In my newsletters and in my podcast, I’ve discussed the importance of the friendly bacteria in our large intestine for our general health, not just for digestive health.
We now know that the population of our gut bacteria is unique to each of us. Moreover, we know that certain populations of bacteria predispose to digestive diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease. These trillions of microbes that live in our gut are called our “Gut Microbiome”. It is also known that these gut flora can predispose to obesity, diabetes and colon cancer.
Most recently however, scientists are realizing that our gut microbes can affect our neurology as well. This means they possibly may be impacting our cognition, our emotions and our mental health.
Now, excitingly, in new groundbreaking research, it has been shown that feeding mice a beneficial type of these bacteria can ameliorate autism–like symptoms. This is according to Prof. Rob Knight, who just authored a commentary piece about this research. This is the first research to show that a specific probiotic may be capable of reversing autism–like behaviors in mice.
This amazing research was just published in the medical journal,Cell, under the direction of Elaine Hsiao, from the California Institute of Technology.
The researchers found a way to make pregnant mice induce autism-like behavior and neurology in their offspring. The researchers found that the gut microbial population of the offspring differed significantly when compared with a group of control mice. Most importantly, when the mice with autism-like symptoms were given a specific microbe, known to bolster the immune system, the aberrant behaviors were reduced.
The authors of this commentary stated “The broader potential of this research is obviously an analogous probiotic that could treat subsets of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.”.
This research is in direct support of new work that has recently been undertaken by a newly formed organization called the Autism Microbiome Consortium, part of the American Gut Project. This interdisciplinary consortium has experts in a range of disciplines from psychology to epidemiology and it is investigating the autism-gut microbiome link.
My physician colleagues in integrative medicine who have been treating autism for years, have long used variations of probiotics to help their autistic patients. However, this new research is now academically proving the validity of this treatment approach.
If you have family or friends who have an autistic child, they can have their child’s gut microbome sequenced by contacting the American Gut Project, which is a crowd funded research effort.