Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed when individuals exhibit characteristic behaviours that include repetitive actions, decreased social interactions, and impaired communication. Curiously, many people who suffer with autism also suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems, like abdominal cramps and constipation.
The mainstream is still slow to catch onto the fact that overall health and well-being starts with a healthy gut. Instead of promoting a balanced and healthy diet as the foundation for good health and combatting diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and even depression, doctors continue to push drugs as a first-line of defence.
Getting the right balance
A study, published in the journal Cell, turned heads and dropped jaws all across the autism community, when the researchers from the California Institute of Technology concluded that they have successfully REVERSED the most common symptoms of autism in mice with nothing more than a simple probiotic!
The researchers noticed that mice with symptoms of autism all had one thing in common ? they were suffering from “leaky guts” ? leaky gut syndrome allows waste particles to pass from the intestine into the bloodstream.
For the study, the researchers began feeding the mice with autism a steady diet of Bacteroides fragilis, a common probiotic for animals. This probiotic regimen helped to heal their leaky guts in no time.
But the real magic began, when the researchers noted that the symptoms of autism seemed to disappear almost overnight! The mice were less anxious, more willing to socialise and less obsessed with repetitive tasks.
Commenting on the results of the study, Professor of Biology, Sarkis K. Mazmanian, said: “Traditional research has studied autism as a genetic disorder and a disorder of the brain, but our work shows that gut bacteria may contribute to autism spectrum disorder symptoms in ways that were previously unappreciated. Gut physiology appears to have effects on what are currently presumed to be brain functions.”
Of course, this was an animal study and it’s too early to say if the same results will be replicated in human trials. But the link between autism and the gut makes perfect sense. We’ve known for ages that people with autism are more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal disorders.
However, a more recent human study strengthens the gut brain connection and its effect on behavioural problems.
A study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, evaluated 75 infants who were randomized to either receive a specific probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, or a placebo during the first six months of life. The study then followed these kids for the next 13 years.
At age 13 years, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or autistic spectrum, was diagnosed in 17 per cent of the children in the placebo group and none in the group receiving the probiotic.
The researchers concluded that “probiotic supplementation early in life may reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric disorder development later in childhood.”
It seems to me that we are only just beginning to realise the importance of maintaining a healthy balance of good gut bacteria…
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Probiotic Therapy Alleviates Autism-like Behaviors in Mice, published online, caltech.edu
Probiotic Prevents ADHD and Au