Autism & Gastrointestinal Issues

Children with Autism commonly suffer  from severe dietary and/or gastrointestinal (GI) problems including abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, irritable and inflammatory bowel,  bloating and Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).   The research papers and articles below provide information about the prevalence of autism and GI issues, possible causes, and recommendations for treatment and future research.


Autism and Digestive Problems 

Children with autism are six to eight times more likely to suffer gastrointestinal problems than typically developing children, according to new research from the University of California-Davis’ MIND Institute.  The findings showed that children with autism were six to eight times more likely to have food sensitivities, bloating, constipation and diarrhea than typically developing children. It was also found that children with developmental delays suffered five times as much constipation and were much more likely to have problems with swallowing.   The researchers also point out that hyperactivity and repetitive behavior may be coping mechanisms for physical discomfort.  They believe that autistic children may benefit from a full GI evaluation, especially if they lack verbal skills. It is possible that treatments that improve digestion may lead to an improvement in problem behaviors. Read Full Article  Source:  UC Davis MIND Institute  Copyright 2014 Psych All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.


Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals With ASDs: A Consensus Report 

Gastrointestinal disorders and associated symptoms are commonly reported in individuals with ASDs, but key issues such as the prevalence and best treatment of these conditions are incompletely understood. A central difficulty in recognizing and characterizing gastrointestinal dysfunction with ASDs is the communication difficulties experienced by many affected individuals. A multidisciplinary panel reviewed the medical literature... (and) concluded that evidence-based recommendations are not yet available. The consensus expert opinion of the panel was that individuals with ASDs deserve the same thoroughness and standard of care in the diagnostic workup and treatment of gastrointestinal concerns as should occur for patients without ASDs. Care providers should be aware that problem behavior in patients with ASDs may be the primary or sole symptom of the underlying medical condition, including some gastrointestinal disorders. For these patients, integration of behavioral and medical care may be most beneficial. Priorities for future research are identified to advance our understanding and management of gastrointestinal disorders in persons with ASDs.  Read Full Article  Timothy Buie, et al.  Pediatrics Vol. 125 No. Supplement 1 January 1, 2010 pp. S1 -S18  (doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-1878C)


Common Obstetrical Procedures and Their Link to Autism  

This article will examine routine procedures in obstetrics that have significant adverse effects on the baby’s developing neurology.  Here are the most common, routine procedures in pregnancy and birth and the causes for concern. Ultrasound, Mercury in Pregnancy, Induction, Epidural,  Restricted Maternal Position, C-Section and Umbilical Cord Clamping.  Another deficit that C-section babies experience is in their level of “friendly bacteria” in their gut. Because they do not pass through the vaginal canal, they are not exposed to these helpful bacteria at birth and their immune system development suffers from this deficit.  Finally, C-sections usually have immediate cord clamping. George Malcolm Morley, MB, ChB, FACOG, author of numerous papers on the dangers of immediate cord clamping reports, “C-section babies are four times more likely to be autistic than vaginal deliveries.”  Read Full Article   Courtesy of - Pathways to Wellness  Author // Jeanne Ohm, DC  2009  Reproduced with permission.


Gastrointestinal flora and gastrointestinal status in children with autism - comparisons to typical children and correlation with autism severity  

The strong correlation of gastrointestinal symptoms with autism severity indicates that children with more severe autism are likely to have more severe gastrointestinal symptoms and vice versa. It is possible that autism symptoms are exacerbated or even partially due to the underlying gastrointestinal problems.  The cause of these GI problems is unclear, but it appears to partly relate to abnormal gut flora and possibly to the excessive use of oral antibiotics which can alter gut flora. Several studies by our group and others have reported significantly higher oral antibiotic use in children with autism vs. typical children. Oral antibiotics were primarily used for treating otitis media (ear infections), which may suggest an impaired immune system. Commonly used oral antibiotics eliminate almost all of the normal gut microbiota, which play an important role in the breakdown of plant polysaccharides, promoting gastrointestinal motility, maintaining water balance, producing some vitamins, and competing against pathogenic bacteria. Loss of normal gut flora can result in the overgrowth of pathogenic flora, which can in turn cause constipation and other problemsRead Full Article  James B Adams*, Leah J Johansen, Linda D Powell, David Quig and Robert A Rubin  BMC Gastroenterology 2011, 11:22  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-11-22


GAPS Nutritional Program: How a Physician Cured Her Son's Autism... 

"Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride presents a truly fascinating description of the foundational conditions that contribute to autism, along with a pragmatic approach to help circumvent and stem the autism epidemic; the key is in your gut.  Your gut is the frontline of your immune system, home to countless bacteria, both good and bad.  "What happens in these children [is that] they do not develop normal gut flora from birth…" she says.…As a result, their digestive system — instead of being a source of nourishment for these children — becomes a major source of toxicity.  These pathogenic microbes inside their digestive tract damage the integrity of the gut wall. So all sort of toxins and microbes flood into the bloodstream of the child, and get into the brain of the child. That usually happens in the second year of life in children who were breast fed because breastfeeding provides a protection against this abnormal gut flora. In children who were not breastfed, I see the symptoms of autism developing in the first year of life..." "As far as science knows, the baby inside the mother's womb during nine months of gestation is sterile. The baby's gut is sterile. The baby acquires its gut flora at the time of birth, when the baby goes through the birth canal of the mother. So whatever lives in mom's birth canal, in mom's vagina, becomes the baby's gut flora.  ...So if the mother has abnormal gut flora, she will have abnormal flora in her birth canal.   I always collect health history from the mother, the father, and preferably even grandparents of the child. I find that we have a growing and a deepening epidemic of abnormalities in the gut flora, which began since Second World War when antibiotics were discovered.  Every course of broad spectrum antibiotics wipes out the beneficial species of microbes in the gut, which leaves the pathogens in there uncontrolled. Dr. Campbell discovered that a large percentage of the mothers of autistic children were bottle-fed. Then, as they received many courses of antibiotics throughout their childhood, the abnormalities in their gut flora further deepened. "Ever since antibiotics were prescribed, particularly from the 50s and 60s, they were prescribed for every cough and sneeze.  And with every course of antibiotics, the abnormalities in the gut flora would get deeper and deeper in these girls. And then, at the age of 15, 16, these ladies were put on a contraceptive pill… [which] have a devastating effect on the gut flora. " So, bottle-feeding along with over-use of antibiotics and use of the contraceptive pill set the stage for increasingly abnormal gut flora with each passing generation. Then, add to that a diet of processed junk food and excessive consumption of high fructose corn syrup and you have a prescription for disaster in terms of intestinal health".  Read Full Article  2011,  Source : Dr. Mercola


Low levels of healthy gut bacteria could be the cause of mental health issues 

"A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience has shown that HPHPA levels - the chemical byproduct of the clostridia bacteria - are much higher in the urine of autistic children. Those treated with antibiotics effective against clostridia show a decrease in symptoms of autism. Dr James Greenblatt, a Boston-area psychiatrist, treated a teenager with severe obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and an array of digestive problems. Greenblatt first did a simple urine test for the metabolite HPHPA and found that it was elevated.  He put the patient, Mary, on a course of high-powered probiotics to boost her good bacteria, followed by antibiotics, and her levels began to ‘dramatically’ go down.   Babies are born with a sterile digestive tract and first acquire their bacteria while traveling through the birth canal and get more in breast milk and in the world outside the womb through contact with other people...  Scientists are so far unable to identify every strain of bacteria, but they can test for the chemical byproducts that they produce, according to Dr Greenblatt.  He said he checks every patient for HPHPA with a simple organic acid urine test before moving ahead with medications to treat symptoms.  'Eight out of 10 people are fine,' he said. 'But in the two patients where it's elevated, it can have profound effects on the nervous system.' HPHPA causes deactivation of an enzyme so that dopamine cannot be converted to the neurotransmitter neuroepinephrine, Greenblatt said, and that causes a build-up of dopamine. 'We know elevated levels in the dopamine gene cause agitation'. Read Full Article - Daily Mail  Published: 07:29 AEST, 13 September 2013

Gastrointestinal Microflora Studies in Late-Onset Autism   

Some cases of late-onset (regressive) autism may involve abnormal flora because oral vancomycin, which is poorly absorbed, may lead to significant improvement in these children. Fecal flora of children with regressive autism was compared with that of control children, and clostridial counts were higher. The number of clostridial species found in the stools of children with autism was greater than in the stools of control children. Children with autism had 9 species of Clostridium not found in controls, whereas controls yielded only 3 species not found in children with autism. In all, there were 25 different clostridial species found. In gastric and duodenal specimens, the most striking finding was total absence of non—spore-forming anaerobes and microaerophilic bacteria from control children and significant numbers of such bacteria from children with autism. These studies demonstrate significant alterations in the upper and lower intestinal flora of children with late-onset autism and may provide insights into the nature of this disorder. Dr. Sydney M. Finegold et al  Read Full Article  Oxford Journals, Clin Infect Dis. (2002) 35 (Supplement 1): S6-S16. doi: 10.1086/341914

Differences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children 

Children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) tend to suffer from severe gastrointestinal problems. Such symptoms may be due to a disruption of the indigenous gut flora promoting the overgrowth of potentially pathogenic micro-organisms. The faecal flora of patients with ASDs was studied and compared with those of two control groups (healthy siblings and unrelated healthy children). Faecal bacterial populations were assessed through the use of a culture-independent technique, fluorescence in situ hybridization, using oligonucleotide probes targeting predominant components of the gut flora. The faecal flora of ASD patients contained a higher incidence of the Clostridium histolyticum group (Clostridium clusters I and II) of bacteria than that of healthy children. However, the non-autistic sibling group had an intermediate level of the C. histolyticum group, which was not significantly different from either of the other subject groups. Members of the C. histolyticum group are recognized toxin-producers and may contribute towards gut dysfunction, with their metabolic products also exerting systemic effects. Strategies to reduce clostridial population levels harboured by ASD patients or to improve their gut microflora profile through dietary modulation may help to alleviate gut disorders common in such patients.  Read Full Article  Helena MRT Parracho, Max O Bingham, Glenn R Gibson and Anne L McCartney  Journal of Medical Microbiology - 2005


Short-term benefit from oral vancomycin treatment of regressive-onset autism

In most cases symptoms of autism begin in early infancy. However, a subset of children appears to develop normally until a clear deterioration is observed. Many parents of children with "regressive"-onset autism have noted antecedent antibiotic exposure followed by chronic diarrhea. We speculated that, in a subgroup of children, disruption of indigenous gut flora might promote colonization by one or more neurotoxin-producing bacteria, contributing, at least in part, to their autistic symptomatology. To help test this hypothesis, 11 children with regressive-onset autism were recruited for an intervention trial using a minimally absorbed oral antibiotic. Entry criteria included antecedent broad-spectrum antimicrobial exposure followed by chronic persistent diarrhea, deterioration of previously acquired skills, and then autistic features. Short-term improvement was noted using multiple pre- and post-therapy evaluations. These included coded, paired videotapes scored by a clinical psychologist blinded to treatment status; these noted improvement in 8 of 10 children studied. Unfortunately, these gains had largely waned at follow-up. Although the protocol used is not suggested as useful therapy, these results indicate that a possible gut flora-brain connection warrants further investigation, as it might lead to greater pathophysiologic insight and meaningful prevention or treatment in a subset of children with autism. Sandler RH et al  Read Full Article  J Child Neurol. 2000 Jul;15(7):429-35.


Research linking autism symptoms to gut microbes called 'groundbreaking' 

A new study showing that feeding mice a beneficial type of bacteria can ameliorate autism-like symptoms is "groundbreaking," according to a commentary piece about the research. The autism study, published today in the same issue of Cell, strengthens the recent scientific understanding that the microbes that live in your gut may affect what goes on in your brain. It is also the first to show that a specific probiotic may be capable of reversing autism-like behaviors in mice. Read Full Article University of Colorado at Boulder. "Research linking autism symptoms to gut microbes called 'groundbreaking'."  ScienceDaily, 19 December 2013


Do GMO Foods Cause Autism? 

Similar Digestive Disorders are found in both GMO Fed Livestock and Autistic Children.  About 70% of children diagnosed with autism are found to have digestive disorders. Symptoms include inflammation, intestinal permeability, and imbalances in the intestinal flora (bacterial makeup). These same symptoms also appear in animals fed GMO feed. If GMO foods cause an imbalance in gut flora and this leads to neurological problems, then it is likely GMO foods cause autism, too.

"I believe the causes of autism are multifaceted. It was once explained to me through the analogy of the bucket theory. Everyone is exposed to toxins. Environmental and genetic factors create variable limits for exposure. Some children have bigger buckets than others, and some are exposed to more toxins, viruses, bacteria, and fungi. When a child’s bucket is filled and begins to overflow we see the result in a diseased state.  Many people blame vaccines. Some believe it’s genetic. I personally believe there are a combination of factors. But the evidence against GMO foods is overwhelming, as far as I’m concerned. As for me and my family, we are going to avoid GMO crops. The link between autism and GMO food is just a theory right now, but the circumstantial evidence is strong. Further study will likely confirm the initial hunch of a handful of independent scientists".  Read Full Article 2013


The articles and summaries provided here are for general interest and information only and are not intended to constitute medical advice or to make medical claims.