Transforming Autism – Improving The Lives Of People With Autism with Luminara Serdar

Content By: Ari Whitten & Luminara Serdar

Transforming Autism – Improving The Lives Of People With Autism with Luminara Serdar

In this episode, I am speaking with Luminara Serdar – who is an autism recovery expert, helping parents discover and address the root causes of their child’s challenging autism behaviors so that a child can be calm, happy, develop to peer level and gain independence. She’s trained as a scientist in genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry, as a functional nutritionist and holistic healer. She works with clients using nutrition, opening body systems, and removing toxic buildup to help shift autism behaviors.

Luminara’s Transforming Autism Workshop is currently live. You can sign up for free here!

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Luminara and I discuss:

  • What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
  • Luminara’s take on the root cause(s) of autism (and what current evidence tells us)
  • The most powerful tools to improve symptoms of autism
  • How to treat autism to improve your child’s life quality
  • The link between autism and mitochondrial function
  • How environmental toxicants affect ASD expression (can anything be done to fix it)
  • The best way to deal with picky eating

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Ari: Hey, this is Ari. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I have a wonderful episode for you today with Luminara Serdar, who is an autism recovery expert. Who helps parents address and fix the root causes of their child’s challenging autism behaviors so that that child can become calm, happy to develop to peer level and to gain independence, and so that parents can feel competent, empowered, and happy.

She’s trained as a scientist in genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry, as a functional nutritionist, and a holistic healer. She works with clients throughout the world using new nutrition and detoxification strategies to help shift autism behaviors. Now, I recently met Luminara at a conference that we were both attending. I really love the work that she’s doing. She told me that she’s got a summit coming up.

I think she said it was in about two weeks from when I met her, in about October 20th or so. I said, let me rush to open up a spot to do a podcast with you. Then I’ll put you in the front of the queue so that I can support this event and support the work that you’re doing and to help kids who are struggling with these issues and to help parents who are struggling to help their kids get better.

If you are the parent of a child who is on the spectrum, or you have friends or family who are, please share this podcast with them. I think you’re going to get a lot of value from this. Also, please go and sign up for Lumina’s upcoming event, Autism Transformed the Workshop. I think it’s free, and you are going to get a huge amount of value from that. Listen to this podcast. Sign up for the free event. Go all in on this and share it with everyone who you know and love, who is dealing with these kinds of issues, and who wants to help these people be more well adapted, have happier more successful, more independent lives.

The link to sign up for the upcoming workshop is at You can go to the podcast page for this episode. You can grab the link there, or you can go directly to Lumina’s site at Autism Transformed and be able to find it there. Either way is perfectly fine. Sign up, attend this workshop. It’s free. You’re going to get a huge amount of value from it. Listen to this podcast, share it with friends and family, and help out everyone that you can. I think you’re going to get a lot of value from this. Enjoy.

Welcome to the show, Luminara. Such a pleasure to have you.

Luminara: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Transforming Autism Workshop

Ari: You have an event coming up. Let’s, first of all, talk about that. What’s the event all about?

Luminara: Yes, this is a workshop for parents. It’s called The Transforming Autism Workshop. It’s three days where, each day, I’ll take a different topic and really workshop with parents, so start by asking their questions and try and get through what can help them. We’ll focus on the gut and brain, so diet, elimination. One day, we’ll focus on speech and social, focus and attention because those seem to go together. The last day, we’ll focus on behaviors because that’s a big issue for a lot of kids with autism meltdowns and anger and crying and anxiety.

What it means to be on the autism spectrum

Ari: Okay, so this is an area that I feel passionate about. I met you at an event that we were at 10 days ago or so. You told me what you did and you told me you’ve got an event coming up and I said, “Let me get you on the podcast. Let me support you.” We’re rushing this. We’re rushing to do this podcast. I’m going to rush my team to get it in front of all the other podcasts that I’ve already recorded in the queue to make sure that I support your event and time and get parents the help they need with their kids.

With all of that said, this event’s focusing on autism. Everybody’s heard the term “autism” and we talk about it as a spectrum now. I think maybe despite the fact that the term itself is ubiquitous and we’ve all heard it, I think there is maybe a deficit in the actual understanding in the general public of what it actually is. What’s going on? What does it mean to have autism or to be on the spectrum?

Luminara: Well, like you said, autism, it’s a spectrum, so you can have really high-functioning people who are brilliant and have little quirks and personality and not a typical brain. Then you can have people who are really severe. I see a lot of kids. They’re in their own world. They’ll bang their head probably because they’re uncomfortable inside, but that could be a response to something they don’t want to do or it could be how badly they’re feeling in their body. They don’t engage with others. They don’t speak. Gosh, a lot of kids don’t sleep. They’re hyper. They’re constantly moving.

I’ve seen that a lot. They’re that end and then there’s a higher-functioning and then there’s a whole range. What’s happened in recent years is April used to be Autism Awareness Month. Now, it’s Autism Acceptance Month. I just want to start out by saying if anybody’s watching this and they have autism and they’re a high-functioning adult, I’m probably not speaking to you so much because what happens is they say, “Well, I function really well. I have to go and do these stim movements like some regular movements because it relieves stress.”

Why some individuals find it difficult to accept help from people who are not affected by their unique condition

Totally fine. Nothing wrong with that. We all need stress relief. The people I’m talking to are the parents who have kids who really just– they can’t function. They may never be independent in the world. I’m often labeled an ableist. It’s like a racist, so I’m not for the disabled, which is not true. I’m for everybody. I want everybody to have a great life and function as best as they can. I just want to put that out on the table because I’m really called that. I feel unjustly because I do want to help people be more abled in whatever regard they’re willing to be and they’re able to be and they want to be.

Ari: I think it’s maybe worth going into that aspect of things a bit more. When they say you’re an ableist, what exactly do they mean by that?

Luminara: This is my understanding that someone with high-functioning autism who’s an adult or young adult considers themselves disabled in some way because they don’t have a neurotypical brain. It doesn’t function the same way, so they might have higher levels of anxiety or might not have the social interaction skills that other people have, that the neurotypical have.

That’s a disabling thing for them, so they consider themselves disabled. If I say I’m trying to cure or fix, they assume I’m trying to cure them, I’m trying to fix them, and I’m trying to make them different other than the beautiful beings they are. That’s not what I’m trying to do. What I do is I want to help everyone’s biochemistry. I know you can relate to the whole biochemistry thing. That’s where I geek out.

Ari: Sure.

Luminara: I want to help the body function better. If those behaviors change, which that’s what I notice, wonderful. If they don’t change, that’s fine. Who doesn’t want a better-functioning body? Maybe some people don’t, but that’s where I’m coming from.

Ari: This is a weird thing to me because if I can think of a couple of analogous scenarios still staying within the realm of health, it’s like someone who has low energy levels and then wants to say, “Well, I have low energy levels. I am this way. Who are you to try to help me have higher energy levels?”

Luminara: Kind of.

Ari: Or like, “I have a leg that’s in pain, and who are you to try to tell me that I should have a leg that isn’t in so much pain all the time, that I should be able to use my legs better than I am?” It’s weird to me that somebody would object to someone who is offering to help them function better, have less pain, have more energy, have a brain function that is less disabling in their life.

Luminara: We have to consider. You and I are coming from a more almost entitled place around that. We have those functions. Of course, we want everyone to have them and some people don’t or won’t.

Ari: I’ve done a brain map recently and I’m in neurofeedback myself. I’m recommending neurofeedback to a friend of mine, whose son is on the spectrum. I’m doing this therapy and I’ve done a brain map that has indicated that I have auditory processing delays. I’m in the direction of attention-deficit hyperactivity. The area of my brain that’s involved in anxiety is lit up.

When people talk about the neurotypical, there is almost this assumption built into it that everyone else, except for me, is here and has no problems with anxiety and no problems with attention deficit or no problems with emotional regulation or whatever else. That’s just an average of the population. The actual individuals of that population are all over the place. Each individual has their own struggles.

Very rarely are you going to find, even among geniuses, that they don’t have some brain-related deficit in some aspect of cognitive function or emotional processing or something. I guess part of my objection, I also object honestly to the position of one who doesn’t have a certain issue can’t talk about that issue intelligently. I think that there’s this cultural narrative that we have now that it’s off-limits to talk about certain topics unless you are part of the group that has that particular problem.

Quite frankly, I think that is just totally unintelligible nonsense to imagine that certain people can’t intellectually understand something and then express an opinion on it. No, no. No matter how much you think and learn and research about this topic, it’s off-limits for you to express an opinion because you don’t understand. It’s like me as a person of Jewish ancestry saying, “No one is allowed to have an opinion on the Holocaust because only my ancestors went through the Holocaust.” It’s like, “Okay.”

Luminara: I see that.

Ari: Lots of people can take history classes and learn about the Holocaust and then have an opinion on the Holocaust. I don’t object to that. I think it’s very silly when people have a position like that. Anyway, I’m digressing a little bit into stuff that’s-

Luminara: No, I totally agree.

Ari: -a little politically charged and probably will trigger some people listening to this and to be angry at me.

Luminara: I want to say one more thing, and that is that it’s also an identity. When you take that identity away from someone, it’s a little bit like, “Who should I be? Who am I now?” There’s more investment in it than just how your brain works.

Ari: Exactly. Okay, so looping back into more helpful stuff, I think. Where did this come from for you? Where did your interest in working with kids on the spectrum come from?

Luminara: Well, I’ve always had an interest in kids. When I was younger, I used to teach ballet and gymnastics to young kids. I used to do summer camps. I was a camp counselor. I always loved working with kids. Then it didn’t come from my own child, but there’s a tie in there. Where this came from is I studied a healing modality called neuromodulation technique. I think it’s similar to the biofeedback you’re doing but different. It’s given by not a machine but a practitioner.

The idea is to shift the nervous system by finding errors that the brain is making and correcting those errors. I got into that and started helping people with allergies because I had my own allergies. I went to see someone who does NMT. That’s the short form of neuromodulation technique. Within two sessions, 90% of my allergies were gone and my vision had spontaneously improved and I was like, “Whoa, what’s this about? I have to go back for more.”

I got my vision, my lenses, the corrective part of it, down by 33%. In the meanwhile, I got fascinated with the technique because I was a molecular biologist. This was in the realm of quantum physics. I was like, “Whoa, how does this work? I got to figure it out.” I started helping people with allergies and started getting a lot of kids with autism coming to me and I’d help with an allergy, but then their chiropractic adjustments, they wouldn’t have to go see the chiropractor. Other weird things, I call them the beneficial side effects like my vision improving.

That’s how I got into it and I thought, “Wow, NMT is the bomb. This is great. It’s going to remodel the body,” but then kind of evolving from there when I hit a wall with it. I could only help so much. I started investigating more and more about autism and just doing tons of trainings and conferences and found, “Oh, these kids are really deficient in the raw materials that the body needs to make those changes,” right? That’s the vitamins and the minerals and the nutrients. That’s the biomedical approach where we look at all the different nutrients that go into there, so I became a nutritionist.

Then, now, I’ve evolved to this place where if we want to get those nutrients in, we have to move out of the body what’s in the way. What’s in the way is what I see is these kids who really have– Well, everyone who doesn’t have great function in one way or another, there’s usually toxins in the way. They’re from microbes. They’re from bad gut bacteria. They’re heavy metals. They’re industrial toxins. We can’t escape the toxic soup we live in. What I’m finding is if we clean those out of the body, but you have to do it in the right way and in the right order, then the behaviors change. Well, that’s what I do.

The cause(s) of autism

Ari: Okay, so what are the mechanisms as far as the etiology of autism? This gets into controversial territory immediately just to broach this topic. I plan on getting a little bit more controversial with you as well as we delve into this. You can withhold any opinions as you like to if you don’t want to express certain things publicly. I don’t know where you stand on all the issues. The dominant cultural narrative around the causes of autism has been within the conventional medical community. It seemed to be over the last few decades. It’s sort of random. We don’t know what causes it. Maybe there’s a genetic component.

Luminara: “Genetic” is what I hear a lot. “It’s genetic.”

Ari: It’s genetic. The idea that certain toxicants or nutrition or the gut and then the big V word is the thing that has been especially controversial that certain people have put for the idea that compounds in vaccines, particularly heavy metals like mercury and aluminum, are responsible for this. Then that whole thing has become just nuclear. It’s radioactive to even touch that topic because either you’re saying that you do think there is a link, which then is going to cause a whole ton of people to immediately come and attack you and say, “You’re a quack and there’s no evidence to support that.”

Then if you go on Google Scholar and you start to look up aluminum and neurodevelopmental issues or mercury and neurodevelopmental issues, there’s, of course, a huge amount of research showing that those things are highly neurotoxic and do cause neurodevelopmental problems. Anyway, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. What is, from your perspective, the dominant cultural narrative of the causes of autism, and then what do you think the modern, the most up-to-date evidence actually tells us about the etiology of it?

Luminara: There’s a couple of things. I watched a TED Talk by a doctor saying it’s genetic and then I’ve seen people saying, “Oh, we just have better diagnostic criteria.” Those are the two main ones. Of course, there’s Stephanie Seneff of MIT, who’s saying it’s glyphosate. You can correlate that with autism and many other diseases. I can tell you, I have personally spoken to hundreds of parents who told me that after their child got a common injection that they regressed.

Is that the cause? I don’t think that’s the cause. I think that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is research that shows that when a mom is pregnant and stressed– and this is in mice or rats. When the mom is pregnant or stressed and then they have their babies, there are some genetic changes. Then when those babies have their babies, so two generations down, that there are some more permanent genetic changes.

I’m not sure I buy the whole permanent genetic changes because we have epigenetics, which is our environment changing the genes. There is some evidence to say that we are creating genetic changes. We cannot have an epidemic of 1 in 30 kids with autism in the last 30 years by just genetic changes. It’s just impossible. If you look at those hundreds of parents I’ve spoken to, what were the parents exposed to? What were their kids exposed to?

There’s evidence that shows that what if moms live near pesticide spray while pregnant? There’s a higher incidence of autism. It’s shown that diet has something to do with it. Let’s look at the food that we eat. Most parents I talk to, they say their kids will eat five things. Among those are usually chicken nuggets and French fries. Chicken nuggets are highly processed. They have gluten on the outside. French fries are highly-pesticide. All the wheat that these kids are eating is sprayed with glyphosate right before harvest.

That puts a fresh coating of herbicide on their food, which affects the microbiome in the gut. It feeds the bad bugs and it’s a patented antibiotics, so it kills the good bugs. There’s a whole interrelated combination of factors that I think science wants to say, “It’s this one thing.” It’s not one thing. That’s the thing. It’s a whole bunch of load of different things. Then you have EMFs and Wi-Fi, and then you have stuff in the water, radiation. There is just a combination of things.

Ari: From this view, it would be almost impossible to say anything is “the cause” of autism.

Luminara: The cause, yes.

Ari: We would look at a collection of contributing factors that are linked with autism and then we have research talking about the mechanistic aspects of how that compound or how that factor would plausibly influence neurodevelopment or brain function in a way that it could cause this. Sorry, go ahead.

Luminara: You didn’t mind the research. They’ll look at aluminum or they’ll look at just mercury. They don’t look at the combination of glyphosate and this chemical and that chemical, right? That’s pretty difficult.

Ari: Then if you do look at a study like that, it’s necessarily going to be more epidemiological, observational in nature, where you’re looking at a correlation between maybe groups of people who are exposed to those factors versus a randomized-controlled study. Then whatever correlation it might be found there, they’ll say, “Oh, well, it’s just an observational study-“

Luminara: “-where research is needed.”

Ari: “This doesn’t show causation,” right?

Luminara: Well, there, in fact, is a group that I’m on the board of. It’s called Epidemic Answers. It’s a non-profit on the East Coast. What they are doing is a study. They’re going to look at 12 different kids and they’re going to look at the environment and the situation, the food, the mold, the house, the water. They’re going to do diagnostic tests and they’re going to say, “Oh, this child needs these interventions,” and give those interventions and see how they improve. They actually have a study, a questionnaire that parents can fill out, and they get a report back on things they can do. It’s a long questionnaire. They’re taking that research and putting all these correlations. I think the two of the biggest ones they’re finding so far in the research are, I want to say, vaccines and ultrasounds in pregnancy.

Ari: They’re finding that vaccines given to pregnant mothers need–

Luminara: No, children who are vaccinated and when the baby’s in the womb, the mom having ultrasounds. Those are two big factors that contribute to any chronic childhood illness. We’re not just talking autism.

Ari: Okay, got it. I thought you were saying both of those under the banner in the womb. Just the ultrasounds in the womb, the vaccinations to the newborn?

Luminara: Well, or down the road.

Ari: Right, yes, to the child.

Luminara: Those are two big ones and there’s other things that contribute. That’s not the only thing.

Environmental toxicants and how they influence autism

Ari: Right. Okay, so one thing that was, I think, pooh-poohed by the conventional medical community for a long time was the idea that environmental toxicants really of any type were responsible for this as they were very committed to the genetic randomness, hypothesis of autism, that it’s all just random. I don’t know how you explain the– Well, actually, I know. I do know their explanation. The incidence of autism skyrocketing in the last, whatever it is, 50, 60 years. Generally, they explain that, I believe. I forget the proper phrase, but it’s something to the effect of, “We weren’t as aware of it back then, and so we weren’t diagnosing it.”

Luminara: Right, better diagnosis.

Ari: It was just as prevalent and, therefore, it’s a genetic thing. It’s not actually increasing in prevalence. It’s just a result of us being more aware of it and diagnosing it more often. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on that.

Luminara: Well, I just ask anyone who’s listening and you yourself, Ari. When you were in school, how many kids in your classroom had autism? How many kids needed IEPs and aids and special help? You look today and it’s a lot of kids. There’s a lot of aids. Whatever we call it, it wasn’t happening back then. No one had an EpiPen. No one had allergies that I knew of. Just ask your teachers.

I don’t think we need science necessarily to tell us this to see, but we are a lot like the proverbial frog in the cold water, and then you slowly heat it up over a couple of generations. We don’t even notice how in the thick of it we are in this toxicity. I sit here outside my window. I’m in Oregon. It’s smoky from the fire just east of me, so we’re breathing this stuff. Who knows what’s burning in that fire? I hope it’s just wood. When we have these fires that are burning homes, what are we burning? What are we exposed to? That’s just one little, minor thing.

Ari: I actually learned just a few years ago. I had no idea about this, but that just burning, setting wood on fire, having a wood fire in your home, having a wood stove as your heater for your home, some of the smoke from fire burning wood gets into the room. It turns out, that’s apparently highly toxic. I never knew that until just a few years ago that just actually wood lit on fire, to breathe in the smoke from that is very toxic, to your point of the ubiquitousness of these things.

Another aspect of this is toxins. Environmental toxicants have been brushed off as insignificant to this whole autism thing, but then now in the last, I would say, 10 years, but maybe especially the last five, there seems to be an accumulation of quite a bit of evidence linking pesticides in particular in herbicides. As you mentioned earlier, this exposure to being near farms, near areas where there’s a lot of farming going on, seems to be reliably linked with increased risk of autism.

This idea of chemical exposures has now, I’ve seen among my conventional medicine-minded friends, been broadly accepted now. Even though 10 years ago, they were saying, “Oh, that’s a bunch of nonsense and quackery.” Now, they’re all saying, “Oh yes, the science shows that there’s a link with these toxicants.” What do you think of, overall, the body of evidence around environmental toxicants and autism risk, and if there are specific ones that are the most problematic? I know you’ve mentioned a few already in passing.

Luminara: Well, I can say that I think it was 2004 that the Environmental Working Group did a study called 10 Americans and they took cord blood. They found something like 280-some chemicals just in the cord blood. We’ve had a few more toxins in the air and in the water since then, so who knows what the combination really is? I can tell you, mold toxicity seems to be really on the rise. Many of my clients have had mold in their homes and they don’t even think it. They don’t suspect it.

I had one family and I just kept saying, “Are you sure you don’t have mold? Have you checked everywhere for mold?” One day, we meet and they said, “Oh, we had someone come up to look at the rats in the attic and they found mold covering the inside of the attic, this type of fungus.” I think that might be connected to the waves we have going through the year, the electromagnetic waves. Anyway, there’s more now than we’ve had. I see a lot more mold toxicity. I see a lot more kids susceptible to Wi-Fi EMFs.

I think that’s because the metals in their body. We know that metals, mercury, lead, aluminum will sit on the enzymes in the biochemical reactions, especially the methylation cycle, and then that’ll depress our ability to detox, to make neurotransmitters, to turn on and off genes. It’s all interconnected. It’s really hard to say what the one culprit is because what I find in my practice with people is sometimes they have Lyme.

Sometimes they have mold. Sometimes they have parasites, which are the big issues, right? When we start addressing and getting rid of all of those, you can shift things. It’s really, I feel like, a combination. I don’t think any researcher has the answer as to what is the biggest thing. If you talk to Stephanie Seneff, she’ll say it’s glyphosate, which is a big contributing factor. It does a lot of nasty things in the body. What’s the number one culprit? I don’t think I can tell you even based on all the stuff I’ve read.

Ari: Okay, within the realm of environmental toxicants, are there any specific ones that you’re uniquely concerned about?

Luminara: Oh, boy. [chuckles]

Ari: Glyphosate, it sounds like.

Luminara: Glyphosate is a big one. What I tell parents for that, glyphosate is an amino acid. It’s the amino acid glycine, but with another chemical group on it. What it does is it incorporates into our body. If we’re not getting enough protein, we don’t have enough of the common glycine. Our body sees glyphosate sitting around. I think my suspicion is it will go ahead and say, “Come on in. We can use you,” but then that messes up the protein structure and the ability for it to function.

In my own clinical practice, this is one of the things I’ve looked at is, how big of a burden is glyphosate for your collagen tissues? I have a colleague in Wisconsin, who is seeing low-impact sports injuries in high school kids like they’re tearing ACLs and they have shoulder tears for a movement. Now, they haven’t even gotten hit or anything. It’s not like a football hit, so we suspect that glyphosate is incorporating into our connective tissue instead of glycine.

Ari: I think Stephanie Seneff has argued something along those lines, right?

Luminara: Yes, but there’s 200 other things it does. What I recommend is give your kids glycine. Just go and get some powdered amino acid glycine. It’s slightly sweet-tasting. You just put it in water and at least you have a competitive compound in there if you’re not getting it any other way. Glyphosate is particularly nasty, but heavy metals can be really hard on kids. It depends on where you live. It depends on what you’re exposed to.

One thing might be one person’s kryptonite, but another thing is another person’s kryptonite. If you look on the Environmental Working Group, the, and then you do /tapwater, in the US, you can plug in your ZIP code, I’m sure you’ve done it, and see what’s in your drinking water. Even in Southern California, there’s uranium. There’s acceptable limits of uranium.

Ari: Right.

Luminara: Take a look at that. What’s in your water? I use distilled water now. That’s it because you get all the junk out. You actually boiled the water, put it in a different container, and then you’re drinking pure stuff. Even all the filters don’t get everything out. Water’s another biggie.

How the approach to autism has changed over the past decade

Ari: Okay, so working with kids with autism, how has your own thinking and practice evolved over the last decade or so?

Luminara: I’ve come to the place where we want to get good stuff in these kids. We want to get nutritious food. So many of them are picky eaters. How do you get them to eat good food? Well, we have to take out what’s in the way. That’s those metals, the industrial toxins, the glyphosate. You know those bulk bands at the grocery store? You put your bag underneath and pull the lever. We have to empty that bin, right?

These are the kids, right? The toxins and the kids. We have to empty it, but you have to empty it from the bottom and because the brain is the last thing to drain the toxins out. What I hear again and again is most kids want their kids to speak. They want their kids to answer to their name. They want their kids to pay attention, but you can’t really get that junk out of the brain unless you clean out the rest of the body.

My practice has evolved to, “Let’s clean out the body in the right way using the right tools,” and then you don’t have these reactions, detox reactions. I’m sure you’re familiar with those where you try to detox something and, really, it just moves around the body and creates a big explosion, and then your kids are hyper and angry and not sleeping. You just make the behaviors worse if you don’t do it in the right way.

Once we get that out, we can actually get the good nutrients in. There’s room for them. That’s really how I’ve evolved to see things. I still do neuromodulation. I still do change the brain, change the body, which helps with allergies and autoimmune stuff, but I really focus on drainage and detox. That’s what it’s called, drainage, getting that stuff out of the body. I really focus on that first now before anything else.

Ari: Got it. What kinds of results do you get in the kids that you work with using this approach?

Luminara: Kids start speaking. I have one little guy. He’s seven and a half now. I think he’s in second grade. He’s doing third and fourth-grade math and reading. That just exploded over the summer. Kids who wet the bed or have daytime wetting, that stops. They become more functional. One of the things that happens a lot is you have these really small-size kids because, you know about this, they don’t have mitochondrial energy. You start cleaning the toxins out, which means you’re cleaning them out of the mitochondria too.

Those mitochondria rev up and then they have all this energy and they grow. I have one mom who told me, “Oh, he grew 3 inches in the last couple of months.” That’s a lot. They assimilate their food better, right? The anxiety reduces the eye contact. Parents are so happy when their kids actually look at them or they play with their siblings. Just a lot of things. Everyone’s different in their path and where they start and where they’re going, but those are really general overall. I can say I see that consistently.

Parenting tips to picky eating

Ari: Got it. You mentioned earlier, and this is something I have heard a lot of parents talk about, is that the pickiness of the eating habits of kids who are on the spectrum, that they only want to eat certain things. They only want to eat French fries and chicken nuggets and potato chips and whatever else. Then you try to introduce certain other foods to them. Maybe more typical foods that most other people would enjoy and even find very pleasurable. They’re uninterested and they think it’s gross. How do you deal with that in practice? How do you get kids eating a better diet?

Luminara: Well, there’s lots of ways and it depends on what’s the underlying issue, right? They can have a zinc deficiency. When you have a zinc deficiency, look at everyone with COVID, right? When they can’t taste anything, you’re not really motivated to eat. Nothing tastes good. A zinc deficiency can really whack out the tastebuds and a lot of these kids have zinc-copper imbalances.

Again, a big piece of that is pulling the toxins out, so the right chemicals work the right way. If you add zinc, that can help a lot. There’s the exposure method where you keep exposing kids, so you have to put broccoli on their plate. You have them pick up the broccoli and put it on the counter for you. You have them chopping the broccoli. Any touch is an exposure. I have some kids that will eat anything no matter what it is, even really nasty-tasting supplements.

Then there are some kids who don’t want to touch anything. I think there’s also a parent involvement. I once had a dad write me back from an email on picky eating and he said, “I took care of that with my son. People in third-world countries don’t have any picky eating problems because they don’t even have enough food, right?” He’s like, “I just pretended like, ‘This is all we got. You got to eat it.’ After two or three days, he starts eating.”

Ari: Yes, that’s actually the strategy that I’ve suggested to people when I’ve encountered that issue. I’m like, you got to get all that junk food that they’re eating. Get it all out of the house and only have healthy options for them to eat. Guess what? They’re not going to let themselves starve to death. They’re going to eat whatever’s there.

Luminara: Yes, that’s it. That’s a great way, but then that takes some parent determination and motivation because none of us want to see our kids not eat for a few days. That’s why I say, it’s really a parent-child interaction. I find the energy of the parents. A lot of times, they have anxiety. Just one example. I had a mom. Her daughter was really constipated. She was giving her stuff to help her poop and she’s like, “I’m giving her this much and this.” I’m like, “Wait a minute. How are you being when she has to poop?”

It turns out, she was just really anxious. I said, “Okay, I want you to take a deep breath and just let it go.” Her kid started pooping. We have to look at our energy and what we’re putting into the equation as well and what we’re allowing. I also say the whole family has to go gluten-free. The whole family has to eat this way. You can have your other three kids having all these goodies and have this stuff in the cabinet or your husband. I have a lot of parents that say, “He goes out if he wants any of that stuff. We don’t have it in the house.” That’s another good rule of thumb.

Why people with autism may be prone to more sedentary behaviors

Ari: Okay, have you noticed any other aspects of lifestyle habits that seem to be common in kids on the spectrum such as maybe– and I’m just throwing ideas out here. I don’t know if any of these are true. One might be staying up excessively late, having a very late bedtime, or being less physically active, being prone to more sedentary behaviors. Any other things along those sorts of lines that you’ve seen as a pattern?

Luminara: Yes, I feel like that being up really late and a lot of kids will wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and stay up for four hours and not go to sleep, I think that’s parasite-driven, Lyme or parasite-driven, or could be cortisol imbalance, right? Blood sugar. They don’t have enough blood sugar through the night, so their cortisol kicks in to feed the brain and that’s the wake-up hormone, so they wake up.

I see the sleep. I see a lot of kids that are very hyper and moving constantly. Honestly, I think that they’re so uncomfortable in their bodies that they have to keep moving to not feel that thing. I really feel like they’re so inflamed and they’re so uncomfortable. The really lethargic ones who can’t go walk more than a block or two, I feel like there’s mitochondrial dysfunction. There’s some of that.

Every child is different. Every kid’s going to have their different cluster of symptoms. Some kids have a really bloated, big belly, and that’s parasites and microbes. We have to look at that. Some kids will bang their head. That’s, I think, again, discomfort in the brain and it hurts. Things hurt and that feels better than the [chuckles] pain they’re feeling. It doesn’t look like it to us.

I have a lot of kids who are on iPads and not social and they’re really in their own world. Again, when we start cleaning out their bodies, they become really social. They become engaged. They have eye contact. They put away the iPad. I feel like there is so much going on in that little body that they don’t have the attention to look outward. They’re just so busy doing things inward. That’s my suspicion.

One time, it was a few years ago, I got the flu. I was OCDing on something. There was one thought that wouldn’t leave and I didn’t want to eat and I felt crappy. I was like, “Oh, maybe this is what autistic kids feel like?” For me, that was my silver lining. It’s like, “Oh, now, I know.” If you’re a parent listening, how do you feel when you don’t feel that good? You’re going to be snappy. You’re going to have anger.

Some kids have meltdowns and they will cry for hours. There’s a lot of different kind of really challenging, high-level behavior, and then they’ll just hand flap or they’ll look out of the corners of their eyes and just do some vocal stims, repeat. Echolalia, that’s when they repeat the video. They keep repeating the same thing. It’s a stage of speech development. They just haven’t gotten past that stage yet. Those are some of the things.

How heat-shock proteins may improve the life of people with ASD

Ari: Got it. There was some research that I saw a few years ago on fever in autism and heating up the body. Do you remember seeing that? Are you familiar with that body of evidence?

Luminara: It rings a bell, but I had a client recently. I think it was over the summer. Her son got COVID. All of a sudden, he was speaking really– I think he’s 12 or 13. He was speaking really well. He was behaving really well. We have something called the heat shock proteins and it turns on a different set of proteins, that fever, that high temperature. He probably had a really great immune response and took care a lot of that stuff that was lingering. He stayed steady like that for a long time.

Ari: Right, yes, there seems to be lots of observation. I think this originally came from anecdotes of parents where they noticed that. They noticed that kids who got sick and had a fever, all of a sudden, a lot of their autism symptoms would go away. This sparked interest in stimulating heat shock proteins in other ways, particularly from hot baths and sauna use. I honestly don’t know the status of that research as of 2022, but I was curious if you did.

I’m also very curious, given the ubiquitousness of mitochondrial dysfunction in kids with autism. The reason I asked that question a little bit ago around maybe if they are prone to more sedentarism, if they’re not doing physical exercise, not doing sports as much as kids not on the spectrum, then I wonder to what extent there’s mitochondrial atrophy if there’s a real deficit of ATP production at the cellular level across the board in these kids.

Luminara: Well, there is low muscle tone. I’ll have parents tell me there’s low muscle tone. I was once at an autism conference and I met a 25-year-old man. His parents just did a fantastic job recovering him. I shook his hand to meet him and it felt like jello. I was like, “Oh, wow, this is what low muscle tone really feels like.” I’ve also touched other adults who I can feel their low muscle tone. I really feel like it’s mitochondrial dysfunction.

Again, I feel like if we pull the toxins out of there, I don’t know if it’s radiation or heavy metals or mold toxin, whatever, it can be a whole combination, then the mitochondria can prick back up. Well, you probably know better than I do. I think we can get them to function better. I think this is why we see the growth spurts in the kids. This is why we see a lot of spurts. Spurts in language, spurts in activity. Then to your point about kids not being on sports, I also think there’s a confidence issue. They know they can’t do it.

Also, a lot of kids have sensory motor stuff, so it’s hard to cross the midline. The coordination and gross motor skills are difficult too. It can be a combination of things. I just want to say one more piece is that I noticed as we pull the toxins out and kids are getting better, they become more aware of their deficits. Then there’s a whole psychological, mental component that comes in. This is where parents really need to get them help to say, “Yes, you’re different, but you’re not less than.” You know what I mean? They really notice. When they’re on their own world and really in it, they don’t notice.

Ari: Right, yes. Okay, Luminara, I want to be sensitive to your time. I don’t know if you have to get to another appointment. I’m very grateful for the work that you’re doing and grateful to have you on the podcast and have this conversation with you. I really enjoyed it. I would love to keep talking with you for another few hours, but two things. Number one, let people know about your event that you have going on, when it’s happening, and just remind people what it’s all about. I know you said that at the beginning, but just let people know. We’ll put a link to it on the page for this episode, which will be at– What’s the name of your event?

Luminara: The name of the event is Transforming Autism Workshop.

Ari: Okay, so we’ll put a link at Then you tell us what it’s all about and then I would love, after that, if you could also just leave people with a final thought or two.

Luminara: Okay. Yes, it’s called The Transforming Autism Workshop. It’s going to be on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at different times in just about 30 to 90 minutes, depending on who joins and what questions they ask, but it’s really for parents. I want them to ask their questions. What are they looking for most? What do they need for their child? I’ll help workshop those and we do have topics for the day.

The first day is speech and social and focus and attention. The second day is gut-brain connection, so we’ll talk a lot about diet and elimination. The third day, Saturday, is meltdowns, moods, misery to calm and cooperative. I think that’s the title, but it’s basically on the moody stuff. It’s at, but I’ll get you the link for that.

Ari: Beautiful, yes. If people want to go directly to your site, they’re welcome to do that as well. Is it

Luminara: No, it’s

Ari: Autism transformed, okay. Do you want to leave people with a final thought? Anything that you want to just say as final words here before we sign off?

Luminara: Yes, I think that just what I’ve learned over the last couple of decades is just really how much junk is in our bodies. If we clean it out, we all can improve. I’ve made some improvements and other people have made improvements. I just want to challenge you to wrap your mind around that, to expand the mind on what might be in your child, and how to get rid of that.

There’s lots and lots of ways, so that’s number one. Number two is there’s hope. Kids develop. They grow. They learn. I’d say one of the biggest things, which is why I love what you do so much, is to help the mitochondria because that helps the whole body to grow and helps those brain neurons to connect and it helps everything, so I think that’s a real key.

Ari: I lied. Sorry. There’s one thing I wanted to ask you about and I’m just remembering it now, which is Dr. Robert Naviaux’s work on-

Luminara: Suramin.

Ari: -suramin. I’m curious if you have any quick thoughts on that.

Luminara: Well, if you think about that, that’s an anti-parasitic, right? Suramin, it was–

Ari: Well, yes, that’s true, but they’re certainly not the mechanism that he’s proposing as his mechanism of action.

Luminara: He proposes a cell danger response. Just really simply put, it’s fight or flight at the cellular level, not at the whole system level. Your cells have basically picked up arms and they’re ready to fight and they’re not doing their daily job. I feel like it’s a good example. I love that he elucidated that whole cell danger cycle and that suramin can stop that. I think there’s other things that can stop that. It’s one of the concepts that I use when I do my NMT sessions too. There’s so much that can be said about that.

Ari: Well, there’s lots of environmental toxicants that are also triggering that response as well. The work you’re doing pretty much, by definition, is to decrease the cell danger response signaling.

Luminara: Yes, absolutely. Yes, that will definitely help with that.

Ari: Yes, beautiful. Thank you so much for your time, Luminara. Thank you so much for the work you’re doing and good luck with your upcoming event. I’m glad that we’re able to fit in this podcast and that I can support you.

Show Notes

Transforming Autism Workshop (03:00)
What it means to be on the autism spectrum (03:38)
Why some individuals find it difficult to accept help from people who are not affected by their unique condition (05:59)
The cause(s) of autism (15:00)
Environmental toxicants and how they influence autism (22:42)
How the approach to autism has changed over the past decade (31:20)
Parenting tips to picky eating (34:33)
Why people with autism may be prone to more sedentary behaviors (37:55)
How heat-shock proteins may improve the life of people with ASD (41:09)

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