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Easing ASD Symptoms: A Gut Instinct

Easing ASD Symptoms: A Gut Instinct

Getting an early diagnosis is beneficial in treating autism spectrum disease in children.

In the 1984 film Ghostbusters, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray and Dan Akyroyd were perfectly cast as the A-team of nerdy paranormal investigators. But Akyroyd, one of the authors of the screenplay, was especially suited to the project. He has Asperger’s (a condition that’s an autism spectrum disease) and that, he says, triggered his obsession with ghosts and law enforcement—he often carries a police badge and was fixated on Hans Holzer, a renowned ghost hunter—and sparked the idea for the film.

Autism spectrum disease (ASD) is getting more prevalent and may be triggered by a combination of environmental damage and genetic (inherited or epigenetic) predisposition. Treatments have been elusive, but a study in JAMA Pediatrics found diagnosing children as early as 14 months allows for earlier intensive behavioral interventions—often having far-reaching benefits for the rest of a child’s life. And a study published in Scientific Reports offers yet another way to manage ASD symptoms in children: Microbiota transfer, a special form of fecal transplant.

Researchers found that two years after the transfer the 18 ASD-diagnosed study participants showed a 45 percent decrease in symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems. And while 83 percent were rated as having "severe" autism when the study began, two years after treatment, 17 percent were "severe," 39 percent were "mild/moderate," and 44 percent were below the cut-off for mild ASD.

If your child has—or may have—ASD, talk to your doc about behavioral therapies and discuss the benefits of the microbiota transfer.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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