Brain-Gut Connection and Autism


I don’t know about you, but if I eat too closely to the time when I go to sleep, I have very vivid nightmares. Before I give a presentation and share my thoughts with others, my stomach does somersaults and the butterflies come out. Before a job interview? Forget it, my stomach is incredibly hard to deal with. Doctors are prescribing anti depressants for stomach and gastrointestinal issues. Clearly the mind and the stomach have some sort of connection, but what is it? Why does it exist? And what does this mean for Autism?

When we’re not much more than an expected baby, and our different body systems are forming, our stomachs and our brains develop from the same clump of tissue. One section becomes the central nervous system, and the other becomes the enteric nervous system that controls the gastrointestinal system. It can be thought of a similar instance as when twins are born, and as they grow older, some report being affected  by situations that the other is going through.

The brain and stomach are connected by the vagus nerve. So, not only is there a “twin-like” relation, there is an actual physical connection between the brain and the gut. It is also important to note that one half of all of our nerve cells are located in the gut.

The Gut: The Other Brain:

The stomach itself has it’s own brain, also known as the enteric system, which is located in the lining of the esophogus, intestine, and colon. Containing neurons and neurotransmitters, the enteric system is often firing messages to support cells.  No wonder people trust their guts! It has it’s own brain afterall.

Many dieticians often recommend people eat slowly so that the stomach has a chance to tell the brain that it’s full. Otherwise, you run the risk of over stuffing your stomach and causing indigestion.

Did you know that both the brain and the stomach have a sleeping cycle? It’s true, as our brain goes through the 90 minute cycles of Rapid Eye Movement, etc., the gut also goes through cycles of muscle contractions. The REM cycle of sleep is also likely affected by contractions of the stomach muscles, since these two ‘brains’ are connected.

Many people who are diagnosed with depression are also given the diagnosis as not producing serontonin, or “happy juice” in the brain. A little known fact is that the stomach also produces serotonin. In fact, the stomach produces more serotonin than any other part of the body.

What does the gut-brain connection have to do with Autism?

Though the gut is often an overlooked part of the body, it really does hold a lot of power. Since this is where digestion takes place, if the gut is not functioning properly, then our body cannot take the nutrients that it needs from the food we’re eating.  Even if your child’s diet is one of great nutrients and proper vitamins, if the gut isn’t extracting the nutrients, then the body isn’t getting what it needs.

On the same token, our bodies are designed to filter out toxins from the body and reject unknown infections. However, if the gut isn’t working, and not filtering out toxins, an toxic overload can occur. It is very important that the gut be in working condition.

Conditions such as Anxiety, ADHD, ADD, and Autism are believed to originate partly in the gut from poor gut flora.

The solution:

Every doctor may tell you to do something different. First thing’s first, a body detox is essential in order to get the body clean again. After that, your doctor can talk to you about different diets (many that we’ve spoken about here), that may assist in retraining and reclaiming the body’s health.

Environmental Working Group Keeps Public Informed Of Potential Dangers

Environment Toxicity and Autism

Once a child is born, as parents, we begin to worry non-stop about germs and potential health hazards that could affect the child. When your child has Autism, the fear and concern is only heightened since they are more prone to infection and being affected by different environmental elements.

It seems that everyday, the CDC and EWG (Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization dedicating to making the public aware of environmental dangers, are discovering that something else in the environment is negatively affecting our health, and particularly the health of Children. While it can certainly seem a bit overwhelming, the more we find out, the more we can protect ourselves and our children from potential hazards.

Below are a few of the research findings of the EWG. You can read more about the organization as well as learn more about their other findings here.

Bispenol A (BPA)

On July 27th, 2010, EWG reported that labrotory tests found that a whopping 40% of receipts from well-known businesses were found to have high levels of bisphenol A. Abbreviated as BPA, bisphenol A  is an organic compound that is used to make polycarbonate plastic. Questions began to arise as to the safety of the compound in 2008, and many retailers removed products containing BPA from its shelves. In 2010 the danger of BPA exposure to unborn fetuses, infants, and children was explored and Canada declared BPA a toxic substance.

In a 2008 study by DC Jones and GW Miller, it was found that Bispenol A did affect dopamine reactions in the brain, therefore triggering hyperactivity and attention deficits.

Luckily, stores such as Target, Starbucks, and Bank of America ATMs seem to be making sure that their receipt paper is BPA free.

Chromium 6 In Tap Water

Chromium 6 is a compound that contains chromium with an oxidation state of +6. It is often found in dyes, plastics, and inks. Depending on how Chromium 6 is subjected to the body, it will have different affects. For example, if it comes in contact with the eyes or skin, it will cause a mild to severe irritation. If it is ingested, as with water, it is especially dangerous if the body contains Vitamin C. Chromium 6 reacts adversely with Vitamin C, and can cause damage to the cells in the lungs.

In December of 2010, the EWG reported that out of 35 states that were tested, chromium 6 was found in the tap water of 31 of the states.  This was a major concern of the parents of infants, because a large number of babies are formula fed with formula that requires that water be added.

One of the States that tested positively for Chromium 6 was California. Shortly after the EWG reported the danger of the state’s tap water, there has been an adjustment to the plan for the future of drinking water. Very soon, it is expected that California drinking water will be reduced of it’s Chromium 6 contents.

We can only hope that other states follow, or that the government demands that they do so.

Government Acknowledges Flouride Issues

We’ve discussed here on New Autism Cure the dangers of excess fluoride. Ever since the 1940’s, fluoride has been added to products to prevent tooth decay. Many of us may even remember gathering together with our classmates and having a group fluoride rinse every month. The EWG even mentions that they support the use of Fluoride in products like toothpaste where it has proven to be beneficial and effective in preventitive care.

However, it has been found after years of research that an excess of fluoride can provide significant problems including minor issues such as tooth discoloration, to more severe conditions like neurotoxicity. Children, and even adults, consume much more water than they do toothpaste. And this can be dangerous, especially if the water is high in fluoride.

Soon, it will be recommended that local utility companies decrease the amount of fluoride added to their water.

It’s important that we stay informed on the potential dangers of everyday things that our children come into contact with. As you can clearly see, toxic metals and substances that adversely affect the brain can be found in everyday products. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource for educational material on crucial health risks and toxins.

Horse Therapy May Be Effective In The Treatment Of Autism

Horse Therapy Shown to Be a Beneficial Therapy Treatment (via)
Horse Therapy Shown to Be a Beneficial Therapy Treatment (via)

Every form of Autism is unique. There are many cases of Autism that are similar – similar symptoms, similar patterns, similar family background. However, it all boils down to the fact that people are different – so each Autism case will be different. Each and every story is very inspiring. Alexis Diaz’s story is no different.

Alexis is ten years old and has severe autism that prevents her from speaking and doing independent tasks that we often take for granted. She is unable to feed or bathe herself, and in addition she lost one of her eyes due to cancer.

Last year, Alexis was enrolled in the Therapeutic Riding of Texas (TROT) program, and made significant progress. The local news stations banded together and paid $700 for Alexis to attend the sessions.

Horse Therapy has been around for quite some time and there have been benefits noted in children with ADD and Autism. The mere act of being around a horse can change brainwave patterns — people feel more calm, at ease, and focus less on the past or negative events – so it’s a very enjoyable experience for them. Children with ADD/Autism Disorder have benefited as they are often unable to effectively communicate with other people and express themselves. Even those who are more aggressive and have severe behavioral issues have shown positive benefits from horse therapy. Even being around the horse has made these people much calmer, and more willing to communicate and be receptive.

How and Why Does Horse Therapy Work?

Horses behave in a way that is a direct reflection of how they’re being spoken to. They’re an animal of prey so they want to feel safe. If they’re being spoken to an an aggressive, angry or demanding way, the horse will become fearful. If the horse is spoken to calmly, smoothly and by making requests, they’ll be very receptive and obey such requests.

Children are ideal candidates to work with horses because with just a little insight on how to communicate with the horse, the child can learn how to change or control his/her behavior and see the effects from it. The child is more likely to consider this more of “making a relationship” with the horse rather than trying to dominate the situation and be in constant control.

After Alexis’ great outcome from her last TROT visit, she was very excited to head back this March. This year, however, the charity wasn’t sure if they would have the funds available to send Alexis back to the program. Alexis’ family is also on a limited income as her mother, Tammy Stewart, is a single mother who is unable to work due to Alexis’ need for 24 hour care.

Her attending the TROT program was almost definitely out for this year due to funding.

This past week, an anonymous letter was sent to Duncanville Outreach Ministry. Inside the letter was a $700 donation that was to go toward Alexis’ registration to this year’s TROT program. The donation was in the form of a Money Order with no return address. It simply said: “Sincerely, a Duncanville citizen who wishes to remain anonymous.”

Autism’s logo – a puzzle peice — is all too appropriate. Autism itself is a puzzling disorder. It comes in so many different forms, with many different symptoms.  There are many treatments available, and twice as many opinions about these treatments. It boils down to what methods and treatments work for your child.

Over the course of this blog, we’ve taken a look at a lot of different treatment options. Something we pride ourselves in is making you aware of everything that’s out there, so you can have the information necessary to make decisions based on what’s best for you and your situation.