Autism and the Gut

BacteriaAutism and the gut are four words you usually do not see together. Although many questions remain about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the role of the intestinal microbiome is becoming increasing researched. The latest science is laying the foundation for a new frontier in medicine.

Legitimate studies from top institutions are uncovering the gut-bug connection to autism. Children exhibit certain patterns in the composition of their gut bacteria that are absent in children without autism. Also, individuals with autism universally suffer from digestive issues.

This two-way relationship may be an unlikely key to solving one of medicine’s most pressing—and perplexing—mysteries: autism. Nearly 60 years after the disorder was first identified, the number of cases has surged. Yet there is no known cause or cure.

Research has shown that the particular species of gut bacteria often seen in individuals with autism create compounds that are adversarial tot he immune system and the brain – they activate the immune system and increase inflammation. Just as there is no single type of autism, there is no single cause.

Today autism is treated primarily through behavioral therapy. But studies suggest that treatment may one day come in the form of a probiotic—live, “friendly” bacteria. Among autistic children’s most common health complaints? Gastrointestinal problems. According to the CDC, they’re more than 3.5 times more likely to experience chronic diarrhea and constipation than their normally developing peers.

Biological siblings with autism don’t necessarily carry the same autism risk genes. Something else is going on from an environmental standpoint. The idea that the environment probably plays a large role in the development of autism links to the science of epigenetics. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EPIGENETICS

An  unhealthy gut has been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s, inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes.

RESOURCES

Brain Maker – The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain by David Perlmutter. MD

The Gut Microbiome – A New Frontier in Autism Research Curr. Psychiatry rep. 15 Feb 2013