Sunday Funday: Autism and Functional Medicine

Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have sky rocketed over a short period of time. In 1970, an estimated 1 in 10,000 children were found to be autistic. In 1995 it was 1 in 500. In 2001 it became 1 in 250. Today, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed as autistic.

The reality is, genetics alone does not explain the epidemic growth of autism and other conditions like it . Our genetics haven’t changed in the last 40 years. Better diagnosis may explain part of the astronomic increase of autism, but only in part. In reality, the medical literature is beginning to recognize autism as an autoimmune reaction against the brain.

We are only beginning to understand the communication lines between the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis). Every condition that has an immune component has been correlated to some dysfunction of the gut. Called the “second brain” in the literature, your gut is home to around 80% of your immune system.

This sophisticated system, made up of trillions of bacteria, is collectively called the microbiome. The microbiome also has been shown to be a key player in turning on and off genetic expression. Now you can see, with its implications in immune health and genetic expression, why the gut is at the center of some autism research.

One study compared the microbiome of children with and without autism. They found the autistic kids didn’t have the same gut diversity the others had. Another study found mice with autism like symptoms had the similar lack of gut bacteria diversity.

The prevailing theory in the medical literature is that an imbalanced microbiome and a weakened gut lining or “leaky gut” can cause an inflammatory immune response against the brain and a genetic predisposition to be turned on.

Methylation, your biochemical reaction superhighway, happens more than 1 billion times every second in your body to keep you vitally healthy. Methylation protects our DNA, detoxes our body, and makes our brain and gut healthy. In short, if methylation is not working well, a lot can go wrong with your health.

There are many different genes that are responsible for making methylation happen. Methylation gene mutations or changes can impair our body’s ability to methylate. One of those methylation genes is the MTHFR gene. MTHFR gene mutations don’t send all the instruction to make the important enzyme that converts the inactive B vitamin folic acid, into the active methyl-folate. Some research estimates that those of us with MTHFR changes make up to 70% less methyl-folate!

According to a International Society for Autism Research study indicated that the MTHFR C677T polymorphism contributed to increased risk of autism spectrum disorders. Another study published in Translational Psychiatry found multiple dysregulated DNA methylation pathways that affected the brain of autism patients.

My child is autistic. So What Can I Do Now?

1. Diagnostic testing

Comprehensive diagnostic testing will give insight to the individual case.

Comprehensive Gut & Parasitology: a careful look at the microbiome and gut health.

Gut Permeability: measures the damage of the gut lining or leaky gut syndrome, which can lead to inflammation of the gut and the brain (gut-brain axis).

Comprehensive Antibodies: a detailed look at any inflammatory autoimmune responses against the brain, gut and many different systems in the body.

DNA Methylation Pathway Profile: This test looks at around 30 methylation SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). By looking for DNA mutations that govern methylation, it gives us a personalized guide to what your unique genetic weaknesses and imbalances are so that they can be specifically addressed.

2. Heal the gut

Researchers found that by giving the “autistic” mice the probiotics, they were less anxious and communicated more vocally, both common autism struggles.

3. Calm the brain

Because autism is also a condition that affects the brain, it is essential to support optimal brain health.

4. Dampen any immune response

Diseases that have an immunological component are at an all time high for many different reasons. Lowering the immune response will prevent the body from further attacking itself and causing inflammation.

5. Find food intolerance

In addition to food intolerance labs, it is recommended to begin following a strict diet and food journaling to find out underlying food intolerance that can exacerbate symptoms.

6. Support genetic weaknesses

A pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin with the proper vitamins can help with deficiencies and pick up where the body leaves off.


7. Consider functional medicine

This is treatment plan that is free of harmful drugs and does not require a prescription. Note, that this is not a cure for the condition. If the treatment plan is not continues, the symptoms will return.


Are you ready to make a change to get healthy? Are you ready to start a personalized treatment plan that works without the use of pharmaceutical drugs? To learn more about our functional medicine program or to schedule an appointment, please call (304) 263-4927 today. Dr. Terry Chambers is a Board certified chiropractor and acupuncturist, licensed in WV, and trained to perform functional medicine.



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