Speak & Omega-3 Fatty Acids
By Hatem Bakr
Posted August 28, 2013
I am searching for a medication for my 4 ½ year old son who is autistic and has problems concentrating. I believe that the medication is only available in the U.S. and is called “speak” or “speech” and is used to treat autism. Could you please help?
Answered: September 3, 2013 by Dr. Sidney Baker
The product you are seeking is called speak. It is a supplement of omega-three essential fatty acids otherwise known as fish oils. It is not substantially different from cod liver oil, which has its roots in ancient Egypt.
I would not view omega-3 oils as "a treatment for autism." Omega-3 oils have a universal benefit for populations consuming diets that, these days, are likely to be deficient in such oils. Those most likely to benefit have one or more of the following physical clues: lackluster skin, little bumps on the skin of the upper arms or shoulders (hyperkeratosis follicularis), brittle fingernails, alligator skin on the lower legs, peeling and/or cracking skin of the hands or feet, and a general tendency toward information sometimes expressed as hyperactivity in the realm of behavior.
Omega-3 oils give flexibility to the very thin membrane that encloses every cell of the body. The brain, moreover, is so to speak made mostly of fatty acids among which the most flexible ones are the most crucial.
Blood tests can be used to demonstrate imbalances in oils. It is, however, safe to simply get a supplemental of omega-3 oils for the prevention or treatment of a variety of problems. It takes about three months to replenish the membranes of the body so you cannot expect the full benefit to be seen immediately.
On the other hand is a lesson I learned years ago from a 10-year old girl who had outbursts of aggressive behavior that had been the subject of family therapy for three years. During the same three years she had been consulting a dermatologist for cracking and peeling of her feet requiring nighttime treatments with cortisone cream under white cotton socks. Her behaviors and the skin of her feet cleared up completely within three weeks after initiating a supplemental flax oil. Flax oil is the mother of the family of omega-3 oils. It consists of 40% alpha-linolenic acid from which all the other omega-3 oils are produced.
Since the human body cannot make alpha-linolenic acid or its partner linoleic acid (the mother of the omega-6 family) from other raw materials, these fatty acids must be consumed in food or supplements. These oils have a high tendency to become rancid and so they are removed from processed foods to extend shelf life. The widespread use of "cooking oils" that either lack omega-3 oils or have had omega-3 oils removed, also to promote a longer shelf life, is an important factor in the widespread deficiency of omega-3 oils in modern industrialized societies.
Anyway, the answer to your question about “speak” for your son is yes, or something like it. Be cautious, however, with your selection of oil products. You should receive credible assurance from the supplier that the oil is absolutely pure. Nordic Naturals and Vital Nutrients in Middletown Connecticut USA are reliable brands.
Any benefits received with supplementation of omega-3 oils should encourage you to look further toward measures that will help provide your son the balance he needs to heal. That balance is achieved by starting with two simple questions. First, does he have some unmet special need other than the oils that might call for the supplementation of some vitamin, mineral, amino acid or other accessory nutritional factors? You can learn more about magnesium, Zinc, methyl B12, carnitine, vitamin D, and quite a few others in Dr. Jon Pangborn’s book Nutritional Supplement Use for Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Second, should your child avoid or eliminate some allergen or toxins currently hinder Nature’s buoyant impulse towards healing? Dietary avoidance of gluten, casein, yeast, mold, sugars, and sometimes other specific foods or groups of foods may require experimental elimination of one or all for a period of two or three weeks in order to establish an answer to this question. See my previous Ask Autism360 posting on Diet Matters.
The most important lesson I have learned and 60 years of being a doctor is that he is an individual person who is the target of treatment not the disease. The uniqueness of every living creature is a fundamental scientific and spiritual principle. You can find help and guidance from joining Autism360 and seeing what has benefited children who are most like yours. Other information is available on at Autism Research Institute, particularly in the results of parent surveys.
I wish you all the best in pursuing answers for your child.