Gut Bacteria Trigger Autism

Our gut microbiota can influence our state of mind, including our mood and behaviour. In the recent issue of Cell, scientists reported that the compositional and structural shifts of microbes and associated metabolites can trigger autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms.[1] (2013, Cell 155,1451).

Neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are defined by core behavioural impairments; however, subsets of individuals display a spectrum of gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities.

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Microbiota Modulate Behavioral and Physiological Abnormalities Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders

A very exciting paper published in the journal Cell has identified (in an animal model) the ability of commensal bacteria to reverse autistic behaviours, reinforcing the indications explored by us in the blog over the last few years that the relationship between brain and gut is in part mediated by organisational complexity and competence in the gut microbiota. This looks to be an exciting investigation that will build on many others works.[1]

Doses of a human gut microbe helped to reverse behavioural problems in mice with autism-like symptoms, researchers report today in Cell. The treatment also reduced gastrointestinal problems in the animals that were similar to those that often accompany autism in humans.

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Clinical Pearls: Papaya As a Foundation for Gut Health

By: Magdalena Cubała-Kucharska, MD, family practitioner, Warsaw

Note: Dr. Cubala-Kucharska has practiced in both the United Kingdom and Poland, and is due to receive a PhD, with a specialty in autism, next year.

I am a family doctor with a specialty in autism, and am finishing up my PhD this year. My PhD thesis is a study of one hundred autistic children, treated by complementary medicine.

I have been using papaya fruit preparation for three years. Though I have a general practice, I am specializing more and more in autism. We see very difficult gastrointestinal problems in most autistic children, to the point where I feel autism may even start with gut problems. Of the one hundred children I am studying for my PhD thesis, all have gastrointestinal complaints and problems, which include diarrhoea, constipation and gut dysbiosis and inflammation. I use a laboratory in America to analyse their stool samples, and I find high levels of markers for inflammation. These children tend to behave very aggressively when they have gut pain, partly because they are unable to properly communicate the pain.

Before discovering papaya fruit preparation I had no other choice for constipation but using lactulose – which actually in some cases caused very acidic stools, resulting in further irritation of gastrointestinal tract. Now, with papaya fruit preparation, most of my patients report immediate relief from constipation. Inflammation parameters are normalizing, stools in general are better, food is well digested, appetite improves, and chronic diarrhoea improves, too.

I had one autistic patient, a girl, who had not moved her bowels in ten days. After starting the extract, her bowels normalized. This is not uncommon. Papaya fruit preparation actually helps normalize the intestinal environment and flora. Flatulence and foul odour decrease markedly. Food intolerance’s also improve. From a practitioner point of view what I see is so interesting, I would like to perform a proper study in the future, where gut bacteria are analysed before and after taking papaya fruit preparation.

Papaya fruit preparation also works as an additional treatment for adults undergoing chemotherapy, as they often suffer major gastrointestinal complaints. I recently treated a woman receiving chemotherapy, who suffered severe diarrhoea, pain and wasting. Papaya normalized her stools within a few days, and she was able to eat again and put on weight.

I consider papaya fruit preparation a long-term treatment and recommend it for one to six months. I do combine it with other treatments, such as probiotics, lactoferrin for gut immunity, and antibacterial and antifungal treatments.

Before I discovered papaya fruit preparation I was not satisfied with any treatment for gut inflammation and motility disorders. Drugs have serious side effects, and other natural products were not effective enough. Nowadays I can hardly imagine my practice without papaya. Whenever I see a patient, I first address gut problems, and only then do I approach the other prongs of treatment. Thus papaya fruit preparation is a basis of most of my treatments.

Gluten Appears Related to Autism

As a Nutritional Therapist the concepts of gluten reactivity outside of the diagnosis of coeliac disease has been an easy leap of faith. Over the last few years as a greater understanding of different gluten sensitivity conditions have been uncovered, many scientists are revisiting conditions to see if there may be a correlation of clinical relevance.

In one study published in the open access journal PLOS researchers have found elevated antibodies to gluten proteins of wheat in children with autism in comparison to those without autism. The results also indicated an association between the elevated antibodies and the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms in the affected children.[1] They did not find any connection, however, between the elevated antibodies and coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder known to be triggered by gluten.

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Dysbiosis in Autism, More Evidence Confirms Association

A paper out in PLOS this week has highlighted abnormalities in the bacterial compositions of the gut found in individuals diagnosed with autism. Whilst this is not a ground breaking a discovery as the authors suggest, it does add further qualification to the evolving recognition of the consistency of dysbiosis in individuals with autism.[1]

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Autoimmunity and the Worm

An immunologist, Dr Joel Weinstock provoked mixed reactions from the scientific community when he suggested that in line with Strachan’s hygiene theory[1] and Rook’s ‘old friend’s theory,[2] that the removal from the western world of helminths, had provided the opportunity for inflammatory diseases of the bowel and elsewhere to increase in frequency.[3] 20 years on from Strachan’s first proposals and Weinstock’s hypothesis have been examined in human trials and found to be effective, and the human microbiome project has uncovered other interesting relationship’s.[4]

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The Potential Role of Probiotics in the Management of Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are defined by impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and repetitive and stereotyped behaviours. In addition to these core deficits, previous reports indicate that the prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms ranges widely in individuals with ASD, from 9 to 91% in different study population.[1]

The role of probiotics in the management and treatment of these alterations has been explored in a recent free access paper, published in Gastroenterology Research and Practice Oct 2011.[2]

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Current Opinion from IOM on Autism and Vaccination

Some parents and families of children with autism believe that the Measles/Mumps/ Rubella (MMR) vaccine caused their children’s autism. These parents report that their children were “normal” until they received the MMR vaccine. Then, after getting the vaccine, their children started showing symptoms of autism. Because the symptoms of autism (an increasingly common neurodevelopmental problem) begin to occur around the same time as the child’s MMR vaccination, parents and families see the vaccine as the cause of the autism. However, just because the events happen around the same time does not mean that one caused the other. Although children receive many other vaccines in addition to the MMR vaccine, these other vaccines have not been identified as possible causes of autism.

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Oral Glutathione Equivalent to IV Therapy!

Michael Ash BSc DO ND F.DipION and Marty Jones PharmD review the changing face of glutathione and explore the acetylated form as an alternative to IV glutathione therapy.

Reduced glutathione also known as glutathione or GSH is found in all living systems.[1] Lowered tissue GSH levels have been observed in several disease conditions.[2] The restoration of cell GSH levels in a number of these conditions have proven to be beneficial. Thus, strategies to boost cell glutathione level are of marked therapeutic significance.

GSH is the smallest of the intracellular thiols (a compound that contains the functional group composed of a sulphur-hydrogen bond (-SH) hence its unpleasant smell when mercaptans are released)  and its high donating electron capacity combined with dense intracellular concentration provides significant oxidative reducing capacity.[3]

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Neonatal Jaundice Linked to Autism

Many parents and clinicians are looking for clues often of a wild and speculative format to explain why their child may have developed autism, for whilst there appear to be a number of genes involved in autism, the genetic cause has yet to be convincingly supported, suggesting that there remains an environmental factor that influences an epigentic change that allows for relevant genes to be expressed.

A paper published in the journal Pediatrics[1] suggests a possible relationship between a clinically recognised early life condition and the development of ASD suggesting that this sensitive window – if exposed to the described neurological insult can act as an epigenetic activator with long term consequences.  In addition to the local neurological interaction, this study also pulled a large amount of data from Danish birth records and found two risk mitigators:

If the mother was primiparous (a woman who has given birth only once) and the birth dates were in between April and September – the risk of autism declined dramatically.

So what did they find: The researchers uncovered a complex interplay between endogenous liver function, frequency of pregnancy and time of conception/birth.

This paper looked at Jaundiced newborns  (caused by hyperbilirubinemia – increased levels of bilirubin in the blood) and found they had a remarkably close to 90% higher likelihood of subsequently having any psychological developmental disorder compared with comparable neonates without jaundice (HR 1.87, 95% CI 1.58 to 2.21, P=0.001)

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