Tag Archives: autism

Maternal PCOS can raise the risk of autism in children

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Researchers have discovered that polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS  is linked with an almost 60 percent greater risk of giving birth to a child who will develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As many as one in ten women of childbearing age have PCOS, a hormonal disorder, and it can affect girls as young as 11. It is the most common female hormone imbalance in the United States.

Although the exact link between maternal PCOS and autism isn’t clear, the findings support the notion that sex hormones early in life play a role in the development of autism in both boys and girls.

PCOS exposes the developing fetus to excess androgens, hormones that play a role in male traits. These androgens are believed to affect the development of the brain and central nervous system, increasing the risk of an ASD.

In the study, researchers looked at children ages 4 to 17 who were born in Sweden between 1984 and 2007. They found that a maternal diagnosis of PCOS increased the risk of having a child with ASD by 59 percent. Continue reading

Do you have an inflamed brain? How to tell and what to do

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When most people think of inflammation they think of arthritic joints, or maybe a sprained ankle. But did you know your brain can become inflamed, too?

The problem is an inflamed brain won’t hurt. Instead you should look for other symptoms of brain inflammation. These include brain fog, slow thinking, fatigue, and depression.

Brain fog is a hallmark symptom of brain inflammation. The inflammation slows down communication between neurons. This is what causes you to feel foggy, dull, and slow.

Brain inflammation is serious because it means nerve cells in the brain are dying. In other words, brain inflammation is causing your brain to atrophy and age too fast.

What causes brain inflammation

A common cause of brain inflammation is head injury. Injuries cause immune cells to turn on in order to begin the healing process. But unlike immune cells in the body, the brain’s immune cells do not turn off. This means brain inflammation can continue to be a problem long after the injury. This is one reason football players have high rates of the chronic degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Other common causes of brain inflammation include chronic inflammation in the body, leaky gut, high blood sugar and diabetes, hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism  food intolerances (gluten is a notorious brain inflamer), stress, and brain autoimmunity — a disorder in which the immune system erroneously attacks and damages brain tissue. It is more common than people realize.

Depression and brain inflammation

Depression is a common symptom of brain inflammation (although different things can cause depression, depending on the person). Immune cells called cytokines that are created by inflammation impair brain function. Cytokines also hamper the activity of serotonin, the “joy and well-being” brain chemical commonly linked with depression.

A good illustration of this is the fact that many patients given the anti-viral drug interferon  which increases cytokine activity, develop depression. Conversely, many people who tame inflammation relieve depression.

Brain inflammation: Autism to Alzheimer’s

Brain imaging and autopsies show brain inflammation is more common in individuals with autism.

Brain inflammation is also increasingly being linked with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The inflammation both degenerates brain tissue and increases amyloid beta, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Take brain inflammation seriously to save your brain

If you have brain fog or other symptoms that suggest brain inflammation, this means your brain is degenerating (aging) too fast. Be proactive in saving your brain health:

  • Take flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain. Ask me for more information.?Balance your blood sugar. Low blood sugar, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), and diabetes all inflame the brain. Don’t skip meals or overdo carbs.
  • Food sensitivities. Gluten is a common cause of brain inflammation. Rule out a sensitivity to gluten or other commonly inflammatory foods, such as dairy, soy, eggs, and other grains. 
  • Balance hormones. Low sex hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) and low thyroid hormones contribute to brain inflammation. 
  • Heal your gut. The gut and the brain profoundly influence one another. An inflamed gut causes an inflamed brain.
  • Take glutathione precursors. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and can help quench brain inflammation. Sufficient essential fatty acids and vitamin D are important, too.

Hashimoto’s and autoimmunity linked to autism

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Managing your hypothyroidism isn’t just about losing weight and having warm hands and feet. If you’re a woman who could get pregnant, it could play a role in whether you have a child with autism. A 2015 Finnish 
study that looked at risk factors associated with autism found that women who tested positive for autoimmune hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s, were 80 percent more likely to give birth to a child who developed autism than women who did not.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys the thyroid. But Hashimoto’s is only one of many autoimmune diseases. Autoimmunity means the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the very thing it was designed to protect — you. Which organ, gland, tissue, or chemical the immune system attacks depends on different factors, such as genetic predisposition and what triggered the autoimmunity. For instance, certain foods or chemicals are linked with certain autoimmune conditions. Rates of autoimmune disease are skyrocketing and many people go undiagnosed for years or a lifetime despite symptoms.

Similar studies have also made correlations between other autoimmune diseases in the mother and increased risk of autism in their offspring. For instance, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel conditions have also been suggested as links to autism.

Why maternal autoimmunity can cause autism

Why can maternal autoimmunity cause autism in a child? Immune cells, called antibodies, that coordinate attack of the mother’s body in autoimmunity can be passed to the child. This can cause the child to be born with an autoimmune reaction already taking place in his or her body. In some case of autism, they are finding that these children are born with autoimmune attacks happening in the brain.

Evidence of this was demonstrated in a startling way when scientists injected one group of pregnant monkeys with antibodies taken from human mothers with autistic children. Another group of pregnant monkeys was injected with antibodies taken from mothers of neurotypical children. Compared to the control group, the monkeys who received the antibodies from mothers of autistic children gave birth to monkeys who grew to demonstrate atypical social behavior.

Manage autoimmunity before pregnancy

If you’re a woman who would like to get pregnant, it’s important to screen for and appropriately manage any autoimmune condition you may have. For instance, if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it’s not enough to just take thyroid hormone. If you leave the autoimmune component of your thyroid condition unchecked, it could lead to more autoimmune diseases and you are at risk of passing the autoimmune antibodies to your child.

Managing autoimmunity is a comprehensive dietary and lifestyle approach designed to regulate an overzealous immune system so it does not attack the body. People with unchecked autoimmunity tend to be in very inflammatory states. Autoimmune management involves a comprehensive diet to reduce this inflammation.

Sometimes chemicals or metals can trigger or exacerbate autoimmunity, so it’s good to screen for that as well with the Cyrex Array 11 Chemical Immune Reactivity Screen.  This doesn’t tell you the quantity of chemicals or metals in your body like other tests, but rather whether your immune system is reacting to them. This is vital information when you have autoimmunity.

Lifestyle factors such as chronic stress, too little sleep, an unhealthy relationship, a job you hate, and other negative influences can also raise inflammation and provoke autoimmunity. These are important factors to consider as well when managing an autoimmune disease.

It’s vital to shore up your health, balance your immune system, and manage any known or undiagnosed autoimmune reactions before getting pregnant. This will increase the likelihood of having a neurologically healthy child.

Gut bacteria linked to autism

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The digestive tract is home to more than 100 trillion microorganisms. That’s ten times the number of cells in the human body! Although humans can survive without these tiny guests, they perform a host of useful functions, such as fermenting unused food, preventing growth of harmful bacteria, producing vitamins, and training the immune system. But did you know the bacteria in your gut can affect your brain, too? In fact, recent research on the gut has found some interesting links between the gut microbiome — the complex and unique microbiological community within the gut –- and autistic behavior in children.

As parents well know, children with autism have a high rate of problems with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. The resulting discomfort can worsen behaviors and interfere with their ability to participate in, and benefit from, activities of daily life, education, and therapeutic activities.

On a related note, it has been known for some time that children with autism tend to have abnormal and less diverse communities of gut bacteria than children without autism. Recent research on children with autism has revealed these interesting facts:

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One in five children have a mental disorder; lower the risk before pregnancy

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One in five American children today has a mental disorder and the rate is rising, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Affecting 13 to 20 percent of youth under 18, mental disorders impact a child’s behavior, ability to learn, and cope with their emotions. Although researchers don’t have a definitive explanation for the rise, studies have linked a mother’s autoimmune disease during pregnancyenvironmental chemicals, and industrialization of food with the rise in childhood brain disorders. All of these factors profoundly affect the developing brain in utero and can lead to a brain disorder in childhood.

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One in five children have a mental disorder; lower the risk before pregnancy

333 1 in 5 children mental disorder

One in five American children today has a mental disorder and the rate is rising, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Affecting 13 to 20 percent of youth under 18, mental disorders impact a child’s behavior, ability to learn, and cope with their emotions. Although researchers don’t have a definitive explanation for the rise, studies have linked a mother’s autoimmune disease during pregnancyenvironmental chemicals, and industrialization of food with the rise in childhood brain disorders. All of these factors profoundly affect the developing brain in utero and can lead to a brain disorder in childhood.

The rapid rise in the rate of childhood brain disorders is alarming and unnerving. For instance, one study showed the rate of hospital stays among children for mood disorders increased 80 percent since 1997. Inpatient admissions for mental health issues and substance abuse increased 24 percent between 2007 and 2010.

The most commonly diagnosed brain disorder is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), affecting nearly 7 percent of children. Other commonly reported issues include autism, anxiety, depression, Tourette’s syndrome, and behavioral disorders. Alcohol and substance abuse are issues as well.

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Mother’s inflammation raises risk of child’s autism, asthma, and allergies

image7While practitioners of functional medicine have long understood the link between the health of a mother’s immune system and the risk of giving birth to a child with autism, asthma, allergies, and other disorders, it is validating to see this information in the New York Times: An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism.

In this article, the author reports one-third of autism cases are the result of an inflammatory disease that began in the womb, thanks to the mother’s imbalanced immune system. Looking back through 20 years of data, researchers discovered that infections during pregnancy increase the risk of autism. Hospitalization for a viral infection (i.e., the flu) during the first trimester tripled the odds for autism, while a bacterial infection (including urinary tract infections) during the second trimester increased the risk by 40 percent.

Maternal autoimmunity increases risk of autism in children

While viral and bacterial infections have declined over the last 60 years, autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorders are steadily climbing. Autoimmune disease dwarfs cancer and heart disease combined, now affecting about 50 million people, or 20 percent of the population.
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Autism is often an autoimmune brain disorder

image20The rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased 78 percent in the last decade, with autism now affecting a staggering 1 in 88 children. While parents scramble for answers, researchers increasingly find a common denominator: inflammation affecting brain function.

While some children withstand the assaults of modern life relatively unscathed, the child with autism has neurologically-based reactions to foods, vaccines, viruses, environmental chemicals, or other immune triggers. Some studies show this imbalance in immune function can begin in the womb, often influenced by the mother’s health. The question, of course, is why.
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Can pregnancy cause hypothyroidism?

Question

Why did pregnancy trigger my hypothyroidism?

Answer

Natural immune shifts during pregnancy, together with a genetic tendency and other predisposing factors, can trigger hypothyroidism in some women.

Hypothyroidism is an immune disease for most

For 90 percent of Americans, hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.

The immune system has two major arms of function, one that reacts immediately to an invader, and one that reacts later to produce antibodies. When one of these arms of becomes overly dominant it can trigger an autoimmune disease.

Going into pregnancy predisposed

Pregnancy and the postpartum periods naturally polarize the immune system. In the third trimester the delayed immune response is dominant. Postpartum the immediate immune reaction is stronger.

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Your brain is what you eat: Hydrogenated fats

Question

What is all the fuss about hydrogenated oils, or trans fats? Aren’t they OK to eat in moderation?

Answer

The hydrogenated fat you eat becomes part of your brain and nervous tissue. Because of its unnatural structure, cells and neurons composed partly of hydrogenated fat do not function properly.

The brain is made up of the fat you eat

If someone calls you a fat head they are not off the mark. The brain is made up mostly of fat, including the fat you eat. While hydrogenated fats are best known for contributing to cardiovascular disease, lesser known is their impact on brain health. Hydrogenated oils have been molecularly restructured for a long shelf life and are found in many processed foods.

Cell membranes communicate with other cells and determine what is allowed to enter and exit the cell. These membranes incorporate hydrogenated oils into their structure, making them more rigid and less able to function properly. The nerve sheaths that insulate and protect neurons also incorporate trans fats. Continue reading