If you have autoimmune disease in your family, your child may have a higher risk for developing autism, suggested a 2008 publication entitled, "Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Language Regression," by Valicenti-McDermott et al. 1
The study showed that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and language regression were:
- More likely to experience abnormal stool patterns than children without language regression and
- Their family members were more likely to have these autoimmune diseases:
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Other studies have also shown the link between autoimmunity and ASD. We already know that children with ASD have a hyperactive immune system and ASD has been characterized by inflammatory bowel conditions, particularly ileocolonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia.2-4 The Valicenti-McDermott et al. study indicates that gut-immune disturbances may directly relate to language regression.
A. Fasano is a leading authority on celiac disease and has authored a few publications on its similarity with other autoimmune diseases. He has proposed that the common factors5 leading to celiac and autoimmune disease are:
- Genetic predisposition
- Environmental trigger/s
- Intestinal permeability (leaky gut)
If leaky gut or environmental factors can be identified and reduced in the parents or in the child early on, doesn’t it stand to reason that the risk for autism could be reduced?
The following tests may be helpful for people with ASD or autoimmune disease:
Clinical cases of ASD show us that there are underlying immunological abnormalities in these patients and treating the gut-immune system can lead to reduction or even remission of symptoms.
The 4R Protocol is a general and comprehensive guideline for healing the gut-immune system. The Four "R" Program for Intestinal Health:
- Remove offending foods, medications, gluten (if sensitive) and reduce poor quality fats, refined carbohydrates, sugars, and fermented foods (if yeast is present). Consider antimicrobial,antifungal, and/or antiparasitic therapies in the case of opportunistic/pathogenic bacterial, yeast, and/or parasite overgrowth.
- Replace what is needed for normal digestion and absorption such as betaine HCl, pancreatic enzymes, bile acids, herbs that aid in digestion such as deglycyrrhizinated licorice and marshmallow root, dietary fiber, and water.
- Reinoculate with favorable microbes (probiotics such as Lactobacillus sp., Bifidobacter sp., and Saccharomyces boulardii). To enhance the growth of the favorable bacteria, supplement with prebiotics such as inulin, xylooligosaccharides, larch arabinogalactans, beta glucan, and fiber.
- Repair mucosal lining by giving support to healthy intestinal mucosal cells, goblet cells, and to the immune system.Consider L-glutamine, essential fatty acids, zinc, pantothenic acid and vitamins A, E, and C.
- Valicenti-McDermott MD, McVicar K, Cohen HJ, Wershil BK, Shinnar S. Gastrointestinal symptoms in children with an autism spectrum disorder and language regression. Pediatr Neurol. Dec 2008;39(6):392-398.
- Wakefield AJ, Anthony A, Murch SH, et al. Enterocolitis in children with developmental disorders. Am J Gastroenterol. Sep 2000;95(9):2285-2295.
- Wakefield AJ, Ashwood P, Limb K, Anthony A. The significance of ileo-colonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia in children with autistic spectrum disorder. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. Aug 2005;17(8):827-836.
- Wakefield AJ, Puleston JM, Montgomery SM, Anthony A, O'Leary JJ, Murch SH. Review article: the concept of entero-colonic encephalopathy, autism and opioid receptor ligands. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. Apr 2002;16(4):663-674.
- Fasano A, Shea-Donohue T. Mechanisms of disease: the role of intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases. Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. Sep 2005;2(9):416-422.