Autism Part II

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Autism, although formerly a rare disorder, has increased more than 10 fold in the past 20 years; from an estimate 5 or 6 cases per 10,000 children to 65 cases per 10,000 diagnosed.  It is considered now to be an epidemic.  There are disputes as to why the numbers are increasing; is it due to an actual rise in the number of cases, the increasing public awareness due to publicity, or better diagnostic tools that we have in today’s society (Marcason)? Autism has been linked with various inborn errors of metabolism; genetic abnormalities such a fragile X syndrome; rubella and other pathogens; thalidomide exposure; and various other factors. There is also evidence of a connection with vaccinations and the toxic mercury contained within them.   Genetic predisposition, metabolic abnormalities and abnormalities of the gastrointestinal hepatic and immune systems may also predispose autistic vaccine sensitivity (Kidd 23).  There are many theories why there is such an increase in autism cases in today’s society.   Doctors recommend that early intervention is key and can maximize the quality of life for children with autism. More than half of the immune system develops from within the gut, which may help to understand the underlying factors with autism.  The work of the gastrointestinal tract is key to digesting foods, absorbing nutrients and preventing toxins from entering the circulatory system.  An Autistic child may have partial impairment or complete impairment of these functions.  A large percentage of autistic children suffer from nutritional problems; such as poor diet, feeding problems food allergies, food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.   It is hypothesized that some autistic symptoms (stereotypical and ritualistic behaviors, perseveration, excessive activity, speech and language delays, and oddities) may be the result of opioid peptides formed from the incomplete breakdown of foods containing gluten and casein.  Increased intestinal permeability, also referred to as they “leaky gut syndrome,” allows these peptides to cross the intestinal membrane, enter the blood stream, and cross the blood-brain barrier, affecting the endogenous opiate system and neurotransmission within the central nervous system (Elder 584).  This would explain why autistic children have the presentation of gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and reflux.  These children are unable to express their distress and, as a result, often exhibit behavioral issues (i.e. screaming, aggression, etc.)    

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