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Category: Allergies

Allergies and Autism

Allergies and Autism

Springtime brings warmer temperatures, longer days and beautiful blooming flowers and trees; but along with all of nature’s beauty springtime is often the time when we see a rise in pollen and a rise in the sneezing and runny noses. Allergens send the body’s immune system into overdrive, leading to allergy symptoms such as sneezing, and itching when exposed to environmental allergens. Food allergies or sensitivities usually result in GI symptoms. Allergies are also frequently seen in children with autism; could there be a link between allergies and autism?

First, let’s make the distinction between intolerance and an allergy. An allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a wide range of symptoms and in severe cases it can be life-threatening. In contrast, intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and often limited to digestive problems. A classic example of intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (milk sugar) resulting in GI distress including stomach pain, bloating and diarrhea. Anaphylaxis is an extreme example of an allergy where there is a whole-body response that can be life-threatening and must be treated quickly.

Food allergies are extremely common in children with autism with approximately 1 in 13 children having a food allergy and 1 in 40 reporting a life threatening food allergy. Food allergies are one of the main causes of ADHD according to a 2001 study in the Lancet. It is also recognized that allergies to chemicals, molds and other environmental agents can also cause behavioral changes.

Food allergies can, in fact, produce inflammation throughout the body. Food allergies result from a strong immune response to a food, and the resulting inflammation can involve multiple body systems. With classic food allergies, this immune response involves a particular antibody, IgE (immunoglobulin type E). Another inflammatory food response that is appearing more frequently is eosinophilic esophagitis. Eosinophilic esophagitis is not a classic food allergy but the resulting inflammation produces changes in the cell lining of the esophagus which can lead to a difficulty is swallowing. Avoiding the offending foods allows the esophagus to heal, along with the rest of the GI tract.

The gut is integral to the immune system and the brain and will react immediately when exposed to an offending agent. Avoidance of the allergen and incorporating antioxidants into the diet may assist in decreasing inflammation associated with food intolerances in children with autism. Focus Formulations products can help with dietary deficiencies associated with autism. Our products contain antioxidants to calm inflammation and combat the effects of oxidative stress while supplying the needed nutrients for healthy learning and sleep.