Welcome to the twelfth in our special series sharing insights and recent research from the MEDMAPS 2023 Spring Conference attended by Dr. Potter. MAPS stands for Medical Academy for Pediatric Special Needs and arose from the original Defeat Autism Now organization initially serving parents and providers caring for children with autism spectrum disorder). This Spring Conference focused not only on autism research but on Lyme and other infections including COVID’s effects on children. Come back in the coming weeks to read more about what I learned at the conference so that Sanctuary can provider cutting edge care to your precious little ones.
As mentioned in the prior article on dysfunctional metabolic pathways leading to autism, autism is rising in prevalence at an alarming rate, with long list of potential triggers to investigate. In today’s article, connections between other immune disorders and autism take us away from the metabolic pathways to look at how immune disruption in allergic and autoimmune diseases contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Using epidemiological data from Taiwan’s National health Insurance Researcher Database, over 1 million children were evaluated for personal and family histories of these immune diseases to see if they correlated with autism occurrence. This would not prove causation, but their research does suggest that the immune system plays a significant role in the development of autism spectrum disorders.
The researchers devoted time and money into this effort as prior research often connected autism with immune diseases. They mention several studies which legitimized this paper. Some had noted that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) demonstrated an increased risk of allergic diseases. Other research linked increases in inflammatory cytokines with ADHD and ASD. Another genetic study highlighted genetic associations between ASD and autoimmune or allergic diseases.
By using the available health data in Taiwan, the paper authors wanted to determine if allergies or autoimmune disease in the children or their first-degree relatives increased the incidence of ASD or ADHD. For the allergic diseases, they considered asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema. For the autoimmune conditions they considered psoriasis, Sjogren syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. These diseases were easy to track and document in the health database.
They found a number of interesting connections. For ASD, the association with autoimmune diseases considered was insignificant, barring that siblings having lupus did increase the likelihood of ASD. On the other hand, allergic diseases in moms, dads, and full siblings were correlated with development of ASD in the child. Some allergic situations were, though, not significant: the father having eczema, the sibling having asthma, or the presence of allergic rhinitis. Interestingly, ADHD was more associated with the family history of autoimmune disease.
While this study obviously has limitations in focusing on one demographic group, inhabitants of Taiwan, and in not directly inspecting mechanisms, the information gleaned does suggest the need for further research into this area, particular its actual mechanics. One of the mechanisms about which they speculate is the derailment of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, as this is affected by inflammatory conditions. Several studies are mentioned in their article which support this hypothesis.
As we care for children in our office with ASD, we look for all the clues that might influence the child’s future neurodevelopment. While common patterns emerge, ultimately every child is unique, so we focus on the one sitting in front of us using information like this article so we can address every possible angle that manifests. Helping our pediatric patients achieve their healthier more abundant life requires this.
Li D-J, Tsai C-S, Hsiao RC, Chen Y-L, Yen C-F. Associations between Allergic and Autoimmune Diseases with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder within Families: A Population-Based Cohort Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(8):4503. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19084503
Medical Disclaimer: These essays are for educational purposes only. We assume no responsibility for your choice to implement something from these essays. Even if you are a patient of our clinic, you should consult with us before adding therapies. If you are not one of our patients, talk with your health care provider before trying any of these therapies.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.