mage courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

In 2000 it was estimated that 1 in 150 children fell within the autistic spectrum in the US. In 2014 the CDC released a statement claiming autism had increased by approximately 119.4% since 2000. Currently 1 in every 68 births will be diagnosed with ADS (autistic spectrum disorder). Why the sudden increase in ASD? What has changed in the last 14 years to cause such a dramatic increase? There are several theories and some very interesting facts that have lead to studies that may help answer that question.

In 2006 Professor Glenn Gileson at Reading University in the UK reported his attempts to study the link between probiotics and autism. He called his study “the study that was so good it failed.” During the double-blind study involving L. Plantaruim bacteria and a placebo, the benefits of the probiotic was so obvious it was apparent which of the children were on the placebo, which prompted parents to drop out to start treatment on their own. Researchers from College Cork in Ireland looked at a number of existing studies and found babies born c-section have a 23% higher risk of developing autism. While there is still no clear indication as to why this might be, the lack of exposure to key bacteria found in the birthing canal may be responsible. Several scientists believe this is critical and are currently working on developing probiotic strains that will be administered to infants born c-section to replace that exposure.

With so many children given antibiotics within the first year of life, women taking them while pregnant, and children being born cesarean, the thought is that the lack of beneficial bacteria cause their immune systems to become weak and susceptible to hostile bacterial invasion. This may also be where the link to autism and inoculations come into play. If a child does not have optimal gut health to allow them to deal with the introduction of foreign material it could theoretically cause a genetically predisposed child to develop an autoimmune response leading to neurological damage and to autistic spectrum disorder.

Most children with ASD also have leaky gut syndrome, but often don’t have the ability to express their discomfort which leads to emotional outbursts and unpredictable behavior. There have been numerous studies that show improvement in leaky gut with an elimination of gluten, dairy, synthetic dyes and sweeteners, and introduction of diverse strains of probiotics. In some cases there have been reports of the elimination diet helping improve symptoms related to ASD as well as the pain involved in leaky gut syndrome.

On the flip side of all this, 46% of children diagnosed with ASD seem to have above average intelligence. Could this imply that there are actually many different neurological issues happening with children who are thrown into the catch all of ADS? This is also a theory being explored by the creator of The Human Brain Project. Henry Markram has drastically changed his theories on how the human brain works after his son was diagnosed with autism. He has developed what he calls the “Intense World” syndrome theory to help explain this phenomenon. The Boy Whose Brain Could Unlock Autism is a great story of how his life was changed by this diagnosis and what he does to help bring awareness to this theory.

April is Autism Awareness Month and to help raise awareness, major locations around the globe like London’s Tralfagar Square and New York City’s Empire State Building are Lighting Up Blue on Thursday, April 2nd. To learn more about the organization leading this campaign, visit Autism Speaks. Also be sure to check out The Autism Trust USA, an Austin-based organization currently building an extensive educational, vocational and semi-independent residential facility for teens and adults with autism and associated conditions. 

by Nicole Pinedo, Certified Drugless Practitioner. Nicole is available for consultation at Peoples Central.