Gut Flora May Offer Clues About Autism

| December 26, 2013

Gut Flora May Offer Clues About Autism

This article has been brought to you by Dr. Mercola

About 15 years ago, 1 in 10,000 kids had autism. Ten years ago it was 1 in 1,000, then 1 in 150, 1 in 88 and now the most recent statistics from the CDC show it to be 1 in 50 in the US.1

Most everyone agrees that this represents an epidemic of major proportions, but the question that has eluded answering is what is spurring the dramatic increase of this neurodevelopment disorder.

The possible environmental factors for autism are incredibly diverse and include factors such as vitamin D deficiency, electromagnetic fields, vaccines and mercury toxicity. But a key player in the puzzle appears to be emerging as multiple research studies look into the possible connection between abnormal gut conditions and autism.

New Study Suggests Abnormal Gut Flora May Hold Clues to Autism

It’s widely known that autistic children often suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems, with those experiencing the worst GI problems often having the most severe cases of autism.

It’s now being suggested, however, that these GI problems may be a symptom of an underlying problem – abnormal gut flora that is not only causing the GI disturbances but also possibly the behavioral symptoms associated with autism.

In the latest study, researchers analyzed the gut microflora of 20 healthy and 20 autistic children using fecal samples, and found distinct differences between the two groups.2 Medical News Today reported:3

“The new study detected decreased microbial diversity in the 20 autistic subjects whose fecal samples were analyzed. Specifically, three bacterial genera – Prevotella, Coprococcus, and Veillonellaceae – were diminished in subjects with autism, when compared with samples from normal children.

… The three genera represent important groups of carbohydrate-degrading and/or fermenting microbes. Such bacteria could be critical for healthy microbial-gut interactions or play a supportive role for a wide network of different microorganisms in the gut. The latter would explain the decreased diversity observed in autistic samples.”

The researchers noted that the autistic children’s gut microflora had reduced richness and diversity, which are essential factors in creating a bacterial community capable of dealing with environmental assaults.

One of the lead authors stated, “We believe that a diverse gut is a healthy gut,”4 and suggested that antibiotics, which may eliminate beneficial bacteria and have been found to be administered more often in the first three years of life among autistic children compared to non-autistic children, may also be playing a key role.

Brain Toxicity May Stem from Gut Toxicity

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The gastrointestinal system is often referred to as your “second brain,” containing some 100 million neurons—more than in either your spinal cord or your peripheral nervous system!

The research of Dr. Andrew Wakefield was among the first to uncover the connection between a gut problem, chronic bowel inflammation, possibly caused by the presence of MMR vaccine strain of measles in the digestive tract, and symptoms of regressive autism.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is a Russian neurologist who has successfully treated her own son and she treats children from all over the world in her English clinic. Her research shows there’s a profound dynamic interaction between your gut, your brain, and your immune system.

She has developed what might be one of the most profoundly important treatment strategies for preventing autism, as well as a wide range of other neurological, psychological, and autoimmune disorders—all of which are heavily influenced by your gut health.

In her research, Dr. Campbell-McBride discovered that nearly all of the mothers of autistic children have abnormal gut flora, which is significant because newborns inherit their gut flora from their mothers at the time of birth.

Establishing normal gut flora in the first 20 days or so of life plays a crucial role in the maturation of your baby’s immune system. Babies who develop abnormal gut flora are left with compromised immune systems, putting them at higher risk for suffering vaccine reactions.

If your baby has suboptimal gut flora, vaccines can become the proverbial “last straw” — the trigger that “primes” his/her immune system to develop chronic heath problems.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) May Hold the ‘Cure’ for Autism

I believe Dr. Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and Gut and Physiology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional program, is vitally important for MOST people, as the majority of people have such poor gut health due to poor diet and toxic exposures, but it’s particularly crucial for pregnant women and young children.

According to Dr. Campbell-McBride, in children with GAPS, the toxicity flowing from their gut throughout their bodies and into their brains continually challenges their nervous system, preventing it from performing its normal functions and process sensory information. GAPS may manifest in a wide range of symptoms, fitting the diagnosis of either autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) without hyperactivity, dyslexia, dyspraxia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to name a few possibilities.

The best way to prevent GAPS is for the mother to avoid all processed foods, sugar, antibiotics and birth control pills prior to conception as these cause yeast and fungi to grow and also cause leaky gut. This can then be followed by breastfeeding and avoiding the use of antibiotics during (intrapartum) and after delivering.

Identifying Abnormal Gut Flora Early On Is Crucial to Protecting Your Child’s Health

Fortunately, it’s possible to rather inexpensively identify GAPS within the first weeks of your baby’s life, which can help you make better-informed decisions about vaccinations, and about how to proceed to set your child on the path to a healthy life.

The entire process for identifying children who would be at risk for developing autism from a vaccine is described in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, but to sum it up, in her practice she starts out by collecting a complete health history of the parents, and their gut health is assessed. Then, within the first few days of life, the stool of the child can be analyzed to determine the state of her gut flora, followed by a urine test to check for metabolites, which can give you a picture of the state of your child’s immune system.

These tests are available in most laboratories around the world and cost a very reasonable amount, about $80 to $100 per test — peanuts compared to the incredible expense of treating an autistic child once the damage is done. In my view, it is absolutely VITAL to perform this analysis BEFORE you consider vaccinating your child. If the test results are normal, the likelihood of autism after vaccines is dramatically reduced.

As Dr. Campbell-McBride states, she has yet to find an autistic child with normal bowel flora. If you find that your baby has abnormal gut microflora, or begins to develop symptoms of autism a year or two later, the GAPS program should be started immediately, as the younger the child is when you start the treatment, the better the results. The child should not be given any vaccines until their microflora tests normal; that is, assuming you choose to vaccinate at all. Dr. Campbell-McBride cured her own son of autism using an all-natural treatment involving dietary changes and detoxification, and her hypothesis is in my view one of the most relevant.

What Can You Do to Encourage Healthful Gut Flora in Yourself and Your Child?

If you’ve taken antibiotics or birth control pills, if you eat a lot of processed or sugary foods – even if you were bottle-fed as a baby, all of these can impact the makeup of bacteria and microbes in your gut. It is vital that one continues to avoid sugar, processed foods, antibiotics and artificial hormones like those in birth control pills to limit the growth of pathogenic yeast and fungi.

This will make it easier to maintain your optimal gut flora by eating raw food grown in healthy, organic soil and ‘reseeding’ your gut with fermented foods and probiotics (this is essential when you’re taking an antibiotic), may be one of the most important steps you can take to improve your health and your baby’s during pregnancy. If you aren’t eating fermented foods, you most likely need to supplement with a probiotic on a regular basis.

Breastfeeding was designed by nature to ensure that your child’s gut flora develops properly right from the start, as it is loaded both with beneficial bacteria and nutrient growth factors that will support their continued growth. It also has powerful components that will inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast. So one of the most important foundational elements of building a healthy GI system for your child is to first eat a healthy diet with fermented foods while you’re pregnant, and then breastfeed (whenever possible) for at least one year after your child is born.

Providing abundant beneficial bacteria in the form of breast milk and, later, fermented foods is one of the most powerful ways to restore your baby’s gut flora.

Once your baby is ready to start solid foods, the first fermented food Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends for your infant is raw, organic grass-fed yogurt (not commercial yogurt from the grocery store), because it’s well tolerated by most infants and children. It’s best to make your own yogurt at home from raw organic milk, and start with a very tiny amount. Once yogurt is well tolerated by your baby, then start introducing kefir. If you have any problems with cow’s milk, you can always try goat or coconut milk or substitute vegetables fermented with yogurt culture or kefir culture.

5+ Tips for Autism Prevention and Treatment

Autism is a complex condition with many contributing factors and it takes a multi-faceted approach to treat it. We’re now also beginning to understand it requires a multi-faceted approach to prevent it. This includes not only optimizing your gut health as described above (both prior to and during pregnancy and for your children) as well as avoiding as many dangerous chemicals as possible. As a general rule, eating whole organic foods will go a long way toward this end, as that automatically cuts out processed foods and related chemicals, genetically engineered foods and artificial sweeteners.

Generally speaking, opting for “green” and/or organic alternatives will help reduce many of the toxins most people encounter on a daily basis. Do whatever you can to establish a toxin-free environment for your whole family, and then establish a regular detoxification program. The book Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call, by Dr. Doris Rapp, is an excellent resource if you’re unsure of how or where to start. Other helpful tips for tackling autism include:

  • Lower the EMF burden in your home, especially in your bedrooms.
  • Carefully review the vaccination issue, including the conventional vaccination schedule, and know that in most US states you still have the right to opt out of vaccines.
  • Avoid pasteurized milk; it’s an absolute imperative to the treatment of autism. Those managing this illness without restricting milk are deceiving themselves. This includes all milk products, such as ice cream, yogurt and whey. Even natural flavorings in food must be avoided unless the processor can guarantee that caseinate is not included.
  • Completely eliminating sugar/fructose, juice, soda, French fries and wheat (pasta, bagels, cereal, pretzels, etc.) is also highly recommended.
  • Get proper sun exposure. It is my personal belief that vitamin D deficiency in conjunction with damaged gut flora may be two of the most significant contributing factors to autism. Optimizing your vitamin D levels and your gut flora during pregnancy may be two of the most important prevention strategies discovered to date.

If you feel strongly about this issue, or have a friend or loved one struggling with autism, it’s easy to get involved. The Autism Action Network has launched a campaign urging the US government to finally take action against autism. You can join in via this Take Action Link to send an email to the President, your two US Senators and your member of the House, letting them know that it’s time to acknowledge there’s a problem and start taking the autism epidemic seriously.

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