Autoimmunity and Autism

Children with autism have autoimmunity, and, as a result, autism is an autoimmune disorder. This article discusses the link between autoimmunity and autism.

What Is Autoimmunity?

Autoimmunity is a unique immune response that is very common in our modern world today because of the very toxic environment, lifestyle and dietary choices people make today. Children are the most vulnerable humans on the planet.

When the body fails to recognize its own healthy cells and tissues and creates autoantibodies to attack them as foreign invaders, then this response is referred to as autoimmunity. When autoantibodies are formed they attack the body’s own cells, tissues and organs and ignite an inflammatory response.

Affected individuals, such as children, may experience many symptoms, such as:

These symptoms ultimately lead to an autoimmune disorder or an autoimmune disease because the body doesn’t differentiate between healthy cells and foreign invaders (antigens), so the immune system eventually destroys its own healthy tissue.

Brain Autoantibodies and Autism

Autism is an autoimmune disorder with a unique twist. Many children with autism have autoantibodies created by their severe leaky gut condition, and unique autoantibodies have also been found in their brains. Brain autoantibodies have been found to cause severe inflammation in the brain, destroy brain neurons, increase demyelination and severely affect neurological functioning.

In 2000, autism researcher Dr. Vijendra Singh stated that, “elevated autoantibodies to brain proteins… brain proteins known as myelin basic protein (MBP) of the myelin sheath, a fatty coating that insulates nerve fibers and is absolutely essential for higher brain functions… have been found in children with autism.” (See supporting research below in the Sources & References section.)

Early exposure to viruses and heavy metals such as ethylmercury, lead, aluminum and arsenic may have lead to the high levels of brain autoantibodies found in children with autism. Brain autoantibodies are also common only to a handful of neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Guillain-Barre.

Gastrointestinal Autoantibodies and Autism

Autoantibodies created by the leaky gut condition have been found in the intestinal mucosal barrier, which is the first line of immune defense of the gastrointestinal tract. Mucosal immune cells make up approximately 70% of the immune cells, so gastrointestinal autoantibodies affect immune functioning. Autoantibodies attack the gut lining and cause chronic inflammation.

Inflammation causes detrimental effects to the integrity of the mucosal barrier, the protective secretory IgA, which leads to increased permeability, and harmful substances such as toxins, antigens and microorganisms can enter into the intestines and blood stream. This inflammatory process by the autoantibodies creates an autoimmune factor in the gastrointestinal tract which triggers a number of gut symptoms in children with autism.

Children with autism not only have eating, feeding and dietary problems but can also have chronic constipation, diarrhea, gastroesophageal reflux, bloody stools, vomiting, pain, and intestinal gas. Signs of gastrointestinal inflammation such as lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, enterocolitis, gastritis and esophagitis may also be present as well.

Gastrointestinal autoantibodies trigger all kinds of food sensitivities and food intolerances, such as gluten and casein and malabsorption issues, which are also associated with gastrointestinal abnormalities in children with autism. All of these gastrointestinal symptoms increase symptoms of autism.

Folate Autoantibodies (FRA)

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is used to treat anemia but does not cross the blood brain barrier (BBB). Folate in the active form is called 5 methyltetrahydrofolate (5MTHF) and does cross the BBB if it’s attached to a folate receptor. 5MTHF is needed for the production of some very important neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Folate deficiency is also implicated in ADHD, autism, depression and other psychiatric disorders. In addition, folate is very crucial to the functioning of the genetic mutation MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase).

Studies have shown that 98% of children with autism have one or two copies of the MTHFR gene mutation. Defects in the methylation process such as the MTHFR may have an effect on many neurological functions and also the body’s ability to detoxify. Such defects in the methylation process may affect speech, language, auditory processing, reading comprehension, focus and concentration and socialization.

Furthermore, methylation is critical to the production of glutathione, which is the master antioxidant that excretes environmental toxins and pathogens out of the body. Having normal levels of glutathione enables the body to excrete the environmental toxins efficiently.

All of these functions are important for children with autism; therefore, folate is necessary to support the functioning of the methylation process for every child. Children with autism have been found to have disrupted folate metabolism due to autoantibodies to the folate receptors.

Folate-receptor autoantibodies interfere with the brain’s ability to transport folate across the BBB. In other words, the folate receptors, which are needed to transport folate across the BBB to the brain, cannot do so because of the autoimmune factor of the folate autoantibodies.

Dr. Richard Frye’s 2013 study found that folate receptor antibodies were present in 75% of the 93 children with autism that were in his study. The children were treated with Leucovorin, a folic acid derivative, and found to make improvements in verbal communication, receptive and expressive language, focus and concentration and stereotypical behavior.

5MTHF and folinic acid are two active folate supplements that can also be taken as well to increase folate in the brain.

Cerebral Folate Deficiency (CFD) syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is usually caused by folate receptor autoantibodies that disrupt folate metabolism (transporting of folate across the BBB). Many children with autism have CFD and have made improvements after having been treated with active folate or Leucovorin. If you think your child may have FRA, ask your doctor about this special test to determine folate autoantibodies:  Iliad Neurosciences

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Sources & References