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Biomedical Treatments—Key Takeaways from MAPS 2016


I’ve attended a number of different conferences and course over the years, in person and online, in a quest to learn all I can to help my daughter. This past April I attended the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) conference for the first time. It was an intense three days of learning. The MAPS conference is a continuing education conference that allows medical practitioners to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the research and clinical applications in the area of biomedical treatments for special needs children, with a specific focus on children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

MAPS is a conference of clinicians and researchers who are in the trenches treating kids everyday, pushing forward what they have learned from clinical experience while being guided by research. I read a lot and have been to many courses, but I was looking for a comprehensive program where the curriculum addressed all areas of biomedical treatments and interventions currently available. That’s why I decided to go to the MAPS conference, and I was not disappointed. The depth of information and quality of practitioners and instructors is second to none. While I can’t share all I learned in one article, I will share a few points of interest that I took away from my three days there.

in a nutshell
  • MAPS-trained practitioners are well educated with a depth of knowledge and experience in biomedical treatments available to children with neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Environment cannot be stressed enough in aiding recovery; for some kids it is THE key
  • Genetic testing is a useful assessment tool, but don’t just treat the SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, or alterations of genetic expression)
  • Gut lining repair is reliant on methylation which is often impaired in children with neurodevelopmental disorders

MAPS Practitioner Training

Practitioners who attend this continuing education conference go through extensive training. As a new attendee I was required to spend a day in the foundational program which gave us an overview of all of the main areas addressed by biomedical treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders (gastroenterology, environmental medicine, nutrition, immunology, metabolism and neurology). As the program continues, in-depth training is provided in each of these areas in addition to advanced clinical sessions. Those who choose to take the fellowship track will also spend time with experienced practitioners to further hone their clinical skills.

Key Takeaways to Consider for Your Child

Address environment.

I came home with a renewed respect for the need to address environmental exposures. Chemical toxicants could be ground zero for your child's symptoms. They have the ability to disrupt the detox pathways and the gut microbiome, cause oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, create nutritional deficiencies, disrupt the autonomic nervous system and create immune dysfunction and endocrine disruption.

Reviewing the evidence reinforced my knowledge that detox pathways and potential exposures must be addressed before doing active detoxes and heavy metal cleanses with our children. Removing the sources of exposure and readying their bodies for detox must come first.

Toxic effect from metals is different from metals toxicity.

Don’t let the semantics fool you. The mainstream medical viewpoint of toxicity is based on toxic levels in the blood as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This does not take into account a measure of toxins that accumulate in the body over time, known as net retention. While net retention is acknowledged by the CDC, unfortunately, they don't feel it is necessary to treat until at “toxic” levels in the blood, which only indicates an acute current exposure rather than chronic lower level exposure that may be accumulating in other tissues.

The CDC acknowledges that metals and chemicals can elicit independent, additive or synergistic toxic effects while at the same time admitting that their testing is limited to adverse effects based on SINGLE toxicants.

In other words, the CDC’s benchmarks and warnings don’t apply to real life. Our kids are not exposed to one toxicant at time—they are exposed to hundreds if not thousands of different chemicals that could have synergistic effects at much smaller doses than allowed by the CDC single toxicant testing.

Invest in genetic testing.

I recommend a simple, non-invasive saliva test done with 23andme or another provider. Give the raw data to your practitioner to decipher for you. This is a newer and complicated area of practice but can be very helpful in uncovering some of the supports your child may need to help their body heal.

Don't solely focus on the results or the individual mutations that are identified in genetic testing.

These tests are another piece of the the puzzle and shouldn’t be treated as the only answer. The information is best utilized to show you what nutritional supports your child may need. Dr. Ben Lynch, a leading expert in this area who presented at the MAPS conference, stressed in his lecture that it is important to focus on diet and digestion. The genetic mutations, or SNPs, can identify where an enzymatic reaction in your child’s body is impaired. The first line of defense against these mutations is ensuring that your child has all the cofactors involved in the enzymatic reactions. A focus on diet and digestion is key because nutrients act as the needed cofactors. Without these nutrient cofactors, your body won't have the basic ingredients to get the job done.

An example of where genetic testing can be practically applied is with the PON1 SNP mutation, which involves the enzyme involved in clearing pesticides. If your child has this mutation, pesticide exposure will be 40 times more impactful than for those who do not have the mutation. Presence of this SNP can be taken into consideration when you are prioritizing whether you can afford to purchase organic foods or when assessing the impact of the use of pesticides at your child’s school on their recovery.

Address methylation to heal a leaky gut.

Most of our kids have a leaky gut. We often work long and hard to help our children repair their gut lining. In optimal circumstances, the gut lining has the ability to regenerate every seven days, which requires a lot of DNA and, thus, a lot of methylation. Methylation is the addition of methyl groups to DNA, a process that helps regulate how certain genes are expressed, or how they perform. Methylation is often impaired in our children due to genetic mutations or SNPs, and a lack of cofactors. If we don’t address the methylation challenges our children face then our efforts to heal their gut lining will be impaired. Certain supplements such as folate can help improve methylation.  Methylation support needs to be individualized so it is best to consult a practitioner for biomedical treatments – practitioner who knows your child’s full history to aid in deciding what methylation supports will be best.

These are just a few tidbits I learned at the MAPS conference. I’m looking forward to sharing more in future articles and will be returning to their conference in the fall to ensure I am sharing the most relevant and effective information with you.

If you want to learn more about MAPS and their conference or want to find a MAPS-trained practitioner to add to your team of professionals helping your child, check out their website medmaps.org.