Autistic Kids May Experience GI Symptoms, Reduced Immunity

06. 08. 2018

A new study at the UC Davis MIND Institute suggests that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may suffer from dynamic changes in their gut microbiota and reduced immune system regulation.

What is ASD?

ASD is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. It affects about one in 59 children and can manifest as social, behavioral and communicative challenges. ASD is four times more common among boys than girls.

ASD and Gut Inflammation

Previous research and clinical studies have established a connection between gut distress and ASD, but the cause remained unknown. The new study at UC Davis found that autistic children with gut issues have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines compared to children with ASD and no GI symptoms.

Cytokines are proteins released by cells that affect interactions among cells. Some children with ASD exhibited a decrease in regulatory cytokines which raised their risk for inflammation. Researchers found a correlation between highest levels of inflammation and the most severe behaviors.

ASD’s Relationship to Immune System

The study also found that children with ASD and GI symptoms had higher levels of proteins that influence gut permeability and lower levels of proteins that regulate immune responses. But even children without GI issues exhibited low levels of immune-regulating proteins. Researchers suggest that these children could be suffering from other inflammatory conditions not related to GI distress, such as asthma or allergies.

The Brain-Gut Connection to GI Symptoms

Whether the gut microbiome drives the immune response or immune activation causes GI symptoms remains unclear, but these physiological changes in children with ASD are certainly interrelated.

The GI system is often called “the second brain” because it functions as a key control center for thoughts, emotions and immune function. ASD is an intricate, complicated disease because it affects the brain as well as the GI tract, “the second brain.”  The digestive system houses 80 percent of the immune system, and many experts believe that disease originates from communication breakdown between the gut and other parts of the body. If this is true, ASD is a perfect example.

There is much to learn about the mystery of autism, but this study will facilitate new research and treatments for GI and other inflammatory symptoms associated with ASD (Medical Life Sciences News).

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