In 2012 a Harvard Medical School publication, states, “the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected – so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.”
A study based on this connection exploring the use of probiotics to alleviate symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) achieved some promising results when conducted by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
Autism spectrum disorder, commonly known simply as autism is characterized by behaviors such as, lessened social interaction, impaired communication, and sometimes repetitive behaviors, to name a few. Many individuals diagnosed with autism are also found to have gastrointestinal or digestive difficulties.
Caltech biology professor, Sarkis K. Mazmanian, says, “traditional research has studied autism as a genetic disorder and a disorder of the brain, but our work shows that gut bacteria may contribute to ASD-like symptoms in ways that were previously unappreciated. Gut physiology appears to have effects on what are currently presumed to be brain functions.”
The researchers mimicked autism-like symptoms in mice for their experiment by triggering the immune response of pregnant mice via a “viral mimic.” Previous research has shown that there is risk of giving birth to an autistic child when pregnant women experience a severe viral infection. In fact, the offspring born to the mice in whom the immune response was triggered exhibited autism-like behaviors, and also were found to have “leaky” GI tracts.
These mice were treated with an experimental probiotic, Bacteroides fragilis. Results of the treatment showed they displayed improved communication with other mice and their leaky gut remedied, but, they showed lowered anxiety levels and were less likely to perform repetitive digging actions.
A test of the effects of this probiotic on symptoms of human autism is planned. Mazmanian says, “I think our results may someday transform the way people view possible causes and potential treatments for autism.”
Even though the probiotic treatment does not tackle the genetic component of autism, reasearches say it is still a big step into understanding this spectrum disorder. This study provides further evidence of how vital a healthy gut is to other bodily systems, and especially to the brain.
Probiotics are an essential part of a daily routine. A healthy gut boosts your immune system, and as this study shows, it could also be a means to unlocking more secrets of many uncured illnesses.
For more information, please visit http://www.icare4autism.org/news/category/autism-research/