the information in this book could help many children even if they have never been officially diagnosed with a real allergy, OCD, ADD/ADHD, or Autism.

This book discusses the fact that foods, drinks, chemicals in food, environmental things (off gassing of synthetic rugs for example) and toxins inherited in one's genes from prior generations can give children certain symptoms. It explains that if enough symptoms are present an Autism diagnosis may be made. It explains that if the co-morbid condition is cured then the symptoms can go away or diminish enough to stop calling the child Autistic or in their words 'be cured' from Autism.

The book clearly discusses toxic load and how children with so many seasonal allergies, other allergies or Autism may be our culture's "Canary in the mine", being the first people negatively affected by the toxins in our world today.

The two most common diets used to try to help children with Autism are discussed in detail.

The book points the reader to different sources to learn more about each topic.

Discussions of sensory issues impeding the child's life or causing behaviors that are then labeled "Autistic behaviors" is excellent.

It is revealed that Dr. Kartzinel has started a line of supplements that are GFCF for use in children with Autism (and OCD and other conditions) so the recommendation of such programs may be considered a conflict of interest, although competitor's do make similar products. Also Jenny McCarthy states in the book she is an investor in Dr. Kartzinel's new supplement line, another conflict of interest the reader should know about.

This is all just in the first 100 pages of a book with over 300 pages.

I am grateful for this book as it covers topics that are not discussed in a book or that some may accuse as being rumor or myth when talked about between mother and mother.

Since my oldest child began having negative reactions to food and drinks at age two and I/he was helped greatly by the book "Is This Your Child?" by Doris Rapp MD, he has been different/better since he was on an elimination diet from cow's milk/dairy for a number of years. I now feel that if he continued with the symptoms he did have back then and I'd not changed his diet he may have qualified for an Autism diagnosis. This came as a shock to me. Instead of other parent's who first got the Autism diagnosis on their child and tried to fix it, I saw bad symptoms and fixed it (with the advice of a medical doctor, not our normal pediatrician). I shudder to think that my son may have ever received an Autism diagnosis.

I worry about the kids who first get an Autism diagnosis if the issue is JUST the food or drink they consume or an environmental toxin or reaction to something in the environment (pollen etc.). I think the prognosis for those kids to resolve some symptoms is less if the parents buys into the label and says it is just genetic and nothing can be done other than educational modifications and encouraging speech therapy and other things.

The genetic issue is also discussed in an easy to understand manner. For example if a person has a genetic programming to be allergic to Penicillin but never has a reaction to Penicillin they will never have gotten a diagnosis of "allergic to Penicillin". Therefore a person may have genetic programming to have Autism but it might only be triggered into being active by certain environmental exposures, drugs, vaccines, foods, and so forth. That is already being said and accepted by the mainstream medical community for a person having genes for Cancer but that a trigger must happen to get that medical diagnosis label and to require treatment for Cancer.

Anyhow I love the information being covered in this book even if the style of writing irritates me.

Post Script: In preparing this blog post when trying to verify the degree of Dr. Kartzinel I found many criticisms by laypeople online about Jenny McCarthy, labeling her ideas as wrong. I am not jumping on that bandwagon because this book is co-authored with a medical doctor and because I know through experience the dramatic change in behavior, emotional and physical symptoms that can occur through a change in a child's diet. Once you have experienced that in some degree with someone you know well or a child you love, you cannot simply label it is quackery. I have not finished reading the book and don't have opinions on all the therapies and recommendations.

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AVA said...

I'm not sure whether all M.D.'s are specialised enough to deal in depth with all subjects discussed.

I think there's a good publication strategy behind Mrs. McCarthy's messages.
Which doesn't mean her ideas are right.

We here in The Netherlands have a more thorough system of diagnosing autism, so many topics discussed in the book are not belonging to the autism discussion at all.
See ::here::My problem is that the publication campaign behind Mrs. McCarthy's ideas is well funded and good, but people with bad results are not mentioned at all.
How many children are harmed by all the "therapies" parents try and try and try without any medical knowledge. Maybe they're not physically harmed, but they lack proper help to deal with the world, and they're declared being a medical problem instead of being accepted as being autistic.

Karianne said...

I am a speech-language pathologist, but also a mother of two young children with allergies. I tend to wonder if their allergies may even be triggered by vaccinations, because so many are given at one time at such a young age. After my first daughter was born I decided to space out her shots. I've also done this with my second daughter, and while the pediatricians come across as "supportive" I initially get raised eyebrows and the "poor baby" look since my child is getting poked with so many "unnecessary" needles. This decision for me was the best compromise I could come up with. They are receiving the vaccinations but hopefully reducing the potential negative effects they may cause.

I too am one to question the intentions of the government, drug companies, and doctors. They have way too much invested, especially financially, to come out and declare vaccinations are harming our children. They've vaccinated most of the population in the United States, and even required it in order to enter the public school system, so if they came out and said shots are harmful they would have the entire American public wanting to sue them. So I simply do not trust them to tell me the truth.

Many say that our ability to accurately diagnose children has improved, causing an increase in the number of children diagnosed with speech and/or language disorders (this area I am familiar with). While I believe this is partially true, I also believe there is much more going on. Why are more and more children being diagnosed with food and environmental allergies? Why are more and more children being diagnosed with speech and/or language disorders? With Autism? With ADD/ADHD? What about the rise in reproductive issues for men and women? What the heck is going on?!

The only conclusion I can come to is that the toxins in our environment ARE affecting us. And I don't believe it is simply a result of our children now coming into contact with the toxins in our environment. I think it may be the result of 2-3 generations of pesticides being sprayed on our food, vaccinations injected into our bodies (containing thymerisol, formaldehyde, and antifreeze as preservatives for example), and the chemicals found in our own homes (cleaners and body care products). There of course is no evidence to show that it harmed the first generation, or even the second, but maybe our children's generation is starting to pay for the buildup of toxins not only in our environment now, but genetically passed on from previous generations.

Maybe they haven't been good for us after all... but who is going to be the one to tell us?

Karianne Wilkins

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


When you were discussing the "genetic issue" you were getting very close to the semantic problem that has dogged the whole issue surrounding vaccinations. The CDC and the scientific establishment has not been entirely forthcoming for political reasons. (This is the problem with government sponsored science).

The issue is epigenetics--which is a kind of gene-by-environment interaction. We do know how certain environmental toxins effect the immediate early genes in the central nervous system, and how they alter the number of synaptic spines and receptors at synapses in the brain. We know how this works with alcohol and certain addictive drugs. It is entirely possible that for a child with the genes for autism, developmental abnormalities could be further compromised by epigenetic effects. The question is not if vaccinations cause autism. That's way too simplistic when dealing with a polygenic symdrome. The question should be: could vaccinations or the preservatives in them cause epigenetic effects on a vulnerable nervous system? Answers here would be far more valuable and interesting.

Happy reading.