As we discussed last week, the prevalence of autism has increased greatly. This
week we will look to the why so hopefully we can prevent these numbers from
increasing even more in the future. Autism is a condition that encompasses the
nervous system, the digestive system, the immune system, and the body's ability to
excrete, so it is very complex issue.
Nature vs. Nurture
One to two generations ago, in the 1970's, the genetic material of humans was
clearly very similar to how it is today. Yet autism occurred in only 1/10,000 people.
For that reason, it’s not surprising that studies show that only about 3% of autism is
due to pure genetic reasons. We see often times a preference for auditory
processing, with gifts in music, mathematics, and memorization in these cases.
Where the genes interact with the environment is where autism is being studied.
Our increasingly toxic world is filled with more and more for our bodies to adapt to,
including artificial colors and flavors, medications, fillings in our teeth, polluted air
and water, and even the bath and body products we use. MTHFR is a genetic
condition that decreases the body's ability to detox. It may be present in up to 50% of
children, and may be a major contributor to why certain children are more prone to
autism because their bodies have trouble getting rid of heavy metals, plastic
Leaky Gut Syndrome
The gut-brain connection is being increasingly known as either an indicator of good
or poor health in many areas - behavior and mood, autoimmune disorders, and also
autism. Present in our guts should be healthy bacteria symbiotically in balance with
certain types of fungi and yeast, known as a microbiome. An unhealthy microbiome
can stem from a C-section delivery (where baby didn't pick up mom's microbiome),
an inability to breastfeed (again, where baby can receive mom's microbiome through
her skin), use of acetaminophen or Tylenol, antibiotic use, or a prolonged
Sympathetic Response (too much time in fight or flight). Complicating these
underlying factors, children with autism often times prefer simple carbs and refuse to
eat fruits and vegetables and fermented foods that contribute to a healthy
microbiome. So when a child with leaky gut eats a potentially toxic food, containing
artificial colors, or MSG, these substances can get through the gut and out into the
body, creating more inflammation and potential for other auto-immune diseases.
When substances that have leaked out through the gut reach the brain, inflammation
occurs inside the brain. This can look like tics, explosive behavior, or even sensory processing
We have never checked a child with autism who did not have a major misalignment,
or subluxation, in his or her upper neck. How does this happen in a young child?
The birth process, in utero misalignment (twins, a breech or posterior position), a fall
or injury, hitting his or her head, etc. can all cause a subluxation.
Research has shown that a subluxation can affect the brain negatively in ways that
can contribute to autism. A misalignment can decrease blood flow and flow of
cerebral spinal fluid to the brain. A misalignment can also send faulty sensory
information to the brain, which can cause a lack of body coordination and the brain
not understanding where the body is in space. The upper neck area, when out of
balance, also contributes to a sympathetic, or fight or flight response. For many
children, this takes a lot of energy and can leave them tired but wired. Insomnia,
perceived threats in a safe environment, and trouble with concentrating are all signs
of being stuck in fight or flight.
If you would like to read some of these studies or want more information, please
reach out! Our goal is to empower parents to make great choices about the health
care of their children. Next week, we will share more about the village that we have
to try to make improvements in quality of life for children who have neurodevelopmental disorders and their families.
Dr. Sheena grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture, Chemistry, and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.