Nearly 2,500 years ago the 'Father of Modern Medicine' Hippocrates, believed "All disease begins in the gut". And the more we learn about the human body, the more it appears he was right.
There is a lot of literature describing the 'gut-brain connection', which proposes our psychological state can impact our digestive symptoms, particularly in the case of chronic disease. Stress and anxiety are often implicated in worsening IBS, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's symptoms.
However there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that this relationship can also affect us in the reverse - that gastrointestinal disease can cause neurological dysfunction.
Use of antibiotics, consuming inflammatory foods, drinking alcohol, exposure to environmental toxins - these can all damage the cells of the gastrointestinal wall, and disturb the flora within the gastrointestinal system, allowing pathogenic micro-organisms flourish. This can lead to a state called 'leaky-gut', or 'intestinal permeability', which is where the intestinal wall becomes permeable, allowing pathogens, undigested proteins, and toxins to enter the bloodstream. They travel around the body, and may come to rest in the brain. Your body then launches an attack on these 'invading' particles, damaging your own body cells in the process.
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, who has postgraduate degrees in both Neurology and Nutrition believes that this is exactly what happens during the early developmental years to children with autism - that toxins make their way into the bloodstream via a damaged intestinal wall, and come to rest in the brain, halting development.
Recent research reports that 36.7% of people with autism, and 21.2% of relatives of people with autism display signs of intestinal permeability, versus only 4.8% of the general population. This is a significant finding.
So what does the literature suggest we do to improve autism symptoms?
First - heal the gut. Work to eliminate inflammatory foods (such as gluten) from the diet, reduce exposure to external toxins, and repair the damaged gut lining.
Next - restore balance and variety of gut flora. Nourish and feed the gut flora and reduce exposure to agents that diminish gut flora, such as antibiotics, pesticides, and alcohol.
Finally - support healthy digestion through a varied whole food diet.
Dr Campbell-McBride suggests following these steps may improve the symptoms of many neurological disorders, including autism, ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, OCD and depressive disorders.
To discuss how following this protocol can work for you, or someone in your family, book a consult today.