This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gut Dysbiosis in Autism

I have written a more general post about the connection between autism and problems in the gut, but want to focus specifically on the imbalanced microflora that is such a major part of this.  Many of the symptoms of autism can result directly from the toxins and metabolites produced by the overgrowth of pathogens, and other symptoms can result indirectly from these imbalances.  These symptoms can include sensory issues such as sensitivity to light and sound, obsessive compulsive disorder or tendencies, stimming, self-injurious behavior, aggression, sleep problems, pickiness and food aversions, hyperactivity, anger and rage, other mood issues, rigidity, speech problems, difficulty with processing language, allergies, altered sensitivity to pain, and many more.  These imbalances can lead to or worsen common biological conditions in autism such as mitochondrial dysfunction, high histamine levels, high oxalate levels, leaky gut and IgG food allergies, and possibly even Pyroluria. 

A number of studies have found that the gut flora of people with autism is quite different than that of healthy controls.  One recent study looked at the bacterial composition of microflora in 33 children with autism who have gastrointestinal symptoms compared to controls and found many significant differences, including:

"At the phylum level, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes showed the most difference between groups of varying severities of autism. Bacteroidetes was found at high levels in the severely autistic group, while Firmicutes were more predominant in the control group. Smaller, but significant, differences also occurred in the Actinobacterium and Proteobacterium phyla. Desulfovibrio species and Bacteroides vulgatus are present in significantly higher numbers in stools of severely autistic children than in controls."

 Desulfovibrio is a bacteria that causes problems with the metabolism of sulfur, which is a very common problem for people with autism.  It seems that the water supply may be one source of this bacteria.  If that is where it is coming from, then it would seem that colonization with this bacteria woudl be the result of an immune deficiency?

Another recent study, published early in 2012, found that children with autism who also had gastrointestinal complaints had high levels of a bacteria in gut biopsies, called Sutterella, that was not found in control subjects who did not have autism but did have GI complaints.  Here is a quote from this article about the study's findings:

"The investigators found that over half of the children diagnosed with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances had Sutterella in intestinal biopsy tissue, while Sutterella was absent in biopsies from typically developing children with gastrointestinal disturbances. Not only was Sutterella present in the intestines of children with autism, but relative to most genera of bacteria, Sutterella was present at remarkably high levels. Sutterella species have been isolated from human infections previous to this study, but it remains unclear whether this bacterium is a human pathogen.".

This is a video on YouTube, by Dr Brian Walsh, that gives a short but very succinct summary of some of the health problems that can result from gut dysbiosis.