Autism and Digestive Problems

A new study in Pediatrics has a brief but useful summary of the evidence linking autism and digestive problems. Here’s one study. Here’s a review, with this abstract:

Recent publications describing upper gastrointestinal abnormalities and ileocolitis have focused attention on gastrointestinal function and morphology in [autistic] children. High prevalence of histologic abnormalities in the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon, and dysfunction of liver conjugation capacity and intestinal permeability were reported. Three surveys conducted in the United States described high prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autistic disorder.

There is also evidence that immune dysfunction is associated with autism.

I believe that few people in America eat enough bacteria — in practice, this means not enough fermented food — and that this causes digestive and immune problems. A vast number of people will say, “of course, good food is really important, bad food causes X, Y, and Z” — where X, Y, and Z can be practically anything. The difference between my views and theirs is the prescription: They inevitably think that people should eat more fresh unprocessed food. (Usually fruits and vegetables, for some curious reason.) Fermented food, of course, is not fresh and not unprocessed.

5 Replies to “Autism and Digestive Problems”

  1. Yes, but when someone like Pollan talks about processed food, he means some “process” that was invented in the last 50-75 years that usually involves splitting corn into its component parts and turning it into something that will fool your body into thinking its good for you. Fermented food has been part of humans’ diets long enough for some co-evolution to take place.

  2. “Raw” is also not inconsistent with fermented or bacteria laden food. See e.g. — a major supporter of the hygiene hypothesis, and whose books include recipes for fermenting raw meat in your refrigerator… as well as many more tasty raw recipes, including many that use unrefrigerated eggs. I eat most of my meats raw (although not fermented) and I don’t refrigerate my eggs. (But I don’t just get them from the grocery store, either.)

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