The Menefe Syndrome
Theory and Etiology of a Syndrome that Results in a Broad Range of Disorders Affecting Countless Children and Adults Worldwide
Manganese (Mn) + Iron (Fe) = “Menefe”
A definition: A highly-disruptive and pervasive condition resulting from a dietary pattern and/or other environmental factors and exposures, either very early in life or later in life, that overloads the body burden of the element manganese while at the same time provides levels of consumed anti-nutrients such as phytic acid/phytate that act to block bioavailability of a number of essential minerals including iron, which action can defeat otherwise naturally-regulated homeostasis between manganese and iron within the body and especially within developing or adult brain tissues. This syndrome has the potential to contribute answers both for causation, remedies and prevention for a broad range of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD’s) as well as a diverse range of other potentially-related health challenging conditions that negatively impact massive and escalating numbers of children and adults worldwide.
Some brief background
Resulting from a series of clinically observed commonalities and intuitive deductions starting in 2005, Dr. Shauna Young began creating and refining a corrective dietary strategy that by all measures and observations showed dramatic promise in reversing and even eliminating the symptoms in clients who had received various prior diagnosises within the Autism Spectrum. Even though confirmation and refinement continued to build, she was at that time far more interested in advancing the work on the basis that her safe dietary intervention was resulting in consistent success, than in making the quest all about gaining “complete” understanding as to why this natural process was working so well.
With the goal of attracting help and support, Shauna began presenting her early but compelling hypothesis and findings to many practitioners individually as well as by invitation to international audiences of the Global Foundation for Integrative Medicine (GFIM) in both 2006 and 2007. Because of much expressed enthusiasm combined with her being awarded certificates of excellence at both speaking events, Shauna had reasonable expectations that her decision to freely share this fresh information in a time of near-total bewilderment around the subject matter, would produce a bloom of collaborative research and clinical application that would surely result in new and rapid advancement in the science around solving ASD’s.
For many unknown and still theorized reasons, that did not occur. So in as much as the frustrated world needed this unique and paradigm-breaking work to move forward, Dr. Young continued to attempt to balance the requirements of maintaining a busy clinical practice functioning almost exclusively on referrals from other practitioners and happy clients, with a virtual scavenger-hunt for greater and greater levels of foundational research that would hopefully address the seemingly endless extents of vetting and validation being imposed by most medical practitioners and virtually the rest of the approached “autism community”.
The NoHarm Foundation was formed in late 2008 with the primary goals of providing free public access to progressive refinements of the Spectrum Balance® Dietary Protocol and of assisting with the research that would satisfy the unanticipated skepticism for a natural process that in very worst case would create superior nutrition for a child or adult for a few months, but in a growing number of cases was resulting in positive and rapid results and even re-diagnosis without any risk to the subject and at very minor financial cost.
The following outline summary along with our accompanying Supporting Research compilation are intended to present and support virtually all theorized and known factors as of this date about the nature and etiology of the Menefe Syndrome, which we believe manifests and presents as many of the disorders that are currently being classified and diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum, as well as those of a very broad range of other neurological, psychological and behavioral conditions plaguing both children and adults in greatly escalating numbers.
Nowhere in our research compilation do we point to a singular study that has concluded that the dietary and environmental factors we suggest have a proven connection to the explosion in “autism”. However, we are confident that we have supplied more than virtually any open-minded reader would require not only to acquire a very clear understanding of our hypothesis, but to be able to join us in “connecting the dots” so to speak, between the abundant but non-cohesive independent research that has been done over several decades by numerous prestigious institutions from all around the world. Major answers for superior world health are present within this data.
Beyond the direct relevance that this science has toward solutions involving autism and many related neurological, behavioral and learning disorders in both children and adults, it has become obvious to us that the same mineral imbalance and starvation mechanism that we describe and document here can also be directly linked to epidemic-proportion iron, zinc, calcium and other growth mineral deficiencies that by estimates plague at least two billion people of the planet – mostly developing infants and children. Nutritional science at large must immediately pick up on the findings and concerns that have been expressed not only by us, but by a good number of the prominent published researchers we cite here over the last several decades.
Dramatically rising rates of incidence of ASD’s that continue to collide with diminishing and reluctant government and insurance financial resources, represent a certain recipe for social disaster. It therefore makes logical sense that only by improving the conditions of possibly the majority of those currently affected, combined with intelligent and actionable strategies to sharply reverse the disturbing trends in new occurrences, will we be able to preserve and dedicate available financial resources to the remaining minority of cases that require more complicated treatment and potentially lifetime assistance. More resources can thereby be allocated to providing superior services to a diminishing segment of the affected population.
Our current goal and intention is that this condensation of theory supported with what is only a very small portion of the overwhelming amount of confirming scientific research that we have assembled and continue to assemble over the last six years, will be sufficient justification and motivation for many others in the communities to assist us in acquiring the financial backing and people backing along with collaborative research support that will bring this major puzzle piece deservedly into the forefront of conversation about the crucial challenges and answers for this and subsequent generations of our world.
Theorized Development & Progression of the Menefe Syndrome
This is a simple outline of our theories based on both research and clinical experience regarding potential contributing factors and causes of the Menefe Syndrome in developing fetuses, neonates, children and adults. Additional discussion on these topics is contained in our larger document package “Autism Paradigm Shift” available for free download through this website.
Possible prenatal contributing factors –
Dietary patterns of the mother:
- High consumption of manganese-rich foods
- Regular consumption of high and/or cumulative doses of manganese from vitamins and other supplements
- High consumption of phytate-rich foods resulting in mineral imbalances and deficiencies – especially iron deficiencies
- Maternal anemia by any cause, which is proven to promote higher manganese absorption
- High maternal manganese blood levels can result in significantly greater levels in the developing fetus as a result
- of Mn transport and documented concentration through the umbilical cord
Poor digestive health of the mother:
- Presence of Candida and other yeast excess
- Improper absorption of nutrients in the gut
- Chronic consumption of antacids
Possible neonatal contributing factors –
Very early life:
- Exposure to pharmaceuticals such as preventative or treatment drugs for jaundice that may result in poor early iron absorption in the intestines
- The need for and being subject to parenteral (intravenous) nutrition due to premature birth or other health challenges at birth
- Early exposure to pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics that can greatly disrupt proper gut function and nutritional uptake and balance
- Early intake of any form of supplemented manganese during the period of higher than normal absorption by the developing brain and prior to proper function of the liver, a mature biliary excretion system and intact blood-brain barrier
Early dietary patterns of the child:
- Minimal or absence of breast feeding
- Formula substitutes that may be high in manganese and/or phytate (especially soy based formulas)
- Neonatal supplementation that contains manganese (any may be too much)
The above factors may produce a nutritional pattern very early in life that overloads manganese while simultaneously providing levels of phytate and other anti-nutrients that prevent the availability of adequate levels of bio-available iron that would naturally tend to promote Mn/Fe homeostasis in vivo and especially within developing brain tissues.
As the dietary patterns change and progress –
Spoon feeding period:
- Regular consumption of high-manganese and high-phytate foods that are quite commonly marketed as baby foods
Transitions to high consumption of cereal-based foods that are high in phytate, and many times high in manganese as well
- Child supplements that contain manganese (any may be too much)
When symptoms develop in older children and adults of any ages –
- Diets that involve regular consumption of foods high in phytate
- Diets that involve regular consumption of foods high in manganese
- Diets high in regular consumption of soy-based or soy-containing foods
- Diets that do not include sufficient levels of bio-available iron – especially in the case of vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, as meat-source (heme) iron is several times more readily utilized in our bodies than is plant-source (non-heme) iron and is more resistant to chelation by dietary phytate
- Use of nutritional supplements that contain manganese (even levels within current recommendation standards may actually represent too much for many)
Other environmental exposures to manganese –
- Intake of Mn through drinking water can be significant in some areas
- Intake of Mn through air by inhalation can be significant in some areas
- Intake resulting from Mn use in pesticides and fungicides (foods and airborne)
Known factors that increase iron absorption and bioavailability:
- Regularly consuming foods that are good sources of heme iron – Beef, poultry, fish
To a lesser degree, regularly consuming foods that are good sources of at least non-heme iron – Green leafy vegetables, many fruits, etc.
- Regularly consuming foods that are good sources of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which enhances bio-availability and absorption of non-heme iron
- Supplementing with Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Regularly consuming foods that are good sources of beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, which enhances
- bio-availability and absorption of non-heme iron
- Supplementing judiciously with Vitamin A (retinol) and with beta carotene
Possibly supplementing with iron, however we have seen more consistent results by increasing iron intake from foods compared to supplements
Known factors that inhibit iron absorption and bioavailability:
- Regularly consuming foods that are high in phytic acid (phytate) – Grains, breads & other grain foods (especially wheat), legumes (especially soy), nuts & seeds, and some vegetables
- Regularly consuming many foods that are high in fiber
- Regularly drinking coffees or teas that are high in tannic acid, polyphenols and/or manganese
Taking supplements that contain significant amounts of minerals that compete with iron for absorption – Calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper and of course, manganese
- Chronic gastrointestinal conditions that can reduce nutrient absorption