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Major Areas of Research in Autism:

1) Digestion- Related

2) Food & Nutrition-Related

3) Immunity-Related

4) Environmental Toxicity-Related

1) Digestion-Related Autism Research:

I have found that intestinal dysfunction in children with ASD is associated with increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behaviour, and sleep disturbances.  Seventy percent of children with autism have intestinal symptoms, and many have a “leaky” intestinal lining, which leads to intestinal and immune dysfunction.  Micro-organisms in the intestines can be out of balance, and in keeping with the “Bacterial Theory” of Autism, it is important to put the intestinal microbial environment back into balance, in addition to restoring proper digestion and absorption.

 The potential role of probiotics in the management of childhood autism spectrum disorders. Gastroenterology Research and Practice. JW Critchfield, et al. Oct 2011.

 Alterations of the intestinal barrier in patients with autism spectrum disorders and in their first-degree relatives.  Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.  L. de Magistris et al. Oct 2010. 

 Impaired carbohydrate digestion and transport and mucosal dysbiosis in the intestines of children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances.

PLoS One. BL Williams, et al. Sept 2011.


2) Food and Nutrition-Related Autism Research:

Specific nutrients are fundamental for proper neurodevelopment and immune function.  I often find that when the ASD child’s specific nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies are corrected, a number of benefits can manifest quite quickly, and other therapies generate more effective responses.  Note emerging nutrition-related theories of Autism including the “Vitamin D Theory.”

 A preliminary study on nutritional status and intake in Chinese children with autism. European Journal of Pediatrics. W Xia, et al. Oct 2010.

 Pilot study of the effect of methyl B12 treatment on behavioral and biomarker measures in children with autism. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. K. Bertoglio, et al. May 2010.

 Epidemiologic evidence supporting the role of maternal vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for the development of infantile autism. Dermato-endocrinology. WB Grant, CM Soles. July 2009.

 Understanding and determining the etiology of autism. Cellular and molecular neurobiology. S.A. Currenti. Mar 2010.

 Analysis of Copper and Zinc Plasma Concentration and the Efficacy of Zinc Therapy in Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and Autism.

Biomarker Insights. AJ Russo, R Devito. Nov. 2011


3) Immunity-Related Autism Research:4) Environmental Toxicity-Related Autism Research:

The immune system plays a large role in the self-regulatory functions of the whole body, and affects and connects everything in the body, including the digestion, nervous system, and can have cognitive-behavioural and developmental impact.  Auto-immunity and inflammation can be important factors to address, and can be useful indicators to track.

 Immune dysfunction in autism: a pathway to treatment.

Neurotherapeutics. July 2010.  M. Careaga, J. Van de Water, P. Ashwood.

 The immune system’s role in the biology of autism. Current Opinion in Neurology. Apr 2010. P. Goines, J. Van de Water.

4) Environmental Toxicity-Related

Increased immune reactivity and sensitivity to even residential/domestic pollutants can affect cognitive-behavioural development.  Infants and toddlers may also be neurologically sensitive to medications and their by-products, such as from acetaminophen/paracetamol. Testing and addressing chemical exposures can be useful in the care of ASD children.  Options for fever and pain management are also important.

Prenatal and perinatal analgesic exposure and autism: an ecological link. Environmental Health. AZ Bauer, D Kriebel. May 2013.

Acetaminophen may mediate oxidative stress and neurotoxicity in autism. Medical Hypotheses. A Ghanizadeh. Feb 2012.

Preliminary evidence of the in vitro effects of BDE-47 on innate immune responses in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Neuroimmunology. P Ashwood et al. Mar 2009.

Prenatal exposure to residential air pollution and infant mental development: modulation by antioxidants and detoxification factors. Environmental Health Perspectives. M Guxens et al. Jan 2012.

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