Autism: The Gut-Brain Connection  

Dr. Preet Khangura, ND

Autism is being diagnosed at an alarming rate in the last 5 – 10 years. And unfortunately at this point in time, there is no official cause. This has led to countless debates and theories to arise, as the medical world tries to determine a therapeutic target for treatment. The good news is that some of the theories have proven to provide excellent clinical outcomes for many affected children.

Like many chronic illnesses, autism may have a cause that starts in the “gut” aka gastrointestinal system. Prolonged, high levels of inflammation of the mucosal lining of the intestines leads to a break down in the protective barriers that divides the intestinal environment from the blood. One food in particular that has an extensive history in regards to reducing gut health is wheat. Even though the gluten and gliadin proteins found in wheat get the majority of attention when it comes to the damaging effects of wheat, another component of wheat may have the greatest detrimental effect on conditions such as autism – wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). WGA is lectin found in all forms of wheat, and even just very small amounts of it causes significant direct damage to the lining of the small intestines. This damage leads to intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut, which means undigested proteins and food additives/chemicals can pass into the bloodstream, leading to food and chemical antibody sensitivities, which causes a systemic immunological response, and therefore, leads to chronic inflammation – even within the central nervous system. To add to this, WGA is also considered a significant neurotoxin if it passes the blood brain barrier. Numerous studies have proven that if a leaky gut is present, there is very likely also a leaky blood brain barrier – meaning WGA can very easily leak into circulation and then leak into the brain. Because autism has been linked to systemic inflammation and exposure to neurotoxins, eliminating wheat is priority number one in regards to treating autism. Damage to the gut will be reduced, systemic inflammation will be reduced, and a very potent neurotoxin will be eliminated all at the same time. It is no surprise that eliminating wheat from the diet has shown to be one of the best treatments for autism.

Another condition that has been connected to autism for many years now, is also very much connected to the gastrointestinal system – candida albican (yeast) overgrowth. Candida is an opportunistic yeast that resides primarily in the small and large intestines. When the gut environment is just right (diet high in sugar, low levels of good bacteria, and high levels of estrogen), candida become virulent and grows out of control. And when in this state, they produce extremely high amounts of acetyl aldehyde – a extremely potent neurotoxin. Just as any neurotoxin, it can cause central nervous system inflammation and neurological deficits. Clinical experience and studies have shown that when candida is eliminated, symptoms of autism greatly improve. This is yet another example of the often ignored Gut-Brain connection. Treating candida can be extremely difficult, therefore, ensure to have guidance by a physician well experienced in every aspect of the treatment.

In Health & Happiness,

Dr. Preet Khangura, ND

References:

  1. Effects of wheat germ agglutinin on human gastrointestinal epithelium: insights from an experimental model of immune/epithelial cell interaction. Toxicol and Applied Pharmacology 2009 Jun 1;237(2):146-53. Epub 2009 Mar 28.
  2. Wheat germ agglutinin induces NADPH-oxidase activity in human neutrophils by interaction with mobilizable receptors. Infection and Immunity. 1999 Jul;67(7):3461-8.
  3. Transcytotic pathway for blood-borne protein through the blood-brain barrier. Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences U S A. 1988 Jan;85(2):632-6.
  4. Lectin glycosylation as a marker of thin gut inflammation. The FASEB Journal. 2008;22:898.3

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MONTHLY NEWSLETTER