by Dr. Will Cole
Autism On The Rise
Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have sky rocketed over a short period of time. In 1970, an estimated 1 in 10,000 children were found to be autistic. In 1995 it was 1 in 500. In 2001 it became 1 in 250. Today, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed as autistic.
The reality is, genetics alone does not explain the epidemic growth of autism and other conditions like it . Our genetics haven’t changed in the last 40 years. Better diagnosis may explain part of the astronomic increase of autism, but only marginally . In reality, the medical literature is beginning to recognize autism as an autoimmune reaction against the brain.
The Gut & Brain Connection
We are only beginning to understand the communication lines between the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis). Every condition that has an immune component has been correlated to some dysfunction of the gut. Called the “second brain” in the literature, your gut is home to around 80% of your immune system.
This sophisticated system, made up of trillions of bacteria, is collectively called the microbiome. The microbiome also has been shown to be a key player in turning on and off genetic expression. Now you can see, with its implications in immune health and genetic expression, why the gut is at the center of some autism research.
One study compared the microbiome of children with and without autism. They found the autistic kids didn’t have the same gut diversity the others had. Another study found mice with autism like symptoms had the similar lack of gut bacteria diversity.
The prevailing theory is that an imbalanced microbiome and a weakened gut lining or “leaky gut” can cause an inflammatory immune response against the brain and a genetic predisposition to be turned on.
So What Can I Do Now?
Comprehensive diagnostic testing will give insight to the individual case. Some of the labs that I run on patients around the world are:
- Comprehensive Gut & Parasitology: a careful look at the microbiome and gut health. I recommend a two or three day collection for the most accurate results.
- Gut Permeability: measures the damage of the gut lining or “leaky gut”, which can lead to inflammation of the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis).
- Comprehensive Antibodies: a detailed look at any inflammatory immune responses against the brain, gut and many different systems in the body.
Heal The Gut
The researchers found that by giving the “autistic” mice the beneficial probiotic bacteroides fragilis, they were less anxious and communicated more vocally, both common autism struggles.
Many of my patients also see an improvement in autistic symptoms by addressing the gut. Here are my favorite tips to heal the gut.
Heal The Brain
Because autism is also a condition that affects the brain, it is essential to support optimal brain health. Here are the top foods that will hurt brain health and here are my favorite brain healing foods.
Dampen Any Immune Response
Diseases that have an immunological component are at an all time high for many different reasons. Here are my favorite ways to calm down any potential autoimmune response against the brain.
There are many different pieces to the autism puzzle, these are some, not all, of those pieces. Customized comprehensive care should be made for the unique needs of the individual.
Writing an article about autism is a sensitive subject. In no way am I oversimplifying this complex condition. There is no easy answer to the multifaceted web of genetic and environmental factors that are at play with this condition. I want to give you a starting point of understanding to this complicated topic.
I also am in no way putting blame on any parent by somehow insinuating that you are the cause of why your child has autism. As a parent myself, I am very aware that most times we try to do the best we can with the information we have.
I wrote this article because parents are given very little options in mainstream medicine. As a functional medicine practitioner , I can’t look at the statistics and the research on autism and stay silent on what we can do now.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
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