Scientists are gathering more and more evidence that autism symptoms can be caused by the bacteria found in the gut or intestines. Research is showing that there is a difference in the trillions of bacteria in a healthy child when compared to the bacteria in an autistic child. The bacteria can differ in quantity or type and these differences can make your child’s stomach more or less susceptible to stomach problems. Scientists are finding that these gut differences may actually have a significant effect on the brain and contribute to the disorder itself.
John Cryan, a professor of anatomy and neuroscience at University Cork College, led a study that showed mice who were fed probiotics were less anxious and produces less stress hormones. He explains, “You have this kilo of microbes in your gut that’s as important as the kilo of nerve cells in your brain. We need to do much more studies on autistic biota.”
When Caltech researcher Elaine Hsiao conducted a study on autistic mice, where they were injected with probiotics, showed results after five weeks of no longer having a “leaky-gut.” The bacteria in their stomach started looking more like a healthy mouse’s, they were less anxious and more vocal, and they also stopped obsessively burying marbles in their cages. Hsiao says, “It’s really impactful, this notion that by changing the bacteria, you could ameliorate what’s often considered an intractable disorder. It’s a really crazy notion and a big advance.”
So what does this all mean for future treatment options? Usually autism is treated with behavioral therapies, but this new research implies that autism may one day be treated in the form of a probiotic, which are “good bacteria” that our bodies need–very similar to the ones found in yogurt. Studies have shown that generally 90 percent of autistic children also suffers from stomach and gut issues, including leaky-gut syndrome, which is when bacteria from the gut trickles into the bloodstream. The CDC reports that there are 3.5 times more likely to experience chronic diarrhea and constipation when compared to their typically developing peers.