Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
The 2nd of April annually marks Autism Awareness Day and is an opportunity to enhance understanding and promote inclusivity for those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a complex, multifaceted neurological disorder, comprised of a wide range of symptoms which can present with varying degrees of severity.
Potential Associated Factors with ASD
- Immune dysregulation
- Gastrointestinal abnormalities
- Oxidative stress
- Environmental and genetic influences
- Nutritional deficiencies, diet and lifestyle
While ASD is considered to be primarily associated with imbalances in brain function affecting overall social function and cognition, studies have found that autism may be a systemic disorder affecting immune function, both on systemic and cellular levels. Studies have found that children with ASD tend to demonstrate increased inflammatory markers.
The gastrointestinal (GI) stsyem has been found to have a significant correlation to ASD where children with ASD are much more likely to develop chronic GI symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and other digestive conditions. The presence of these symptoms can impact the individual in many ways, from irritability, sleep disturbances, hyperactivity and inattentiveness to food intolerances and feeding problems.
Imbalances in the gut microbiome have also been implicated in central nervous system dysfunction and neurodevelopmental disorders. Studies have found that correcting dysbiosis can exert positive behaviour change in some individuals.
Food sensitivities in response to IgG mediated food reactions have been implicated in ASD, in particular, sensitivities to gluten and casein. Casein and gluten can be impactful as the undigested peptides cross the blood-brain barrier, initiating neurotoxic responses by binding to the brain's opioid receptors and inducing antigenic responses.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and Vitamin D
Vitamin D and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to have significant impact of the aetiology of ASD. Vitamin D has been found to impact neuronal differentiation, structure, function and connectivity in brain development. Furthermore, vitamin D has been found on genes associated with synthesis of serotonin and oxytocin, and we know that people with ASD have reduced levels of these neurotransmitters, which can impact social behaviour.
Levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids have also found to be depleted in those living with ASD. This is particularly true in the significant imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio in affected individuals. These fatty acids are essential for optimal brain function, due to their anti-inflammatory properties as well as the protective effects on brain cell membranes and the myelin sheath. EFA deficiencies have negative consequences on cerebral development and overall brain cell funtion.
Studies have indicated that supplementaion of EFAs and vitamin D can significantly improve symptoms associated with ASD.
BeFunctional Labs provides the following tests directly relating to this article
- Complete Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)
- IgG Food Sensitivity Testing
- Essential Fatty Acid Profile (EFA Profile)
- Vitamin D Levels
Please contact our Customer Service Team or our Naturopath and Technical Adviser if you require any additonal information or wish to discuss your patient's case.
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