At this point in our investigation, we have determined that autism and a host of other autoimmune disorders are built upon a thin foundation of genetic mutations and/or epigenetic dysregulation. This dysregulation may be kick-started in the developing fetus due to maternal inflammation caused by diet, lifestyle, or microbiome diversity, as inferred from the study of Somali immigrants to Sweden.
The cytokine-storm that has crossed over to the fetus can instigate a lifelong autoimmune response within the child, and adversely condition the microglia to malfunction. This results in over- and under-active synaptic pruning within and between the various regions of the brain.
Tangled lines of communication and routing errors lead to faulty feedback loops between the autonomic nervous system and functions such as digestion, behavior, and proinflammatory immune responses. Caesarian birth, formula-only feedings, early antibiotic intervention, and infrequent daily contact with nature compounds the problem by failing to introduce or limiting the number of microbiotic species responsible for mitigating inflammation.
As a developmental disorder, the Butterfly Effect kicks in hard around the age of three as systems crucial for further progress experience performance issues. The comorbidity of autoimmune disorders reported in both those with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as specific groups immigrating to Western countries suggests that a loss in diversity, not only in the microbiome but also in the variety of foods eaten is the primary cause.
When speaking about the makeup of the microbiome, there is a fifth Beatle. No, it is not Billy Preston, but parasitic worms of the phyla Nematoda and Trematoda. The most commonly found species in humans include hookworm, tapeworm, pinworm, threadworm, and roundworm.
Infection occurs either from ingestion or through skin exposure with the larvae via soil or water. They set up shop in the intestinal tract or bloodstream and proceed to siphon off nutrients and produce eggs, which are shed from the body and begin their life cycle in the soil.
Their eggs are like tardigrades in that bleach, and other countermeasures have little effect. The tried-and-true methods for eradicating them are to wait for them to hatch and apply high heat, or to starve the little buggers. The latter method was developed by the US government in the early part of the 20th century as a response to debilitating hookworm infections in rural areas of the South.
Government scientists discovered that hookworms die of starvation if forced to crawl through more than six feet of dirt, so they mandated that all future outhouse/latrine pits be six-feet deep or greater. These days, infections are rare in the US and occur mainly in coastal areas.
Infestations of parasitic worms can cause the human host to become anemic, lethargic, and malnourished. The number of these cases is at the low end of the curve, as millions of people worldwide live long, healthy lives despite being infected. This might be due to the manner in which some helminths evade detection by the immune system. These bloodsuckers are able to activate an alternate macrophage phenotype that changes the T-cell/interleukin cascade from hyperinflammatory to hospitable.
Epigenetic regulation of microglial inflammation response has been demonstrated in mice using a species from the Mesocestoides family. Clinical trials involving humans have used pinworm and hookworm to effectively treat Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease. Some severe allergy suffers have self-inoculated as a means to alleviate their symptoms.
If there are any takeaways from this investigation into the contributing factors of autism, they would be:
•Limit antibiotics, especially for small children.
•If medically possible, consider a vaginal birth over a C-section.
•Opt for breast milk instead of formula, as mother’s milk contains micronutrients and beneficial bacteria that formula does not. And, for Pete’s sake, stop sterilizing the area around the nipple before feeding.
•Soap and water is better for the environment than antimicrobial products. It removes over 90 percent of surface germs and does not promote the development of superbugs.
•Fiber, eat more of it. Digestible fibers aid in drug absorption and regulation of microbes.
•When given a choice between highly refined foods, i.e. ground to a powder or pureed, or whole foods and grains, go for the latter. Your microbiome needs a challenge to stay healthy.
•Eat more uncooked vegetables as a method of acquiring the endogenous microbes best suited to digest that particular foodstuff.
•Regular exposure to highly complex and varied microbial environments (i.e., dirt) not only assists in developing a healthy immune system, but seems to prevent the occurrence of allergies.
When I set out to write this series, I was biased towards the idea that the root cause of autism was the immune system misidentifying the antigen covering of neurons. I had no idea of the initial identification error’s genesis.
As someone diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I had a vested interest. The conclusions I have drawn are the result of following the bulk of the latest research to where it seems to be heading at the moment. As a fence-sitter on most topics of popular debate, I did not expect to find myself altering my viewpoint as much as I did.