The Body Ecology Diet (BED) Column
......with Donna Gates
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2012:
A Possible Cause for Autism: Explore the Gut Connection
According to the latest data released from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), one out of every 88 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). (1)
The data, collected in 2008, has recently made headlines across the country. Many of us are wondering if these numbers will continue to rise and, more importantly, what is causing our children to develop this disorder.
Autism is more than a behavioral disorder.
Autism occurs early in life. Typically, it is diagnosed when a child is around 2 years old, although it can be detected as early as infancy or as late as 4 years old.
Diagnosis is based on behavior, rather than a laboratory test. This means impaired social skills, lack of verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Usually there is a period of normal development in a child, followed by regression or degeneration.
Beyond behavior, scientists are still searching for a way to clearly identify and treat autism.
This is because mainstream medicine still does not fully understand what causes autism. At this point, they have only been able to identify patterns.
What we know about autism is a series of relationships.
Some researchers speculate that autism first begins in utero, while the baby is still growing in the mother’s womb during the second trimester of development. (2)
Other scientists point out that autism may be related to:
- Vaccine use and weak immune system function.
- Genetic markers found in the DNA.
- Environmental factors.
- Autoimmunity in the child.
- Family members with autoimmunity. (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)
Gut Health and Autism: A Vital Connection
Many children diagnosed with autism also have gastrointestinal issues. (8) Because gut dysfunction is so common in those with autism, this has lead researchers to look closely at disorders and therapies related to digestion.
One study published early this year compared the bacteria found in one group of children with autism to another group of children without autism. (9) The team found one species of bacteria, Sutterella, in the group of children with autism. This bug was nowhere to be found in the group of children without autism.
Numerous other studies have found a relationship between gut dysbiosis and autism. Gut dysbiosis occurs when the inner ecology of the intestinal tract is imbalanced. This means that the amount of disease-causing bugs outnumbers the good guys, like Lactobacillus acidophilus.
These studies and many others point out a strong connection between the microbes that we harbor in our digestive tract, the immune system, and brain health.
Linking Gut Health to Disease
While researchers speculate that the rise in reported cases of autism may be due to increased awareness, it is important to note that the incidence of autism is increasing, along with the incidence of other diseases related to the immune system, the digestive tract, and the brain.
For example, conditions include Crohn’s disease, which is an autoimmune disorder, and Alzheimer’s dementia, which is a neurodegenerative disease - rather than a neurodevelopmental disease.
These trends are happening on a global level, not only in the United States. (1)(10)
Chronic disease, cancer, autoimmunity, dementia, and developmental disorders like autism are on the rise. Even if you do not know anyone with autism, understanding the relationship between the immune system, the digestive system, the brain, and hormones is essential for everyone.
4 Steps to Keep Your Family Healthy
With so many unknown variables floating around in the midst of serious disorders and health conditions, it is hard to know where to start in order to keep yourself and your family healthy.
There are simple steps that you can follow:
1. Cleanse: Our food, our water, our environment, our dental care, and our health care are full of toxins. Cleansing the body of toxic waste does not have to involve an extreme fast or aggressive therapy. Cleansing the body can be a slow and gentle process that involves removing toxic stressors from your life. Take a close look at your diet, your lifestyle, your environment, and even your relationships. Start letting go.
2. Eat real food: This means that we eat whole, unprocessed foods. It also means that more often than not, we cook our food at home since most convenience and restaurant foods are full of refined sugars and rancid oils. When we eat real food, we eat foods that nourish the body: plenty of non-starchy vegetables, seaweeds, high quality animal proteins that are not from factory farms, and healthy fats.
3. Incorporating fermented foods is a must: Making fermented vegetables is easy! Incorporating even a small amount into meals can make a huge difference in improving digestion and elimination, healing the gut lining, and repopulating your digestive tract with living beneficial bacteria that are more dynamic than any probiotic supplement in pill form. Drinking fermented beverages is another easy way to heal the gut.
4. Reach out for support. Join almost 1,000 families learning how to recover our children. The Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids (BEDROK) community is a great resource not only for autism and other childhood diseases but also for pregnant women and parents who want their children to have optimal health.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
According to the CDC, one in every 88 children in the US has autism. Yet autism extends beyond a behavioral disorder. Many researchers believe that autism could be related to vaccine use, environmental factors, or even autoimmunity in a child. Further research supports an important connection between autism and gut health; many children with autism also have gastrointestinal issues.
To prevent autism and protect the health of your family, here are 4 important steps that you can take today:
- Cleanse your food and environment from harmful toxins.
- Eat real, whole, unprocessed foods and avoid fast foods and restaurant foods.
- Incorporate fermented foods into each meal to heal the lining of the gut.
- Reach out for support in the Body Ecology autism support community BEDROK.
- Jon Baio. Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008. Surveillance Summaries. CDC MMWR. March 30, 2012; 61 (SS03): 1 – 19.
- Eric Courchesne, et al. Neuron Number and Size in Prefrontal Cortex of Children With Autism. JAMA. 2011; 306( 18): 2001 – 2010.
- Andrew Wakefeild, et al. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 1998; 351 (9103): 637 – 641.
- JH Miles. Autism spectrum disorders—a genetics review. Genet. Med. 2011; 13: 278 – 294.
- Richard Deth. How environmental and genetic factors combine to cause autism: a redox/methylation hyposis. January 2008; 29 (1): 190 – 201.
- Autism, autoimmunity, and immunotherapy: A commentary by Vijendra K. Singh, PhD Department of Biology and Biotechnology Center, USU, Logan Scientific Board Member, Autism Autoimmunity Project.
- Anne Comi, et al. Familial Clustering of Autoimmune Disorders and Evaluation of Medical Risk Factors in Autism. J Child Neurol. June 1999; 14 (6): 388-394.
- Buie T, et al. Evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders in individuals with ASDs: a consensus report. Pediatrics. 2010; 125 (Suppl. 1): S1–S18.
- BL Williams, et al. Application of novel PCR-based methods for detection, quantitation, and phylogenetic characterization of Sutterella species in intestinal biopsy samples from children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances. mBio. 2012. 3 (1): e00261 – 11.
- Susan Barton, et al. Celiac Disease and Autoimmunity in the Gut and Elsewhere. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2008 June ; 37 (2): 411 – vii.
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