By Dr. Mercola
A review of genetic and biochemical abnormalities has revealed a possible link between autism and type 2 diabetes.
It's still only a hypothesis, but according to Rice University biochemist Michael Stern, author of the opinion paper, these two conditions may have a common underlying mechanism: impaired glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia.
Hyperinsulinemia, a common precursor to insulin resistance, is characterized by excess levels of insulin in your bloodstream.
Insulin resistance, in turn, is associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and many other chronic diseases.
Could it also be associated with autism?
"It will be very easy for clinicians to test my hypothesis.
They could do this by putting autistic children on low-carbohydrate diets that minimize insulin secretion and see if their symptoms improve."
Sterns hypothesis also suggests that glucose tolerance in pregnant women may need to be addressed more seriously than it is now, in order to decrease the child's risk of autism.
"... [A]t least four genes associated with increased frequency in autism are known to produce proteins that play key roles in a biochemical pathway known as PI3K/Tor ... PI3K/Tor [is] the major pathway for insulin signals within cells, and insulin [can] affect synapses in a remarkably similar way to the mGluR defects associated with autism.
… "I discovered that gestational diabetes was the most important identified maternal risk factor for autism, but that 'no known mechanism could account for this,'" Stern recalled. "When I read this, I was speechless. That's when I realized that this was not obvious to others in the field, so I decided to write this up with the hope that clinicians might become aware of this and treat their patients accordingly."
In writing the article, Stern said he learned that the role of insulin in cognitive function is becoming more widely accepted… Stern said he also found preliminary studies that indicated that low-carb diets were therapeutic for some individuals with autism and ASD.
"Based on what's already in the literature, insulin needs to be taken seriously as a causative element in autism," Stern said."
Diabetes, Autism and... Gut Flora: A Hidden Connection?
Sterns hypothesis linking autism and type 2 diabetes is an interesting one, and although it may initially sound far-fetched, other research suggests he may very well be onto something, especially if we consider the emerging research linking gut flora to both diabetes and autism. Could it be that it's actually the gut microflora that is an underlying link between diabetes and autism?
There's no definitive evidence of this at the moment, but there appear to be some rather compelling "circumstantial evidence" leaning in that direction.
For example, researchers have found that bacterial populations in the gut of diabetics differ from non-diabetics, and imbalanced gut flora has also been linked to obesity and various brain- and mental disorders—from depression to autism.
Interestingly, obesity and diabetes appear to be associated with different bacterial populations according to one 2010 study. While the researchers found a positive correlation between ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and BMI, the reverse tendency was observed in those with diabetes, indicating that obesity and diabetes are associated with different groups of intestinal microbiota. They also found a positive correlation for the ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance.
The Gut-Brain Connection—A Hidden Key to Solving Autism Mystery?
In terms of treatment, Sterns hypothesis ends up coinciding quite nicely with the GAPS theory put forth by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The low-carbohydrate diet he recommends will automatically help rebalance your child's gut flora, and Dr. Campbell-McBride's nutritional program has the identical focus.
Dr. Campbell-McBride has a full-time medical practice in the United Kingdom where she treats children and adults with autism and other neurological disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems. Her groundbreaking research led her to create the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Nutritional Program, which can help those with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia.
What is GAPS?
GAPS is the result of poorly developed or imbalanced gut flora, which can have a disastrous effect on mental health and brain development and function.
Interestingly, children who do not develop normal gut flora from birth also appear to be particularly prone to vaccine damage, and this may be a MAJOR key for reducing vaccine injuries. Dr. Campbell is actually convinced that autistic children are born with perfectly normal brains and sensory organs, but once their digestive system becomes a major source of toxicity instead of being a source of nourishment, they start to develop autistic symptoms. A vaccine may simply "push them over the edge."
Another group of children that may also over-react to vaccinations are siblings of children with autism, severe hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive disorder, mental conditions, and—again—type 1diabetes.
Total Video Length: 1:13:21
How Gut and Brain Toxicity Can Lead to Symptoms of Autism
Children use all of their sensory organs to collect information from their environment, which is then passed to the brain for processing. This is a fundamental part of learning. However, in children with Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), the toxicity flowing from their gut throughout their bodies and into their brains, clogs the brain with toxicity, preventing it from performing its normal function and process sensory information.
Dr. Campbell-McBride explains:
"Sensory information turns into this mush; into a noise in the child's brain, and from this noise the child cannot learn. They cannot decipher anything useful. That's why they don't learn how to communicate. They don't learn how to understand language, how to use language, how to develop all the natural instinctive behaviors and coping behaviors that normal children develop.
The second year of life is crucial in the maturation of the brain of the baby... If the child's brain is clogged with toxicity, the child misses that window of opportunity of learning and starts developing autism depending on the mixture of toxins, depending on how severe the whole condition is, and how severely abnormal the gut flora is in the child."
GAPS may manifest as a conglomerate of symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of either autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) without hyperactivity, dyslexia, dyspraxia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to name a few possibilities.
How to Identify GAPS
Fortunately, it is possible to identify GAPS within the first weeks of your baby's life, which can help you make better informed decisions about vaccinations, and about how to proceed to set your child on the path to a healthy life. This is done by analyzing your child's stool to determine the state of her gut flora, followed by a urine test to check for metabolites, which can give you a picture of the state of your child's immune system.
If your child turns out to have abnormal gut flora, Dr. Campbell-McBride strongly advises against vaccinating with the standard vaccination protocol until or unless the metabolic characteristics of GAPS have been reversed, in order to prevent vaccine damage.
The non-invasive tests described in her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, are now available in most laboratories around the world, and typically run around $80-100 each in the US. This is peanuts compared to the incredible expense of treating an autistic child once the damage is done.
Strategies to Restore Health to Children with GAPS and Autism
All in all, there is a growing wealth of evidence demonstrating that the nutritional cause of many diseases is related to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut, a problem easily rectified by eating a diet consisting of high quality, minimally processed, and preferably organic, foods.
In addition, there's plenty of evidence showing the harm being done by the over-prescribing of antibiotics as they are indiscriminate killers, eradicating all the beneficial bacteria in your gut along with the bad ones.
Pregnant mothers need not only be more vigilant about their glucose tolerance, as Stern suggests, they also need to pay close attention to their gut health, and avoid antibiotics as much as possible. The reason why this is so important is because the baby actually acquires its gut flora when he goes through the birth canal. Whatever lives in the mother's birth canal becomes the baby's gut flora. If your gut flora is imbalanced due to improper diet or use of antibiotics (which effectively destroys both good and bad bacteria), this imbalance is automatically transferred to your child at birth.
And as described above, your child's gut flora may be crucially important for his health and development.
Dr. Campbell has developed a very effective treatment for GAPS children, called the GAPS Nutritional Protocol. It is described in great detail in her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which is designed to be a self-help book. In summary, the protocol consists of three elements:
- Diet—the GAPS diet consists of easily-digestible foods that are dense in nutrition, including fermented foods.
In general, avoiding processed foods and foods high in sugar/fructose is an essential component of a gut-healthy diet, as sugar feeds harmful bacteria and throws your microflora off kilter. It also promotes insulin resistance, and ultimately type 2 diabetes, so it's easy to see how the dietary component can contribute to all of the problems discussed here: type 2 diabetes, imbalanced gut flora, and brain/learning/developmental disorders.
- Food supplements, including: probiotics and vitamins D and A in the form of cod liver oil, although sun exposure is also an important part for GAPS patients, for proper vitamin D production.
- Detoxification—The GAPS nutritional protocol will naturally clear out most toxins. Dr. Campbell does not use any kind of drugs or chemicals to remove toxins as it can be too drastic for some, and can produce damaging side effects. Instead she recommends juicing as a gentle but effective way of removing toxic build-up, as well as baths with Epsom salt, sea salt, seaweed powder, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda.
In the video embedded above, Dr. Campbell discusses many additional and priceless details relating to this protocol, so please, set aside some time to listen to the interview in its entirety, or read through the transcript. There's no doubt that the avalanche of autism must be curbed—and quickly! And for now the burden rests on you, the parent, to take control of your and your child's health, and to arm yourself with information that can have life-altering ramifications.
If you're pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or know someone who is, I can't recommend Dr. Campbell's book enough. Buy it for yourself, or as a gift. You can also find more information on Dr. Campbell's website: www.GAPS.me, and on her blog at www.doctor-natasha.com.
The Importance of Vitamin D and Cholesterol During Pregnancy
Last but not least, I also want to mention the importance of vitamin D and cholesterol during pregnancy, to help protect your child from autism. The most crucial role for both vitamin D and cholesterol in the embryo is in the development of the brain and central nervous system. Not only is cholesterol a core building block of the brain, but vitamin D also plays a critical although not well-understood role in brain development. Deficiency in either cholesterol and/or vitamin D may affect your child's autism risk.
For example, one previous study measuring cholesterol levels in children with autism found a striking correlation between low cholesterol and symptoms of either autism or Asperger's syndrome. And according to Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council, several research findings suggest that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy, and during infancy, may raise the risk of autistic symptoms.
Vitamin D is manufactured in your body from cholesterol, again showing the interconnected importance of maintaining optimal levels of both—especially during pregnancy. This happens in your skin as a result of sun exposure. Keep in mind that if you're wearing a sunscreen, then you're pretty much guaranteeing that you won't generate any vitamin D.