There is accumulating evidence that the gut microbiota plays an important role in autism

Little boy sitting in school class and writing.
Little boy sitting in school class and writing.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) involves a range of brain development challenges, affecting difficulties in social interaction, communication skills, repetitive behaviours and restricted interests. People with ASD process information uniquely in their brains, and nearly 70% experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea and GI pain. There is growing evidence highlighting the significant role of the gut microbiota in this context.

Microbiota-gut-brain axis

The influence of the gut microbiota extends beyond the GI tract. It plays an important role in the complex interplay between the GI tract and the central nervous system – known as the ‘gut-brain axis’.
Studies have indicated that disruption of the composition of gut bacteria can potentially cause the gut-brain axis to malfunction, leading to behavioural and gut problems linked to disorders like ASD.

Gut bacteria: mechanisms of action

Various direct and indirect mechanisms suggest how the gut microbiota may influence ASD symptoms.
Directly, it can stimulate the vagus nerve and production of substances that affect mood. Indirectly it can increase intestinal barrier permeability, allowing leakage of bacterial products to the blood, causing low-grade systemic inflammation.
This can impact brain function, potentially contributing to symptoms of ASD.

Probiotics and autism

Infographic of the gut balance.

Preclinical studies show that altering gut bacteria can influence behavioural and gut problems linked to ASD. This is where probiotics can potentially intervene. Multispecies probiotics can contribute to a healthy bacterial balance and diversity in the gut, with specific strains potentially positively affecting autism. They do this by interacting with nervous, immune, or hormonal systems, strengthening the intestinal barrier function and improving digestive enzymatic activity. Winclove Probiotics initiated a clinical study to explore probiotics’ potential in relieving ASD symptoms and improving the quality of life for affected children and their parents.