The Gut-Brain Immune Connection in Autism

The brain is seen to be an organ “downstream” from the gut. To be able to determine how the connection works, you have to get to know normal gastro-intestinal function: from the mouth, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum to the liver, pancreas, and mucosal membranes. Symptoms in the autistic patient can present quite differently to that one sees in the neuro-typical population.

The gut determines 70-80% of the immune function in the body. The gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) is an important detoxification system too. Most importantly the gut is where nutrients are absorbed to perform important functions in the body and particularly in the brain.

A person needs healthy gastro-intestinal flora to perform certain digestive and immune roles. Abnormal flora can result in certain disturbed processes, which in turn can affect behaviour and wellbeing.

Food allergies and sensitivities are common in autistic patients. This is one of the reasons for elimination diets. The gluten-free and casein free diet is based on the opoid theory, which refers to gluten and casein containing opoid-like molecules that can act like morphine and cause behaviour abnormalities in children on the Autism spectrum.

  • Testing for gastro-intestinal health includes:
  • a comprehensive stool analysis;
  • baseline blood tests to include iron testing;
  • food allergy tests;
  • peptide testing on urine;
  • organic acids testing on urine; and
  • immune tests and other indicated tests for pathology.

Treatment starts with dietary intervention, but is also aimed at re-establishing normal flora, eliminating contaminant fungi, bacteria and parasites from the GIT. Treatment of inflammation, improvement of digestion and replenishment of nutrients are indicated.

Therapeutic diets include the GFCF diet, the SCD, the Feingold diet, the Yeast-free diet, elimination diets, and many more.

Certain nutrients are known to support detoxification processes. IT has been found in research that children on the Autism spectrum have problems detoxifying their bodies. Toxicity leads to different levels of dysfunction and should be addressed effectively.