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      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

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      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

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      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

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Getting the Poop Scoop on Autism

Filed in Autism, C. difficile, Children, fecal transplant, General, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/25/2017


Autism Hope

A report in Science Daily entitled “Autism symptoms improve after fecal transplant, small study finds” caught my eye immediately.

You see, in one of the episodes of my recent PBS special, Natural Health Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson, I interviewed a woman who had undergone fecal transplant with great success. She had been extremely ill with recurrent C. difficile bacterial infections when this innovative treatment was suggested. She felt she regained her life through this process. Now I see it’s being used to help young people with autism!

For those of you unaware of this procedure, fecal transplantation is done by processing donor feces and screening it for disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Then the “healthy” microbes are inserted into the participant’s digestive tract to rebalance the gut, known as the microbiome.

The boys and girls diagnosed with autism, ages 7 to 16, initially were administered a two week course of antibiotics to essentially wipe out existing bacteria, with hopes to start with a “clean slate”. Then doctors then gave the participants a high-dose fecal transplant of healthy donors’ bacteria and viruses in liquid form. Over the 7-8 weeks that followed the youngsters drank smoothies blended with a lower dose powder.

Although it was a small study (18 children), the results appeared to be extremely positive. Diarrhea and stomach pains decreased markedly – up to 82%, and parents also reported that behavioral autism symptoms significantly changed for the better. The study followed the participants for 8 weeks after the implantation, and positive results appeared to continue.

Researchers were also able to use laboratory testing to compare the autistic children’s bacterial diversity with their healthy peers following treatment. The participants’ bacterial diversity had improved to the point that the test results were indistinguishable from healthy children. This is such an important finding since previous research has shown that children with autism typically have less diversity of bacteria in their guts, and are also missing some important bacteria that are regarded as markers of a healthy microbiome, as I discussed in this blog.

The relationship between mental health and gut microbes has been researched often as well. So it seems logical that attempts to restore balance to the autistic child’s gut, as so many parents have worked to do over the years with great results through diet and probiotics, would and does result in better health.

It’s exciting to see that research may offer a more direct tool in the future with the potential to improve so many lives. As larger studies are done, it is hoped that researchers will uncover the precise bacteria and viruses that impact very specific diseases. What an interesting future we have to look forward to!

Broccoli Sprout Compound Shows Promise for Autism

Filed in Autism, Children, Mental Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/15/2014


An interesting study in children with autism was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. Researchers tested the effects of a daily dose of sulforaphane, a chemical derived from broccoli sprouts, on children with autism. They found that many of the children receiving sulforaphane experienced significant improvements in social interaction and verbal communication, as well as decreases in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors when compared to those children who received placebo.

“We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some of the underlying cellular problems,” noted Paul Talalay, MD, one of the researchers.

Sulforaphane works by helping to improve the body’s natural defense against oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA damage, as well as improve the body’s heat shock response, which is activated when the body temperature raises. Many children with autism experience improvements in their condition when they have a fever, a time when the body’s heat shock response is activated. That prompted the researchers to test the effects of sulforaphane in autistic children.

The children received between 9 and 27 milligrams of sulforaphane daily, and their behavior was assessed at the beginning of the study, again at four, 10, and 18 weeks while treatment continued, and once more four weeks after the treatment stopped. After 18 weeks, about half of the sulforaphane recipients experienced noticeable improvements in social interaction, behavior, and verbal communication.

“It seems like sulforaphane is temporarily helping cells to cope with their handicaps,” noted Talalay.

Unfortunately, obtaining enough sulforaphane just by eating broccoli would be very difficult, given the varying amounts of the chemical in different varieties of broccoli, and due to varying ability of individuals to convert precursors in broccoli into active sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is available as a dietary supplement, however. If you find this study interesting, talk with your physician about whether it might be of benefit.

Gut Bacteria in Children with Autism Are Different

Filed in Autism, Children, Human Microbiome | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/04/2014


There is a distinct connection between changes in gut bacteria and autism, a topic I have written and blogged about before. A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology found that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have different concentrations of bacterial metabolites, or chemicals produced by bacteria, in their stool when compared to children without ASD.

“Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain, working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis,” said Kang. “We suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function.”

Of the 50 different metabolites they tested, seven were found to differ between those children with ASD and those without.

“Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain, working as neurotransmitters or controlling neurotransmitter biosynthesis,” said Kang. “We suspect that gut microbes may alter levels of neurotransmitter-related metabolites affecting gut-to-brain communication and/or altering brain function.”

In a nutshell, they think that the bacterial metabolites are altering brain function. The next step would be to determine whether these altered metabolites might be a cause or confounder of the disorder. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.

In addition, the scientists confirmed that children with ASD had a distinct and less diverse bacterial composition than children without ASD. A lack of gut bacterial diversity has been found in people with a range of health conditions and generally indicates a state of impaired digestive health. That they found less diversity in children with autism is not surprising, given that digestive disruptions are a common finding in these children.

It is my hope that this research leads to a more clear understanding of just what is happening in these children so that we can take more measures to prevent the condition in the first place and even reverse it in certain children. In the meantime, promoting good digestive health in these children is a must. Children with ASDs often do well by taking probiotics, digestive enzymes, and omega-3 fish oils, and by following a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. The Autism Research Institute is an excellent resource for finding a physician who understands how to treat autism by taking into consideration a range of possible contributing factors.

Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy Linked to Autism

Filed in Autism, Children, Pregnant women | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/04/2014


There are many factors that contribute to autism. While some experts will lead you to believe that genetics are to blame, many other experts are hard at working identifying a number of environmental contributors to the disorder. I discussed many of these in my book, The Road to Perfect Health. The truth is more likely somewhere in the middle. Both genes and environment play a role in most health conditions, autism included.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those with developmental delays were more likely to have been exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) while in the womb as a result of antidepressant medication taken by the mother. The study looked at data from 966 mother-child pairs with children aged two to five. Most of the children in the study were boys.

“We found prenatal SSRI [antidepressant] exposure was nearly three times as likely in boys with ASD relative to typical development, with the greatest risk when exposure took place during the first trimester,” stated Li-Ching Lee, PhD, MPH, one of the researchers. “SSRI was also elevated among boys with developmental disorder, with the strongest exposure effect in the third trimester.”

This study is evidence that prenatal exposure to these drugs may put some children at risk of developing an autism spectrum or developmental disorder. The risks and benefits of SSRI use during pregnancy should be carefully weighed by physicians because mental disorders can also be a risk to infants while in the womb. More research will be needed to determine safer treatment methods for depression during pregnancy.

 

Link between Soy Formula and Seizures in Autistic Children

Filed in Autism, Children, Diet, Digestive Health, General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/02/2014


According to a recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences ONE journal, autistic children who are fed soy formula had 2.6 times as many febrile seizures as those children fed non-soy formula. About 25 percent of infant formula sold in the United States is soy formula, the most popular non-dairy formula option.

The researchers began their study by investigating a drug for its potential to reduce seizures in an animal model. To simplify the study, the researchers used a purified feed. They noticed a difference between mice fed the standard feed, which was soy based, and the purified feed which was a dairy-derived formula.

“We were intrigued that a dietary alteration was as effective as many medicines in reducing seizure incidence and wanted to pursue that finding,” said Cara Westmark, PhD. “We found that the main difference between the diets was the protein source. The standard diet was soy-based, while the purified diet was casein, or dairy, based.”

From there, they analyzed data from a sample of almost 2,000 children and found the link between soy-based formula and increased seizures. “This is not saying that all autistic children who eat soy-based formula are going to develop seizures,” Westmark was careful to say. But the increase is worrying, she noted.

More studies will be needed to determine if the link is actually causal. That is, does the soy formula cause the increase in seizures, or is there another factor involved? “This needs to be studied more thoroughly. If soy formula is lowering the threshold for seizures or increasing the incidence of seizures, we need to know that.” Indeed. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.

 

Probiotic Bacteria Reverse Autistic Behaviors

Filed in Autism, Children, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 02/05/2014


Introduction of the probiotic bacteria Bacteroides fragilis into the digestive tract improves gastrointestinal function and behavioral symptoms in an animal model, suggesting that the bacteria may be a potential probiotic therapy in humans with neurodevelopmental disorders, according to a recent study published in the journal Cell.1 This study has particular implications for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), but the researchers say that the study results might be applicable to various disorders.

The researchers used a mouse model that mimics some of the behavioral, physiological, and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms found in individuals with autism. They introduced the beneficial bacterium Bacteroides fragilis into the digestive tracts of these mice and found that behavior improved along with a correction of gut permeability (leaky gut) and an improvement in the microbial composition (gut balance).

“We propose the transformative concept that autism, and likely other behavioral conditions, are potentially diseases involving the gut that ultimately impact the immune, metabolic, and nervous systems, and that microbiome-mediated therapies may be a safe and effective treatment for these neurodevelopmental disorders,” they stated.

Autism affects 1 in 88 children born in the United States, a number that has rapidly climbed over the past few decades. Digestive distress is a common symptom among these children, particularly in those with more severe symptoms.2 These digestive symptoms are thought to be the result of gut bacterial imbalance, or dysbiosis.3 More studies will be taking a closer look at the effects of modifying gut balance with probiotics, both in humans and animals.

Current integrative medical treatment of autism includes a comprehensive gut clean up protocol that involves removal of pathogens, repair of the gut lining, and replenishment of the probiotic bacteria in the gut. Cleaning up the gut should be the first step in just about any chronic condition, even those outside the gut, such as autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

For more on autism, click here to read previous blogs.

References

  1. Hsiao EY, McBride SW, and Hsien S, et al., “Microbiota modulate behavioral and physiological abnormalities associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.” Cell. 2013 Dec;155(7):1451–1463.
  2. Adams JB, Johansen LJ, and Powell LD, et al., “Gastrointestinal flora and gastrointestinal status in children with autism–comparisons to typical children and correlation with autism severity.” BMC Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar 16;11:22.
  3. Finegold SM, Downes J, Summanen PH, et al., “Microbiology of regressive autism.” Anaerobe. 2012 Apr;18(2):260-2.