Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Microbiome
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April is Autism Awareness Month

The logo of the Autism Society was designed as a puzzle piece to represent how complex Autism can be. Putting the pieces together for a family caring for an Autistic family member can be extremely difficult. I am fortunate; I am the father of two healthy daughters… But my heart breaks for the children and families dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who come to my office. As a physician who has successfully treated several hundred individuals with ASD, I can tell you that medicine has made great strides in this field. Microbiome Medicine, in particular, has proven to be profoundly beneficial. There is now more information that can offer hope to these children and their families.

An Imbalanced Microbiome And A New Finding

Over seventy percent of autistic children have GI symptoms – diarrhea, bloating or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Critical bacteria have been found to exist in diminished or excessive amounts. Further, propionic acid (the result of the breakdown of certain foods) accumulates excessively in an altered microbiome. And excess propionic acid (PPA) may lead to autism. Although propionic acid has some beneficial effects, the accumulation of it can be neurotoxic. In an animal study, the experimental group was given a toxic dose of propionic acid. These animals showed impaired energy, and elevated inflammatory markers confirming the neuroinflammatory effect of propionic acid. The researchers concluded that the study demonstrated the neurotoxicity of propionic acid as an environmental factor playing a central role in the etiology of autistic biochemical features. The damaging effects of PPA and other short-chain fatty acids produced abnormal motor movements, repetitive interests, cognitive deficits, electrographic changes, and impaired social interactions. Regarding physical changes to brain tissue, another study demonstrated that rats with PPA showed several neurochemical changes or neuroinflammation. This inflammation contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction, which is consistent with findings in patients with ASD2.

The Critical Role of Hypothyroidism

At the Kellman Wellness Center, we are known for putting the puzzle pieces together, explaining the unexplainable. As a result of this connect-the-dots type of thinking, I came to believe that the thyroid might play a critical role in the development of autism. Utilizing the most sensitive of thyroid tests and what I consider the quintessential tool in functional medicine, I discovered that approximately seventy-five percent of the patients with ASD were suffering from low thyroid. And that their low thyroid function was undetected by routine tests and other physicians, including functional medicine doctors. After treating with bioidentical hormone therapy, we saw improvement in speech, language, eye contact, motor functions, GI disorders and socialization in most patients. Some parents report a “life-changing” result. It is my goal and my mission to help. If you know of a family suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder, please let them know that there is hope.

Raphael Kellman, M.D.

Afaf K El-Ansary, Etiology of autistic features: the persisting neurotoxic effects of propionic acid
Journal of Neuroinflammation 20129:74
Derrick F. MacFabe, MD
Short-chain fatty acid fermentation products of the gut microbiome: implications in autism
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