Making the Connection: Autism and Immunology

Photo by: MJorge/Flickr

There is a reoccurring theme that shows itself time and time again in children with autism, that theme is allergies. Although some parents have children with autism who show little or no adverse reactions to environmental factors, many parents comment on the severe physical and emotional reactions their children have to things like foods, fabrics, and pollen.

Though allergies can be a battle for any child, food allergies seem to be the most common in children with autism. But, what does this really mean? How are allergies and autism related? Is there a strong connection between the two that could give us more insight into the causes of autism? Doctors at the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Tufts University School of Medicine seem to think so. Researchers there hypothesize that autism starts when the protective gut-blood and blood-brain barriers breakdown during pregnancy or early in life.

Such a barrier disruption allows neuro-toxic molecules to reach the brain ultimately resulting in inflammation and defective nerve processing. This premise is supported by the fact that many autistic patients have antibodies against brain proteins, which implies that immune cells reached the brain through a leaky blood-brain barrier.        –  (Dr. Theoharis Theoharides; Director of Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery Lab, Tufts University School of Medicine)

In recent studies there has been much talk regarding immune cells and children with autism. It has been observed that young children with autism show high levels of neurotensin, an immune cell trigger that can cause immune cells to have allergic reactions.

Photo by: Martin Walls/SXC

Dr. Theoharis Theoharides a pioneer in this niche field of autism therapy has patented a unique dietary formulation known as NeuroProtek. NeuroProtek uses an exclusive combination of flavanoids (1), selected to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation both in the gut and brain.

Initial trials have been done using NeuroProtek, and the results seem very positive so far.  Subjects that were given NeuroProtek orally showed significant improvement of core autism symptoms such as poor communication and social interaction (Theoharides, T., 2010). Perhaps if more research is done on the correlation of Immunology and autism, we can continue to find answers to help the many people that suffer daily due to this disorder.

Dr. Theoharis Theoharides is the Director of the Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery Laboratory, as well as a Professor of Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Internal Medicine at Tufts University, Boston, MA.  You can learn more about him and his research at:


  1. Flavanoids are natural molecules found mostly in green plants and seeds (Theoharides, T., 2010)
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One Comment

  1. Posted August 29, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    This is why I like the Brain Balance approach – It’s not only therapy and education, it’s also diet changes and checking for food sensitivities and other allergies. It’s truly a whole-person, individualized approach to reducing symptoms.

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