Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins during childhood, and is part of the so-called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is characterized by problems of social interaction, communication, and behavior, and restricted and repetitive activities and interests.
It has been proven to affect more boys than girls (1 girl for every 4 boys). However, its precise causes are still unknown, although it could be triggered by the combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Autism And The Immune System
There is a close relationship between the nervous system and the immune system, in a way that immune dysfunctions, in the critical stages of neurodevelopment, are favorable to the appearance of ASD.
Thus, several studies suggest that the activation of the maternal immune system as a result of infectious or allergic processes, especially during the first trimester and the second trimester of pregnancy, is associated with an increased risk of suffering from this disorder.
In fact, in people with autism, there are higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines in the brain. Also, there is an excessive activation of a type of immune cells that reside there, called microglia. The presence of antibodies directed against brain proteins has also been described in children with this disorder and their mothers. All these mechanisms can interfere with the normal development of the brain and alter its functions, contributing to the development of ASD and the associated symptoms.
Autism And Gastrointestinal Dysfunction
Apart from immune alterations, other dysfunctions have been related to autism, such as intestinal infections and increased intestinal permeability. Or, enzymatic problems that make complete degradation of various molecules in the intestine impossible. These processes favor the passage of undigested molecules, such as those derived from gluten or casein, into the bloodstream, altering the normal functioning of the brain. In addition, there are indications that mitochondrial dysfunctions can negatively influence ASD.
Studies related to the general population also warn of problems related to intestinal microbiota, or how poor eating habits affect gastric disorders and ASD. Although these aspects in children with autism are always more evident, they are also more difficult to identify. We know that there is a relationship between feeding problems, digestive problems, sleep problems and finally irritability. In short, they are problems that feed each other.
Currently, there is no cure for this disease. However, treatments aimed at correcting the different dysfunctions observed in autism are of great help to improve the quality of life of the patients. Taking probiotics or suppressing gluten and / or casein from the diet can contribute to the proper functioning of the digestive system. In addition, treatments such as micro-immunotherapy can help in immune regulation and optimization of mitochondrial functions. In any case, the treatment needs to adapt to the needs of each patient.