Probiotics and Autism: Amazing Research You Should See
By Alison Potter
While there are genetic and environmental factors influencing the development of autism, scientific findings have shown promising results from introduction of probiotics into autism research.
The nonprofit Autism Speaks funded a “Gut-Brain Research Initiative” seeking to identify possible links between bacteria in the gut and autism spectrum disorder in an attempt to show the efficacy of probiotics in treating ASD.
Preliminary findings show that children with ASD did “have unusual species or imbalances of gut bacteria,” says Dr. Ruth Ann Luna, microbial geneticist and director of the study.
This finding is significant in that beneficial gut bacteria, or probiotics, are necessary for healthy immune system function, and imbalances and harmful bacteria affect both the brain and body.
Four specific organisms associated with autism were discovered in the stool samples of children with autism in the study and include Sarcina ventriculi, Barnesiella intestihominis, Clostridium bartlettii, and Clostridium bolteae. Those harmful bacteria were not present in the stools of the their "unaffected" siblings.
Children need a healthy gut for proper immune development and function, to regulate inflammation, to support proper development, and to possibly treat autism or prevent its development, says Dr. Sonya Doherty, a naturopathic specialist in treating autism spectrum disorder. Doherty recommends pharmaceutical probiotics with very high levels of healthy bacteria for children with autism — 15 billion to 30 billion micro-organisms a day.
According to their published research in the journal Cell, Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientists discovered possible evidence linking missing healthy gut bacteria to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
In the Baylor study, female mice were fed a high-fat diet in the equivalent of several fast food meals a day, which they hypothesized was a primary reason for the development of autism.
The microbiome, or unique gut bacteria, of offspring born to obese females, contained significantly fewer Lactobacillus reuteri than offspring of females that were fed a regular diet.
The mice born to mothers who were fed a high-fat diet were socially impaired. By adding L.reuteri — the missing probiotic which was strained from human breast milk — to the water of these mice, their social behavior improved.
In addition, the probiotic increased the amount of oxytocin to beneficial levels in the affected mice which has been shown to play a prominent role in social behavior. Humans with autism normally have significantly lower levels of oxytocin.
Researchers are hopeful that this successful outcome of probiotic use will translate to humans with autism and further solidify the gut-brain link in autism spectrum disorder.
Comment: It is a little ironic that Autism Speaks is looking at a gut-brain connection in children who have autism. Could this be the same gut-brain connection that Andrew Wakefield suggested? In any case we can hope probiotics can ease some of the suffering of these affected children.