Autism encompasses a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, communication and repetitive behaviors. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning the symptoms can be classified in terms of their position on a scale.
Autism Speaks1 points out there is not just one type of autism but many subtypes influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Each individual has a distinct set of strengths and challenges affecting how they learn, think and problem-solve.
In some cases, people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) require significant support, while others can live independently and hold high-functioning positions. Several factors are thought to influence the development of the condition.
It's widely known that autistic children often suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) problems, with those experiencing the worst GI problems often having the most severe cases of autism. Recent research2 again highlights the intriguing link between the gut and the brain, and how dysfunction in the gut-brain axis influences ASD traits.
Genetics cannot explain autism epidemic
In most children, symptoms of ASD appear by age 2 or 3, although symptoms of associated developmental delays may appear even earlier. In the late 1970s, researchers discovered pairs of identical twins often shared ASD, demonstrating the condition has a genetic component.3
However, genetics are by far not the only, or even primary, risk factor. Research4 from Stanford University School of Medicine, published in 2011, which again looked at twins, discovered fraternal (dizygotic) twins were more likely to share an autism diagnosis than identical (monozygotic) twins.
Fraternal twins share only half their DNA, while identical twins share 99.99%,5 which means something other than genetics is responsible for the higher rate of double diagnoses among fraternal twins. According to the researchers, environmental factors are the most likely culprit. In conclusion, they stated that "Susceptibility to ASD has moderate genetic heritability and a substantial shared twin environmental component."
This is not an entirely surprising finding. There is no such thing as a genetic epidemic; hence genetics simply cannot be used as an explanation for the exponential growth in autism cases. Indeed, research6 published in 2008 found de novo mutations (new mutations that spontaneously arise) associated with autism were present in just 1% of children diagnosed with autism.
Environmental risk factors for autism
Instead, the majority of autism cases appear to result from the activation or expression of a number of different genes, and there are several epigenetic and environmental factors that can trigger them. Among them:
• Toxic exposures, such as the heavy metals aluminum and mercury from contaminated sea food and vaccines, toxic microbes such as viruses and mold, glyphosate and electromagnetic fields from cellphones and Wi-Fi, just to name a few.
• Brain inflammation triggered by encephalitis following vaccination, defective placenta, immature blood-brain barrier, immune response to the mother to infection while pregnant, premature birth and toxins in the environment.7
• Gut inflammation triggered by an imbalanced microbiome. Contributing factors include C-section, abnormal microbiome in the mother, bottle-feeding with infant formula and a processed food diet.
Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride believes brain toxicity stemming from gut toxicity, otherwise known as Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), is a key factor that sets the stage for autism, especially when vaccines are added into the mix.
According to Campbell-McBride, toxicity flowing from the child's gut clogs the brain with toxicity, preventing it from performing its normal function and process sensory information.