Swimming Brings Him to Tears

I love summertime. No school, camping trips, vacations and of course, swimming. My sons are fishes and love to swim and play in the pool. The only downside is the chlorine and its effect on my son with autism. He can’t handle it; detoxing it is tough for him. It causes his emotion regulation to get wacky and by nightfall he is in tears. Crying (very sadly, not tantrums) about anything. He knows it doesn’t make sense and says he can’t help it and wants to stop crying.

See, his PST (phenol sulfur transferase) system is deficient. It doesn’t produce enough sulfates to remove toxins (like heavy metals, and phenols) from his body. Chlorine blocks sulfation, which just adds to his body’s burden. The supplement taurine helps his cells detoxify as well as being neuro-calming (inhibiting the excitation of nerve cells in the brain). But alas, chlorine will reduce taurine levels.

So do we limit his pool time? Never! We have taken steps to enhance his body’s detoxification of chlorine so he can enjoy all the summertime swimming available to him. First, we supplement with the amino acid, taurine. We give taurine with meals since it helps in bile production. Next, we have reduced chlorine exposure in the bath and shower by replacing our shower head with a “Showerwise” filtration system. It filters out the chlorine and other chemicals in our tap water. Then, we give him Epsom salt baths immediately following swimming. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and delivers the sulfate ions directly to his blood stream (via the skin) to assist in detoxification. Lastly, we have finally finished our backyard swimming pool project and have opted for a salt system which is a healthier alternative to utilizing a chlorine and bromine sanitation system.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get to the Epsom salt bath right away after swimming, so you can make your own Epsom salt oil by dissolving 1 tsp. Epsom salts with 1 tsp. warm water and add coconut oil. A fast, easy alternative to baths that I love is dissolving equal parts of Epsom salts and warm water, then put into a spray bottle. You can spray a person’s chest or back after swimming and let dry.

One more thought on summertime fun and swimming is the sunscreen. A lot of sunscreens have harsh chemicals in them that affect our children negatively. I like the California Baby sunscreen brand, but still prefer to use as little sunscreen as possible. One way is to purchase a rash guard shirt so there are fewer areas on the body exposed to the sun.

The lazy days of summer aren’t so lazy in the homes of special needs kids, but they have just as many fun-filled summer memories!


17 Responses

  1. Thank you for this very informative post! I have 9 kids and a pool with a salt system. You are aware that the salt systems are salt chlorinators? I’m still concerned about the chlorine my children swim in, even though we have no diagnoses of any kind. We are saving up to buy a chlorine-free system from http://airwaterbestprices.com/chlorinefreepoolsandspas.htm by next year. You might be interested in the information they have on that site. Meanwhile, I’m going to mix up some of that spray, because I canNOT see myself managing baths for 9 kids AFTER swimming… 😉

    • Thanks for your comment! Yes, I’m aware that salt systems utilize salt as a chlorine generator, but it’s still much less chemicals added to the pool to balance the ph levels. Thanks for the info on a chlorine-free system!

    • Thank you so much for this information! My son was tested twice for Autism by Regional Center. Both times I was Not able to get him a diagnosis. He has a lot of characteristics of autism. However, one thing he as Never done is flap, so I always thought maybe Regional Center was right with their diagnosis. That all changed this summer.

      After weeks of swimming at our HOA pool my son started flapping all the time. As soon as I read this post I stopped the swimming and started the epson salt baths along with a lot of vitamins and after about a month now he has stopped flapping.

      I would have never believed chlorine has such an effect on these kids, but after seeing my son Never flap in almost 5 years to flapping all the time I believe that chemicals really do effect our children.

      Thanks again for your blog I have learned so much!

      • Wow, I am so glad this post helped you discover what was causing your son to “flap”. Chemicals really do have an effect on our kids. BTW – the salt system pool we have has been wonderful for my son. He does not have issues with the chlorine generated by it…yea!

    • Please be very careful with systems that promise proper sanitation without some form of chlorine in swimming pools. Living and working in the Fort Worth Texas area in the swimming pool business for close to 30 years, we have seen alot of these “systems” come and go. At the very least they are tricky to maintain and and most will just no work when exposed to the elements in the southern parts of the country. A salt chlorine generator with a mineral type back-up is your best bet. You will be able to maintain a very low level of chlorine(in private pools only) and still be confident that the pool is properly sanitized. Non-chlorine systems will work only in very controlled environments such as indoor pools. They require constant attention and getting the pool out of balance can be dangerous and expensive.

  2. Hi Joanne, thanks for sharing this info. I’m learning the importance of the Epsom salts and the taurine. It’s helping. I’m certainly going to start using the Epsom’s spray! Very handy! Thanks!

  3. Thanks for a very interesting post on PST and sulfates, I had never made the connection to chlorine. My 6 yo ASD son also has PST issues, we can always tell when he has eaten an offending food as his right ear turns bright red and is hot to the touch. It is always his right ear, his left ear is fine. Today I also noticed his 3 yo NT little brother also had a bright red ear about 10 minutes after eating a banana. Lots of ASD kids have PST issues, but anyone else have NT kids with it too?

    Our older son is far too impatient to sit in the Epsom salt baths. We finally gave up a switched to a supplement call methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). It is two methyl groups attached to a sulfoxide group and the body will convert it to sulfate if (a big if) the body’s transulfuration pathway is working correctly. It worked great for our son, no more red ears and a significant improvement in his chronic allergic shiners.

    John Adams and Tapan Acharya (from DAN!) did a study on plasma sulfate levels in ASD kids vs. controls and found the ASD kids had plasma levels 10% of the controls. They also measured plasma sulfate levels using eight different interventions and found that MSM and Taurine were the most effective with Epson salts third. In fact, after one month, MSM had raised plasma sulfate levels to 85% of that of the controls.

    Here is a plot the results from the different interventions tried

  4. My 6yr old with ASD loves to swim and so we have a small 10′ by 30″ intex easy set pool. I didnt want to set it up exposing her to all that chlorine. I was considering the “Krystal Klear Saltwater System” that is compatible for these pools. Has anyone purchased one of these systems and will it help reduce the chlorine enough to make a difference? We dont have a really big back yard and cant really get a bigger pool or expensive chlorine free system. If anyone has any information on this I would greatly appreciate the feedback. Thanks So Much

  5. Thank you SO much for this info. We just got back from vacation and my son having been in the pool for hours everyday is totally out of sorts and acting unusual. I’ve been googling for hours and just found your article. He has me VERY worried. I’ve never seen him like this. He just loves to swim, but won’t keep his mouth closed. I will be following your advice. Thanks!

  6. […] Swimming Brings Him to Tears « Healing Autism & ADHDAug 4, 2010 … The only downside is the chlorine and its effect on my son with autism. He can’t handle it; detoxing it is tough for him. It causes his emotion … […]

  7. I just read your article. My 9 year old son has ADHD and asthma. I have noticed that on those days we come back from the local swim club he has “crying episodes” at night as well as asthma attacks. I would like to make the coconut oil/epsom salt spray. Can anyone tell me how much coconut oil to add to the equal parts water and epsom salt?

  8. Thank God I stumbled upon this post after my daily reading of your blog!! No wonder I always have mood swings and have a short fuse after I swim. I live at my college dorms year round to do undergrad research. I usually wake up at 6 am to swim at the gym, then I rum for three miles two hours after dinner. I was always in the worst mood in the mornings and my stomach always ached despite a gfcf diet and digestive enzymes. I may have to get retested for allergies though, I have been doing this for about six months now and im not sure if my gut has healed yet. I may need phenol enzymes too. But seriously I wake up feeling fine, but wait an hour after swimming, wham im moody and yelling at my lab partner (whom im very good friends with) I fel terrible afterwards, but I sometimes can’t control it, its as if a monster has replaced me. I am wondering if I should stop swimming at the gym since I have no idea what they are putting in the pool, but it reeks of chlorine. The showerhead at my dorm may be just as guilty since I live in a city with terrible water (one of the highest rates of kidney stones in the country). I am wondering if I should see my disability advisor and try to get a filter for my shower and get a doctors note saying it is medically necessary. You are a veteran in biomedical treatments, what do you reccomed? Should I replace my morning swim with a morning run? Since I live in a dormitory, I do not have access to a bathtub. Do you know of any alternatives to Epson salt baths? I also get severe eczema year round, especially when I am stressed. Could that be related to pool chemicals?

    • Yes, your reaction could very well be from the pool chemicals. If you don’t want to give up your AM swim completely, try doing it just 2xs/week and run the other mornings. The alternative to the bath is to make the spray or cream I mention and apply after your swim/shower. I use the Showerwise filter for our bathroom showers. Perhaps you can get that for your dorm shower? I buy it on Amazon.

      You sound like you definitely could have issues with processing phenols. Taurine supplement helped my son with it, along with the No Phenol digestive enzymes. Reducing/eliminating phenolic foods was necessary too.

      Hope this helps!

  9. I am dealing with regression in my daughter after starting her in swim lessons 3 weeks ago and know she shouldn’t be in the cholrine. She is high in taurine so can’t have it and can’t handle any sulfur donors such as Epsom salt. Wondering if you know of any other alternatives to those. Ideally I would love to find a salt water pool for her but so far have had no luck. She loves swimming so much.


  10. Check out hydrogen peroxide pools – such a better alternative and oxygenates the body! We just installed a system and the water is amazing! Zero chemical smell – it is like swimming in a fresh spring! This is the system we got: http://idealearthwater.com/chlorine-free-pool/

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