Autism often linked to early brain autoimmunity

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Autism spectrum disorder rates have increased by about 80 percent in the last 15 years, and an estimated one in 45 children have autism. While both parents scramble and scientists search for answers, one factor increasingly shows up in research: An immune system gone awry attacking the brain — also called autoimmunity.

Research has shown that some children with autism develop autoimmunity to the brain due to antibodies passed to them from their mothers while in utero. One study found one in 10 mothers of children with autism carry antibodies in their blood that reacts to their children’s brains.

Maternal autoimmunity raises autism risk

A mother who already has ongoing autoimmunity (which often may not have been diagnosed) is at a higher risk for having a child with autism.

Studies show children born to moms with autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, are three times more likely to develop autism.

This is because the mother carries antibodies in her bloodstream that are programmed to target human tissue for attack, including brain tissue. These antibodies then get passed to her fetus.

Obesity and diabetes in moms also raises risk

The factors that predispose a person to triggering autoimmunity are another risk mothers can pass onto their kids, the most common being disorders stemming from high blood sugar: obesity, diabetes, and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). This is because excess sugar is highly inflammatory and raises the risk of autoimmunity.

For instance, maternal obesity almost doubles the risk of a child developing autism, while obesity combined with diabetes quadruples the risk. Maternal PCOS  a hormonal disorder caused by high blood sugar, has also been linked with an increased risk of autism in children due to excess testosterone.

Leaky gut and fetal immune health

Another maternal risk factor that can affect fetal brain health is leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. This is a common condition in which the inflamed and damaged gut wall allows 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.

Many things can cause leaky gut, but the most common is excess sugars and starches, processed foods, and junk foods. Other factors are chronic stress, excess alcohol, antibiotics, NSAIDS, and metabolic imbalances.

Because the gut is the seat of the immune system, a leaky gut triggers a cascade of inflammation that extends beyond the gut and into the brain and body. This raises the risk of brain antibodies developing in the mother and being passed to the fetus.

Immune health affects the developing brain

While some children withstand the assaults of modern life relatively unscathed, the child with autism or whose brain and immune system are predisposed to autism will react to foods, vaccines, viruses, chemicals, or other immune triggers. This imbalance can begin in the womb.

An anti-inflammatory diet is foundational to a healthy immune system and pregnancy. Studies have shown the effectiveness of a gluten-free and dairy-free diet or, more ideally, the immune balancing autoimmune diet.

It’s important to approach conception and pregnancy with immune health in mind. This will not only reduce the risk of autism but also reduce susceptibility to other immune disorders, including asthma, eczema, food intolerances, allergies, and other brain developmental disorders (e.g., Tourette syndromeobsessive-compulsive disorderdepression, ADD/ADHD, etc.)

Nitric oxide for autoimmune and chronic disorders

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When it comes to autoimmune disease and other chronic health conditions, taming inflammation is the name of the game. This can be difficult because the body creates vicious cycles where inflammation keeps feeding more inflammation. This makes halting the progression of autoimmune disease and chronic health issues difficult…but not impossible.

However, we now know about nutritional ingredients that can boost anti-inflammatory efforts. These ingredients act on two inflammatory immune messengers called “nitrous oxide” and “IL-17.”

IL-17 is a pro-inflammatory immune cell that damages body tissue, such as the thyroid gland in autoimmune Hashimoto’s, the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, or the nerve sheaths in multiple sclerosis. IL-17 isn’t completely bad—it’s necessary to fight infection. But when the immune system becomes hyper zealous, IL-17 goes out of control and attacks the body it’s designed to protect.

IL-17 destroys tissue by activating a “inducible nitric oxide,” one of three forms of nitric oxide, a gas, involved in various processes in the body. Two other two forms of nitric oxide are beneficial and actually fight inflammation: endothelial nitric oxide and neuronal nitric oxide.

However, inducible nitric oxide is pro-inflammatory and damages body tissue under the orders of IL-17.

Therefore, one way we can stop the vicious cycle of inflammation is to dampen IL-17 and inducible nitric oxide. Luckily, there are nutritional compounds that help the body do this.

But first — perhaps you’ve heard of arginine to boost nitric oxide. Although arginine boosts the anti-inflammatory endothelial and neuronal nitric oxides, it also boosts inducible nitric oxide. So if you are fighting chronic inflammation, taking arginine may work against you.

It’s safer instead to take nutritional compounds that studies show support endothelial nitric oxide. These include:

  • Adenosine
  • Huperzine A
  • Vinpocetine
  • Alpha GPC
  • Xanthinol niacinate
  • L-acetylcarnitine

These compounds work synergistically taken together in an emulsified liquid form. Not only does boosting endothelial nitric oxide tame inflammation, it also helps repair and regenerate body tissue, promote blood flow, dissolve plaques, and dilate blood vessels. Start with small doses to gauge effects and tolerance. These compounds also support neuronal nitric oxide and thus the health of your brain and nervous system.

Exercise is another excellent way to boost beneficial nitric oxides. In fact, take these endothelial nitric oxide boosting compounds before getting your heart rate to maximum capacity for a few minutes first thing in the morning. This will optimize anti-inflammatory effects and support brain health.

You don’t have to exercise long — just a few minutes of raising your heart rate as high as you can has profound anti-inflammatory and brain supporting effects. Just be sure not to over train as that produces more inflammation. Also, how you get your heart rate up depends on your fitness level and abilities, so keep it safe and doable.

Other tools to tame inflammation include therapeutic doses of vitamin D3, omega 3 fatty acids, absorbable forms of glutathione  and therapeutic doses of emulsified resveratrol and curcumin. These compounds have been shown to dampen the the inflammatory vicious cycles associated with autoimmune and chronic disorders.

Of course, lifestyle and diet changes are vital too. This includes eliminating pro-inflammatory foods with the autoimmune diet and designing an inflammation-quenching lifestyle.

For help taming your chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorder, ask my office for advice.