There may be a connection between autism and intestinal flora in a child’s digestive tract. A study which analyzed fecal samples in 20 autistic children and 20 children without autism showed that the autistic children had not only significantly less microbial diversity but lower amounts of three types of intestinal flora. A decreased microbial diversity may potentially leave a person more vulnerable to harmful bacteria. (1)
This study was conducted because autistic children experience a lot of gastrointestinal issues that may persist into adulthood (1). It has been suspected that imbalances in intestinal flora are the cause, while other studies have suggested it triggers inflammation that spreads to the brain contributing to autism symptoms (2). It has been shown that the behavior of autistic children dramatically improves when these gastrointestinal issues are managed. Studies such as this may lead to new methods to treat autism-associated gastrointestinal issues, and improve diagnosis, prevention and treatment of autism (1).
This study showed a connection between autism and intestinal flora but did not prove that changes in intestinal flora are the cause of autism (1). However, this study brings us closer to understanding the relationship as well as the need to approach the treatment of autism with a whole body view (2).