healthy kids


GUT-BRAIN AXIS A Promising Approach to Healing by Emily Courtney


ith the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on the rise—now affecting one in

every 59 school-age children, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — identifying effective, integrative remedies is more important than ever. “You may have five kids with ASD that

are very different in how they present and what contributes to the disorder, so one size and one treatment does not fit all,” says Kenneth A. Bock, M.D., of Bock Inte- grative Medicine, in Red Hook, New York, author ofHealing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies. Te Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders. ASD encompasses a range of disorders

characterized by repetitive behaviors and impaired social skills and communication. Although it includes four distinct condi- tions, one of its hallmarks is how much it varies from person to person and how different the restrictions can be for each child. Te very nature of the condition lends

itself to integrative approaches that can be significantly effective, says Bock. “ASD is really a whole-body disorder that affects the brain, so a whole-body approach makes so much more sense.”

36 NA Triangle

Kids with ASD may have

inflammation in the brain, and we’ve

learned that it can be very much related to inflammation of the gut.

—Kenneth A. Bock, M.D. From specialized diet and supplement

regimens to a variety of alternative thera- pies, parents have a wealth of complemen- tary options from which to choose. One integrative approach, however, is showing exceptional, research-backed promise: healing the gut.

Te Gut-Autism Connection Children with ASD frequently experience gut issues such as constipation or diarrhea; a review from the International Society for Autism Research indicated that nearly 47 percent of autistic children exhibited at least one gastrointestinal (GI) symptom. And, the more severe a child’s GI symptoms, the more severe the autism, according to a study in BMC Gastroenterology.

Not coincidentally, research is finding

that these digestive conditions and the accompanying ASD may be connected to the gut microbiome, an ecosystem of trillions of microbes living in the digestive tract. “Kids with ASD may have inflamma-

tion in the brain, and we’ve learned that it can be very much related to inflammation of the gut,” explains Bock. “Te gut and immune system—which are intimately connected because the majority of our immune system is in the gut—are two of the most crucial systems involved in autism spectrum disorders.” It turns out that kids with ASD have

less bacterial diversity in their guts than non-autistic kids, along with an imbal- ance between good and bad bacteria. Tis dysbiosis of the gut flora leads to problems with improper immune function, inflam- mation and a leaky gut barrier. It all comes down to the gut-brain

axis, by which the gut and brain commu- nicate with each other. When the micro- biome isn’t balanced, not only is this vital communication system broken, but toxins and pro-inflammatory molecules that trigger ASD-like behaviors can cross the blood-brain barrier. Experts say prioritizing gut health can relieve both GI issues and ASD symptoms.


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