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hashimoto s linked to autism copy

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 more 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 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. Ask my office for more pre-conception advice.

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Gut bacteria linked to autism

gut bacteria autism

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:

  • Their intestinal cells show abnormalities in how they break down and transport carbohydrates, which can affect the amount and type of nutrients these cells provide to intestinal bacteria. This in turn may alter the makeup of the intestine’s normal community of digestive bacteria — with ill result.
  • Their intestines are home to abnormal amounts of certain digestive bacteria that contribute to digestive problems, intestinal inflammation, and more severe autism symptoms.
  • There are lower levels of three important gut bacteria; Prevotella, Coprococcus, and Veillonellaceae.

Theory has it that the community of bacteria in the gut affects the immune system, which then sends messages to the brain. This may explain why parents of children with autism report that special diets and probiotics (nutritional supplements containing “good” bacteria) improve their children’s digestion as well as their behavior.

The Gut-to-Brain Connection

The most recent research on the connection between the gut and autism explores how the gut microbiome affects the autistic brain. Researchers at Arizona State University found that concentrations of metabolites (byproducts) from seven specific bacteria are more prevalent in autistic children’s fecal samples. According to study author Dae-Wook Kang, “Most of the seven metabolites could play a role in the brain … We suspect that gut microbes may … affect gut-to-brain communication and/or alter brain function.”

Of the seven metabolites that were noticed, three warrant special note for their apparent relation to brain function, thereby behavior:

  • Homovanillate was present at lower levels in children with autism; it is normally produced when dopamine (an important brain neurotransmitter involved in many aspects of mood and behavior) is broken down.
  • N,N-dimethylglycine was found at lower levels; it has been used before to decrease autism symptoms.
  • The ratio of glutamine to glutamate was higher: these are metabolized into GABA, a vital inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with relaxation. An imbalance between glutamate and GABA transmission has been associated with autistic-spectrum type behaviors such as hyper-excitation.

These connections offer insight into possible link between the gut biome and the behaviors seen in autistic children. Researchers say they would like to conduct a clinical study using fecal transplants from healthy donors to see if normalizing an individual’s community of gut bacteria would reduce autism symptoms.

Although the study was small, it adds to the growing body of research that tells us the gut is closely tied to the brain.

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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.

Autism linked to autoimmune disease in mothers

The brain begins developing as early as the first trimester and is profoundly impacted by the health of the immune system. When a pregnant woman has an unmanaged autoimmune condition, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, etc., it means her immune system is imbalanced and overactive. Research has shown that some mothers of children with autism carry immune compounds called antibodies in their bloodstream that react against proteins in the brain. These antibodies damage the developing brain of the fetus while in utero and may cause autism. Women with autoimmune disease are more likely to carry these immune antibodies.

A parent’s diet, physical activity, stress hormone levels, and exposure to environmental chemicals are other examples of factors that can affect a child’s brain development beginning in utero.

We see evidence of immune imbalances in children with brain disorders as they typically also suffer from multiple food intolerances, stomach pain, chronic constipation, leaky gut, asthma, eczema, yeast infections, and other issues that signal an imbalanced immune system.

The rising rate of childhood brain disorders is a pressing concern that will continue to affect all aspects of society. Although there is no easy answer, parents-to-be can lower their risk of giving birth to a child with ADHD, autism, or other brain disorder by limiting exposure to environmental toxins both in the home and outside (for instance, rates of autism are found to be higher in those whose mothers lived near freeways during pregnancy), eating a whole foods diet free of common food sensitivities (such as gluten), and testing for and managing any autoimmune reactions.

For more information about how to manage autoimmunity, contact my office.

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mother s autoimmunity autism

While 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.

Investigation revealed it isn’t the infections themselves that cause autism, but instead the reaction of the mother’s immune system to infection (her inflammatory response), as well as the overall health of her immune system.

One study of 700,000 births found that a mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or Type 1 diabetes more than doubles the risk of autism in her child. Other research has connected additional autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, with an increased risk of giving birth to a child who develops autism.

In an autoimmune response, the immune system mistakenly creates antibodies to the body’s own tissue, thereby tagging the tissue for destruction. Researchers have found that some mothers of autistic children create antibodies to the brain tissue of their fetus, meaning the child is a born with a brain already developmentally imbalanced by immune destruction. In fact, research indicates that mothers of children with autism are five times more likely to have anti-brain antibodies in their systems.

Chronic inflammation in pregnancy raises risk of childhood disorders

Other risk factors for autism include maternal asthma, allergies, insulin resistance, obesity, and chronic low-grade inflammation. In other words, when a mom’s immune system is in constant overdrive—never getting the opportunity to rest—the development of the fetal brain is adversely affected and the overall risk for disorders is increased.

Western diet and lifestyle behind inflammation and autoimmunity

Unfortunately, the story An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism veers into the promise of using whip worms—yes, worms—to tame the out-of-control immune system. The theory is that autoimmune disease has skyrocketed in developed nations because we are too clean.

The article fails to mention those other hallmarks of Western civilization besides good hygiene: overabundant diets laden with sweet, starchy, processed foods; chronic stress; a sedentary lifestyle; and daily bombardment of environmental toxins.

Thankfully, practitioners of functional medicine have measures other than the whip-worm therapy to manage autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation, all backed by peer-reviewed science. These include an autoimmune diet and the use of targeted, customized nutritional therapies.

Ask my office how we can assist you in balancing your immune system and, in so doing, help you to lower the risk of giving birth to a child with asthma, allergies, autism, or other brain and immune disorders.

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autism-autoimmune-disease

The 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.

Children born to moms with autoimmune disease more likely to develop autism

For starters, recent studies show that autoimmune diseases run in families, and children born to mothers with autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, are three times more likely to be born with autism. Researchers say the mother’s circulating autoimmune antibodies may create an abnormal immune environment that can affect the developing fetus.

Maternal obesity and diabetes raise autism risk

An autoimmune disease isn’t the only risk. Any kind of maternal immune imbalance can affect the immune health of the fetus. For instance, women who are obese are 67 percent more likely to have a child with autism. Women with diabetes are also more likely to give birth to a child with autism. Both obesity and diabetes keep the body in a state of chronic inflammation, which can affect the immune health of the developing fetus.

Leaky gut and fetal immune health

Another risk factor that can pass to the fetus is intestinal permeability, commonly referred to as leaky gut. Excess sugars and starches in the diet (i.e., gluten and junk foods) along with chronic stress can inflame the gut and cause the intestinal lining to become porous, or leaky. Because some 80 percent of the body’s immune system resides in the gut, a leaky gut triggers a cascade of inflammation that extends beyond the gut and into the brain and body, including the placenta of a pregnant woman.

Damaged gut walls will allow undigested foods, bacteria, and other pathogens to escape from the intestines into the bloodstream. These circulating pathogens affect the fetus by stimulating an immune response that may affect the development of the fetal brain.

Immune health affects the developing brain

Since we know the immune system affects the developing brain of the fetus, it’s important to approach conception and pregnancy with immune health in mind. This will not only reduce the risk of autism but also make the child less susceptible to other immune disorders, including asthma, eczema, food intolerances, allergies, and other brain developmental disorders (e.g., Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, ADD/ADHD, etc.)

You don’t HAVE an immune system; you ARE an immune system

Regulating immune health requires a whole-body approach that addresses diet, adrenal health, hormone health, gut health, food intolerances, and the autoimmunity of both parents—though the mother in particular. An anti-inflammatory diet is foundational to a healthy immune system. Studies have shown the effectiveness of a gluten-free and dairy-free diet or, more ideally, the immune balancing autoimmune diet. Not surprisingly, many children see symptoms of autism resolve through a similar whole-body approach.

Of course, most children born to a parent with an autoimmune disease do not get autism, however properly managing an autoimmune disease not only reduces the risk of autism, but also makes the pregnancy and postpartum period easier and more enjoyable.

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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.

If a genetically predisposed woman goes into pregnancy with an existing immune imbalance, these natural immune shifts could be the tipping point for Hashimoto’s.

When pregnancy is one stressor too many

Pregnancy can also cause hypothyroid symptoms secondary to chronic stress. Stressors such as gut infections, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can depress the pituitary gland, which controls hormone function in the body. As a result the pituitary fails to signal thyroid activity.

For many women this manifests not only as low thyroid function, but also postpartum depression. Because so many women enter pregnancy dealing with multiple chronic stressors, the increased demands of pregnancy overwhelm the pituitary gland and depress thyroid function.

Balancing health pre-conception lowers risk for mother and baby

A woman should address health and immune imbalances before conceiving to reduce her risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Doing so also may lower the risk of her infant developing eczema, asthma, food allergies, and even autism, which has been found to be caused by an autoimmune disease in many. When the mother’s immune system is healthy and balanced, there’s a stronger possibility her baby’s will be too.

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