How a Healthy Gut Can Help Children with Autism


Balancing the microbes in the gut can lead to improved digestion, stronger immunity and overall better health. The flora of the gut of a child can be disrupted by things such as antibiotics, mom having a c-section, drugs, processed foods, infections and digestive issues.  What is important for healthy gut repair is a regime that includes many, many different strains of good bacteria.  Probiotics, healthy bacteria, that include multiple strains and between 10 – 50 billion per dose should be administered. These probiotics will function to repair the gut and prevent harmful microbes like yeast or clostridia from over-populating.

The healing process of the gut is so important because the digestive tract is responsible for making the majority of serotonin in the body and helps to produce and regulate dopamine. Both of these neurotrasmitters are out of balance in children with autism. Also important is the gut’s responsibility for regulating inflammation and supporting healthy immune function.

A large number of children with autism have digestive issues. The gut is important in regulating inflammation and according to recent research, it is believed that autism is an inflammatory issue.  An effective regime that involves healing the gut can have a dramatic role in decreasing the inflammatory load and show remarkable progress in helping children recover language, social and cognitive function.

The Link Between Major Depressive Disorder and Leaky Gut Syndrome

When a child is diagnosed with Autism, the symptoms that they experience can be extremely diverse. Some of them even mimic other conditions. Such is the case with Depression and Autism. Many autistic children seem to have sudden mood swings, extrmeme feelings of “lowness”, or decreased appetite. All symptoms of depressions.

It is now being said that people who have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) should be tested for Leaky Gut, which, as we’ve mentioned before, is extremely common in people with Autism.

Children with Autism often have gastrointestinal problems.  These problems include gastritis, esophagitis, inflammatory markers at the gut lining, gut lymphatic system hyperplasia, increased intestinal permeability, abnormal gut microbiota findings, increased enzyme secretion, and carbohydrate malabsorption.  Indeed, autistic children with severe gastrointestinal symptoms are more likely to have severe autistic symptoms (via).

Leaky Gut Syndrome itself causes the intestinal immune system to produce chemicals that spread inflammation through the body. It’s the immune system that is supposed to send out defenses to attack bad things in our bodies. You can image the damage that can happen when the “fighting system” is the one spreading the problems.

One of the contributing factors being studied is that depression and other mental conditions may increase the production of the same oxidants that cause damage to the wall of the small intestine. It’s because of this that people who have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder should also be tested for Leaky Gut syndrome.

How to Be Tested for Leaky Gut Syndrome: 

We offer our Leaky Gut test (only in the USA) in which Dr. Wong will send you a test and will analyze the results. The cost of the test includes the test itself, the shipping, the analyzing of the test, and a custom report from Dr. Wong on the results.

Leaky Gut Syndrome and Autism

Many autistic individuals have tiny holes in their intestinal tract, and this is often referred to as ‘leaky gut’. Intestinal permeability, commonly called “leaky gut”, means that there are larger than normal spaces present between the cells of the gut wall. When these large spaces exist in the small intestine, it allows undigested food and other toxins to enter the blood stream. This theory suggests that autistic children have tears and holes in their intestinal walls, possibly due to damage from toxins, antibiotic sensitivity or infections (such as an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans). These children may lose healthy digestive bacteria and have damage to the cells that produce enzymes needed to absorb certain proteins (such as gluten) properly.

Gluten is a protein and is contained in grass foods such as wheat, barley, rye and oats. Casein is also a protein and is found in dairy products such as milk, ice cream, cheese and yogurt. In the intestinal tract, gluten and casein breakdown into peptides; and these peptides then breakdown into amino acids.

When incompletely broken down foods enter the body, the immune system mounts an attack against the “foreigner” resulting in food allergies and sensitivities. The release of antibodies triggers inflammatory reactions when the foods are eaten again. The chronic inflammation lowers IgA levels. Sufficient levels of IgA are needed to protect the intestinal tract from clostridia and yeast.

Partially digested protein molecules from gluten and casein, also known as peptides, can reach the brain via the bloodstream. Peptides have a molecular structure similar to that of your brain’s natural opioids (endorphins), so they’re drawn to the brain’s opioid receptors. This can lead to problems with behavior, speech and social skills. Just as opioid drugs such as heroin are addictive, so can foods high in gluten and casein be for children with leaky gut.

Many, but not all children with autism have food allergies, and this supports the hypothesis that leaky gut syndrome may underly symptoms of autism.  The important point is that many parents have seen results from the simple step of putting their autistic child on an autistic diet focusing on leaky gut syndrome. If you have an autistic child, it is well worth your time and their health to explore natural treatment options for them.

The Discovery of Zonulin

immune-system1Zonulin. It sounds like a new Pokemon character, but we assure you it isn’t, at least that we know of.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until 2009 that the actual identity of Zonulin was identified.  Thanks to the University of Maryland Schoool of Medicine, it was determined that Zonulin is a protein that plays a large role in a number of autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders can be defined as disorders where the immune system mistakes healthy tissues as harmful and attacks them. These conditions include celiac disease (contributes to leaky gut syndrome), multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

Zonulin is a protien that exists in tight areas between the cells of the digestive tract. It regulates the permeability or magnetism of the intestine and is found in increased levels during the acute phases of celiac disease. This finding indicates that a higher level of the protein are a contributing factor to autoimmune disorders.

Tight junctions, which is where Zonulin exists, are responsible for the transport of water and electrolytes which are essential for body function.

With conditions like leaky gut syndrome, large molecules get into the blood stream. Tight junctions are supposed to seal off the access of these molecules to the blood stream where they can cause damage. However, there are instances when these tight junctions open up and allow the large molecules to pass through.

As ethicsmedicine.com explains:

Zonulin periodically opens the zonulin-gates to facilitate absorption by loosening the specialized structures that create the tight knit of the bowel lining. When in excess, zonulin over-stretches the tight zones—the gates between the cells get stuck in an open position, so to speak—increasing bowel permeability and allowing the entry of large undigested food particles and microbes in larger numbers. Unless the zonulin spigots are expediently turned off, such loosening of the bowel knit wreaks havoc on the blood. Indeed, this is how many inflammatory and immune disorders begin.

How is an excess of Zonulin treated?

Whenever there is an abundance of a substance in the body, pharmaceutical companies want to develop a drug to treat it. There is a lot of interest in developing such a drug in order to regulate Zonulin and thereby controlling autoimmune disorders. Though there is no medication as of yet, as time passes, more and more research will surely come about regarding Zonulin. Researchers are hard at work studying this as it does play a large role in leaky gut syndrome.

The Why, What, and How of Leaky Gut Syndrome

leakygut

In posts past, we’ve mentioned Leaky Gut syndrome. Just last week we spoke about the importance of keeping the mucosal immune system healthy and the effects of when it’s not.  When infections break through the musocal barrier, allergies and inflammation can occur. Furthermore, if levels of certain antibodies are increased when a test is ran, this is an indication of an an excess of yeast in the body, and also symptoms of leaky gut syndrom.

But what is Leaky Gut syndrome? What causes the gut to leak? Can it be fixed? Why are children with Autusm more at risk for this condition?

That’s a lot of questions, and we only have one blog post to answer them in. Let’s get started.

What is leaky gut syndrome?

First thing’s first: Leaky gut syndrome is a condition that is said to affect millions of people world wide. Again, I’ll reference last week’s post about Mucosal Immunity. Remember when we mentioned that the immune system has a mucous like protective coating to keep microorganisms out. If the mocosal barrier weakens, toxins and other microorganisms are leaked into the blood stream from the stomach area. Hence, Leaky Gut.

How does the gut leak? How does that happen?

In order to understand how the gut can leak, it’s important to understand how the body digests, at least when it is doing so correctly.

70% of the body’s immune system is located in the digestive system. [1] In this system, the small intestine works as a filter, only allowing the breakdown of products to enter into the bloodstream. In an ideal situation, only nutrients are allowed to pass through, and toxins are held in the small intestine away from the blood.

In the intestine, villi and microvilly (small, hair-like extensions of the intestine), carry nutrients, amino acids, and electrolytes into cells.

Leaky gut syndrome, causes the intestinal lining and villi to become damaged and unable to develop the enzymes that are necessary for the absorption of nutrients. More simply said, even though you may be feeding your child healthy foods that are packed with vitamins and nutrients, they’re useless if the body isn’t absorbing them.

Sometimes, toxins can leak from the intestine. In most cases, humans will have a strong enough immune system to control the leakage. Over time, however, the leakage will erode the stomach lining and weaken the immune system, thereby giving the body a zero defense against toxins.

As the intestinal lining becomes weaker and weaker, larger molecules of toxins can enter the immune system. Because of this, toxins are produced that cause allergies and inflammation.

Leaky Gut Syndrome’s Effect On The Liver

The liver is the largest gland in the body and takes on a lot of roles and has a lot of functions in the body including producing bile, storing bile that is essential for digestion, filtering out drugs, alcohol, and other toxins, storing glucose, and removing damaged blood cells.

Leaky Gut Syndrome really kicks the liver into an unhealthy overdrive as it subjects it to harmful toxins. When the liver cannot deal with the toxins that it is being given, it releases them back out into the bloodstream.

Can leaky gut syndrome be fixed? What are the treatments?

As for the leaky gut itself, there are a large amount of treatments, and depending on the doctor you consult, your answer may be different. We aren’t hear to attack other doctors, but just as a warning: some doctors do not believe that leaky gut syndrome even exists, while others believe in a series of medications are the trick. Be sure to investigate all possible avenues before choosing a method of treatment.

Some more examples of treatment are: increased activity (sweating rids the body of toxins), a detoxification diet, a parasites cleanse, dental cleanup (if your teeth are infected, you are constantly ingesting that infection into your body), and many others.

There are many treatments available for Leaky Gut syndrome. People that are experiencing leaky gut syndrome are severely lacking in amino acids and other nutrients because again, the body isn’t capable of absorbing them.  The lacking nutrients can absolutely be attempted to be replenished using methods like Amino Acid Therapy.

[1] Spaeth G, Berg RD, Specian RD, Deitch EA, August 1990, “Food Without Fiber promotes bacterial translocation from the gut” Surgery 108 (2) pp 204-47