Probiotics May Help Reduce Signs of Autism

In 2012, US Patent offices published a patent on probiotic therapy by a group of researchers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The gut bacteria of a child are inherited from the mother or influenced by birth.

Sarkis Mazmanian and Paul Patterson, researchers leading the CalTech team, have put together a protocol for reducing symptoms of autism based on their research in mice.

In previous studies, Mazmanian and Patterson found that the offspring of mice infected with fragments of the flu virus were more likely to exhibit signs of:

  • Repetitive and compulsive behavior
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Limited interaction with others

cocobiotic-750-big_1Research shows that good gut bacteria are essential to support children with autism. Drinking a probiotic beverage is one of the quickest ways to inoculate the gut with friendly bacteria.

According to Patterson, viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy increases the risk of a mother’s child developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).1

Within this group, Patterson also found abnormalities in the gut and the immune system. The pups of mothers that had been infected with fragments of the flu virus all showed signs of a “leaky” or permeable gut.

The gut bacteria were also significantly different—so much so, that Mazmanian and Patterson fed mice with autism-like symptoms a probiotic cocktail of beneficial bacteria. They focused specifically on the species Bacteroides.

Researchers found that by changing the inner ecology of the pups, they could correct or prevent abnormalities in behavior. There was also evidence that the probiotic helped to heal leaky gut and turn off the molecules that signal a response from the immune system.

Our Inner Ecology Protects Our Children from Autism

In the past, there have been other studies that confirm the value of good bacteria in the gut of those with autism. Frequently, those with autism will show signs of digestive distress, such as bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. Often, these signs of digestive problems appear around the same time as the behavioral symptoms.

What researchers often fail to remember is that the gut bacteria of a child are inherited from the mother or influenced by birth.

The birth canal is lined with healthy lactic-acid producing bacteria. As we are born, we are coated with these bacteria. On the other hand, when we are born through cesarean section, we are mostly colonized by bacteria found on the skin.

In 2010, Jeremy Nicholson at Imperial College London investigated 39 children with autism, 28 of their non-autistic siblings, and 34 unrelated children.2 Analyzing their urine, Nicholson found that each group had a distinct chemical “fingerprint.” The fingerprint of the children with autism was significantly different. Nicholson explains that, “The signature that comes up is related to gut bacteria.”

In a study published in January 2015 in Physiology & Behavior, researchers observed that Slovakian children with autism had different fecal microbiota than their siblings. Autism severity was also correlated with gastrointestinal dysfunction severity. A probiotic supplement helped to normalize this fecal bacterial imbalance in the children.3

These findings support what researchers have been saying for years. In a 2015 article published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers referred to the phenomenon of gut microbes shaping human behavior as the “collective unconscious.” In translation, gut bacteria participate in an unconscious system in the body that influences behavior. Gut microbes can impact brain function and behavior patterns. Probiotics (also called psychobiotics) and prebiotics may soon be used in mental health treatment.4

Researchers confirm that both nutrition and environmental factors can “activate” a genetic predisposition to autism.5 Probiotic supplements for infants could help to reduce the risk of a neuropsychiatric disorder later in childhood.6 Altering gut microbiota with probiotics may provide a promising treatment option for neuropsychological disorders like depression and autism.7

For parents of children with autism, this may be the hope you have been looking for all along. The importance of good gut bacteria in children with autism can’t be denied.

Don’t Wait for a Diagnosis: Know the Signs of Autism

We currently diagnose autism with a series of behavioral tests. A clear diagnosis is not usually available until a child is two to three years old.

Many mothers to children on the autism spectrum have either struggled for years with Candida yeast overgrowth or have taken antibiotics before or during pregnancy. While doctors are not familiar with just how serious fungal infections can be, at Body Ecology we view autism as a disorder that arises from infection in the brain and the gut. And remember, gut bacteria and even Candida can be passed down from a mother’s inner ecosystem at birth.

In addition to digestive troubles like constipation and colic, one very early sign of Candida overgrowth in an infant is cradle cap. Most doctors brush cradle cap off as “dry skin” and normal. However, even if you remove the film of cradle cap from your baby’s head, it is a sign of underlying fungal overgrowth.

While not every infant with cradle cap will develop autism, cradle cap warns new parents that:

  • The immune system of their child may be weak
  • The inner ecosystem of their child may need extra support

The Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids (BEDROK) community can assist you whether you are planning on getting pregnant or already have a child who is on the autism spectrum.

To learn more, visit our BEDROK community.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Recent studies reveal that a viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy could increase the risk of a child developing autism. When researchers used probiotics to change the inner ecology of mice pups, they were able to correct or prevent behavioral abnormalities.

Many mothers of children with autism have struggled personally with Candida yeast overgrowth or have taken antibiotics before or during pregnancy. Autism may then stem in the child from a fungal infection in the gut or the brain.

Since gut bacteria in a child are influenced by birth, it’s critical to support their inner ecosystem with beneficial bacteria. Research has indicated that children with autism have distinctly different gut bacteria.

Parents can watch for signs of a fungal infection in their child, including cradle cap as an infant that can indicate Candida overgrowth. This is a warning sign that a child’s immune system may be weak and needs extra support.

For more information on gut health during pregnancy or autism, visit the Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids (BEDROK) community. It’s never too late!


  1. PH Patterson, et al. Modeling an autism risk factor in mice leads to permanent immune dysregulation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jul 31;109(31):12776-81. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1202556109. Epub 2012 Jul 16.
  2. JK Nicholson, et al. Urinary Metabolic Phenotyping Differentiates Children with Autism from Their Unaffected Siblings and Age-Matched Controls Proteome Res., 2010, 9 (6), pp 2996–3004. doi: 10.1021/pr901188e
  3. Physiology & Behavior 138 (2015) 179–187
  4. Journal of Psychiatric Research 63 (2015) 1e9
  5. Nutrition Research Reviews / Volume 27 / Issue 02 / December 2014, pp 199-214
  6. Pediatric Research (2015) doi:10.1038/pr.2015.51
  7. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015 Mar 16;11:715-23. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S61997. eCollection 2015.
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