A recent research study suggests changing the gut microbiome in children with autism could reduce the severity of the symptoms they experience.1 This is part of a longer research project that started in 2017.
Healthy gut microflora improved both gastrointestinal (GI) and autism symptom
In 2017, researchers Dae-Wook Kang, PhD., Rose Krajmalnikat-Brown, PhD., and James Adams, PhD. of Arizona State University had previously found that introducing healthy gut microflora led to improvements in both gastrointestinal (GI) and autism symptoms.2
“In our original paper in 2017, we reported an increase in gut diversity together with beneficial bacteria after microbiota transfer therapy (MTT), and after two years, we observed diversity was even higher and the presence of beneficial microbes remained,” explained Dae-Wook Kang PhD., lead author.
The prevalence and severity of gastrointestinal issues correlates with more core “autism-related” behavioral symptoms
People with autism experience a myriad of comorbid symptoms, and gastrointestinal problems are very common. It seems that the prevalence and severity of gastrointestinal issues correlates with more core “autism-related” behavioral symptoms, such as repetitive behavior, hitting, outbursts, and social disengagement.
How the GI symptoms relate to Autism
The GI symptoms most commonly associated with autism include chronic constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, with gastroesophageal reflux and gastritis also being reported.
The authors of the study state that “in many cases, when you are able to treat those gastrointestinal problems, their behavior improves.”
Research suggests addressing the microbiome could help core symptoms associated with autism
There are currently no medically approved treatments to address the core symptoms associated with autism, however, research does suggest that addressing the microbiome could help. The research on the connection between the microbiota and neurological and immune function is becoming more and more definitive.
Microbiota transfer therapy (MTT) study
For this current study, the researchers used a microbiota transplantation process called microbiota transfer therapy (MTT).
18 children (ages 7-16 years) were treated for 10 weeks and followed for an additional eight weeks. These participants were all involved in the researcher’s previous study in 2017, which trialed MTT – a type of fecal transplant developed by gastroenterologist Dr. Thomas Borody, which combines antibiotics, bowel cleanses, stomach-acid suppressants, and a fecal microbiota transplant(FMT).
Gastrointestinal symptoms were seen to improve by an average of 58 percent
Gastrointestinal symptoms were seen to improve by an average of 58 percent and were consistently maintained following treatment. Autism related symptoms were also seen to improve more after the treatment as well.
Severity of autistic symptoms reduced by 47 percent at the end of the two-year follow-up
In addition to improvements seen in GI abnormalities, the severity of autistic symptoms also reduced by 47 percent by the end of the two-year follow-up, based on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).
83 percent of study participants rated as “severe” on the CARS at the beginning of the original trial. At the two-year follow-up tests, 17 percent were rated as “severe”, 39 percent as “mild to moderate”, and 44 percent were below the ASD diagnostic cut-off scores.
Researchers acknowledge the limited population size of the study
The researchers do acknowledge the limited population size of the study, but still conclude that this research does support a highly beneficial direction that could become mainstream in the care for autistic children.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, which has been in print since 2005, and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.