“Surveys published in the gastroenterology literature have stated that gastrointestinal problems, such as chronic constipation or diarrhea, occur in 46% to 85% of children with ASDs.”
Journal of Pediatrics – Scott M. Myers, MD
The digestive tract is the heart of the innate immune system. The innate immune system is a barrier defence against microbes. This barrier system also plays a key role in regulating inflammation. Digestion and inflammation go hand in hand, and both are essential components of successful biomedical treatment.
Many parents ask “where do we start”? The answer is almost always with the DIGESTIVE TRACT.
Research shows that children with autism have a higher rate of imflammation and immune dysregulation in the digestive tract. These abnormalities cause inflammation. Inflammation plus a genetic predisposition creates a “cloud” in the brain. Clearing that “cloud’ of inflammation creates a tremendous amount of potential for development.
Causes and symptoms of digestive dysfunction include:
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Enzyme deficiency or dysfunction
- Chronic constipation and/or diarrhea
- Mucous, blood or undigested food in stool
- Pain, cramping or discomfort
- Leaky gut
- Issues with absorption
Addressing digestive issues is the key to successful biomedical treament
What is healthy digestion?
Your child should be having 2-3 bowel movements daily. The bowel movements should be formed, easy to pass and uniform in colour. There should be no undigested food (except corn!), mucous or blood in the stool. Although bowel movements usually have an unpleasant odour, sometimes the odour is unhealthy. The smell of the stool can be very helpful in identifying the root cause of digestive symptoms.
Example: yeasty, foul, sweet, like a harbour, and bready smells can all indicate yeast overgrowth
How are digestion, immune function and inflammation related to development?
“Long-term breast-feeding was found to be associated with fewer attention and hyperactivity symptoms and an improvement in related behavioural areas (cognition, social interaction and behaviour)”.
~ Julvez et al, Acta Pediatrica Promoting Child Health
Research shows that immune system dysregulation is a common feature in autism. The digestive system regulates immune system and inflammatory response. Healing the digestive tract is the first step in enhancing immune function and lowering inflammation levels that impair development.
A study done at Johns Hopkins, by Dr. Pardo and Dr. Vargos, showed neuroinflammation (inflammation in the brain) in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Other studies have shown levels of inflammation in autism are higher than those of juvenile RA (rheumatoid arthritis), crohns and other extremely inflammatory disorders. These studies on inflammation also identify another critical problem for autistic children: their high inflammation levels are accompanied by impairments in their ability to REMOVE INFLAMMATION.
Signs of inflammation outside the digestive tract include:
- Inability to focus and/or concentrate
- Cognitive and language delay
- Cradle cap
- Behavioral issues
- Chronic illness
- Sleep disturbance
- Itching or itchy bum
What causes digestive impairment that leads to inflammation and immune problems?
This is a very exciting area of research because it begins to gather information that will help prevent autism and other developmental disorders. At a staggering rate of 1 in 150 Canadian children, this issue affects everyone.
- Food allergies and sensitivities and early introduction of allergens
- C-Section and IV antibiotics – don’t allow natural colonization of good bacteria in the intestine
- Vaccinations, metals and environmental toxins – have the ability to shut down enzymes that breakdown food (casein, gluten, soy, corn etc)
- GMO – Genetically modified foods disrupt innate immune function in the digestive tract by introducing genetic material from other organisms.
- Antibiotics – kill good bacteria which protects the body from other microbes, helps to absorb nutrients and regulates inflammation