Nutrition and Autism; the Gut connection
Autism (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can result from genetic alteration and/or environmental exposures. ASD has increased in prevalence at an alarming rate over the past 50 years. In 1970 it was estimated to occur in 1/10,000 births. As of 2018, cases were estimated to be 1/44. According to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the CDC the prevalence of ASD more than tripled from the year 2000 to 2018. The CDC's report Key Findings from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring reports data collected through 2018 from 11 states. The reported prevalence in 8-year-old children was 1/44. However, that is an average. There were significant differences in prevalence among reporting states. For example, California reported 1/26 while Missouri reported 1/60 indicating an environmental component. It is prudent to assume the prevalence in ASD has continued to rise in the 3 years since.
Symptoms associated with the disorder has been shown to have a Gut-Brain connection. Gut issues and vitamin/mineral deficiency are not uncommon in ASD. So much of an individual's Immune system, Endocrine, and Microbiota are located in the gastrointestinal system. Gut bacteria play a key role in the function of the body, mind, and spirit.
Imbalances such as overgrowth or deficiency can lead to inflammation. Neuroinflammation can lead to inflammation in the nervous system. Pro-inflammatory cytokines released, such as IL 6 an important neuroimmune factor, can cause expression of symptoms of acting out, aggression, pushing people away, difficulty learning, expressing, and doing tasks. Bacteria in the gut affect the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters (NT) which control secretion of enzymes essential to normal metabolic function. Neurotransmitters responsible for mood and coping such as 50% of dopamine and 90% of serotonin as well as some growth factors are produced in the gastrointestinal tract in association with the gut bacteria. Bacteria produce, consume, and alter metabolism of Neurotransmitters.
What does all this mean?
Dysbiosis of gut pathogens, beneficial, and opportunistic bacteria cause inflammation, Gut discomfort, Constipation, Diarrhea, bloating, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety, food sensitivities, intolerances, moodiness, and difficulty modulating stress response to name a few. For an individual with ASD gut health can mean significant difference in degrees of their disability. While there is no known cure for ASD, Studies have shown nutrition as an effective means to promote improvement in many common symptoms leading to improved quality of life.
What can you do?
Eat good food 2. Test 3. Supplement
Whole food diet*
Whole foods first with a variety of colorful veggies and low sugar fruits. Eat the Rainbow! Studies have shown children/Adults with ASD have abnormal immune responses to certain foods. One large study found 87% had antibodies to gluten and 90% had antibodies to casein compared to 1% and 7% of controls respectively. Long-term 12-month study of gluten free, casein free diet followed for 1 year or longer "found that 81% improved by the third month...that continued over the next 12 months". There were significant improvements in symptoms associated with behaviors such as social isolation, speech, learning, and hyperactivity as well as other common symptoms.
Incorporate Cruciferous veggies daily. Sulphoraphane in broccoli has been shown to activate release of proteins that boost neurotransmitter synaptic transmission, act as a potent antioxidant to rid free radicals, suppress inflammatory trigger, and restore mitochondrial function necessary for energy production and metabolism.
Supplement (shop our dispensary link)
Quality Multivitamin w/minerals without fillers or additives
Vit D3: D is found in salmon, egg yolks, sun exposure, supports neurological function, brain development, immune and inflammatory response. Many, many benefits - to many to list here.
Vit C: berries, cruciferous, citrus. Supports immune system, production of serotonin, epinephrine for mood and stress support, and collagen formation. Supports bone health.
Mg; chelated malate; calming, improves sleep. Found in nuts, seeds
Zinc: all aspects of immune response, assists in healthy blood sugar regulation, mood, taste. Found in nuts, seeds, mushrooms, dark chocolate, spinach
B vitamins complex B6, B12 essential for brain development, metabolism, DNA, immune and nervous system function. Found in meats, fish, poultry, and eggs.
Omega 3 fish oil. Studies show benefit to speech, language, fine motor. Several studies (n-1193) show individuals with ASD typically have decreased levels.
Mineral complex. Important for detoxification, inactivation of catecholamines, synthesis of brain tissue, and sulfation of mucin that line the GI tract, and much more. Studies have shown those with ASD typically have decreased sulfation capacity.
Probiotics with caution. Address dysbiosis/overgrowth before adding more.
GI MAP to assess gut bacteria, immune function, and digestion.
Consider vitamins, minerals, and food sensitivity testing.
Contact Desire Wellness Group for a free consultation to begin your path to discovery and optimal health.
Goal: remove toxins, reduce inflammation, balance gut flora, seed and feed good bacteria with whole foods and quality probiotic if needed.
Hsiao, E. Y. (2014). Gastrointestinal issues in autism spectrum disorder. Harvard review of psychiatry, 22(2), 104-111
Adams JB, Audhya T, Geis E, Gehn E, Fimbres V, Pollard EL, Mitchell J, Ingram J, Hellmers R, Laake D, Matthews JS, Li K, Naviaux JC, Naviaux RK, Adams RL, Coleman DM, Quig DW. Comprehensive Nutritional and Dietary Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder-A Randomized, Controlled 12-month Trial. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 17;10(3):369. doi: 10.3390/nu10030369. MID: 29562612; PMCID: PMC5872787
H. Turbé, L. Waeckel, B. Dechelotte,
Overview of prospects for inflammation pathways in autism spectrum disorders, 'Encéphale, Volume 46, Issue 5, 2020, Pages 404-407, ISSN 0013-7006,
Yang SH, Gangidine M, Pritts TA, Goodman MD, Lentsch AB. Interleukin 6 mediates neuroinflammation and motor coordination deficits after mild traumatic brain injury and brief hypoxia in mice. Shock. 2013 Dec;40(6):471-5. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000000037. PMID: 24088994; PMCID: PMC4218737.
Wei H, Alberts I, Li X. Brain IL-6 and autism. Neuroscience. 2013 Nov 12; 252:320-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.08.025. Epub 2013 Aug 28. PMID: 23994594.
Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder | CDC