The vast number of microorganisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract have been receiving more attention recently. There is increasing awareness that these many trillions of gut bacteria play a vital role in keeping us healthy and maintaining our immunity. Now there is research that indicates the ecosystem within could even play a part in treating autism.
Our gut bacteria have a range of duties, from assisting with the production of some vitamins and aiding digestion. Research has already indicated that the gut bacteria can influence diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and enterocolitis.
Almost every creature on the planet is home to a mass of bacteria and microorganisms known as the microbiome or microbiota. According to this report in The Guardian, changes in the microbiome can affect conditions ranging from asthma to diabetes and depression.
Managing autism with bacteria
Some new research has found a correlation between the diversity of gut flora and ASD (autism spectrum disorders). Clinical trial services have attempted to discover whether changing the gut flora reduced the symptoms of ASD. During one ten week trial, a group of young people suffering from ASD were given treatment consisting of taking antibiotics, followed by cleansing the bowels, and then transplanting healthy gut flora. After the trial the participants were monitored for positive effects and whether these were long lasting. The researchers reported that the results were very promising, with benefits on both behavioural and gastrointestinal symptoms previously apparent. It was noted that those who took part exhibited improved sleeping patterns, social interaction and a reduction in constipation and indigestion.
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Further research is needed to determine whether gut microbiome treatment is a reliable way of managing the symptoms of ASD. So far it appears that transplanting gut flora not only has an effect on the bacteria present but also changes the environment to be more hospitable to encouraging helpful bacteria. It is hoped that more trials can be conducted, incorporating placebo controls, to produce more data for consideration.a