Over the weekend I read an interesting little article on the status of fecal microbiota transplant as a therapy for treating autism.[i] It most certainly is one of the more promising treatments: the two clinical trials so far have had pretty spectacular results. That’s the good news. The bad news…well, read to the end of this and you’ll find out!
According to this paper, 30-50% of people with ASD have chronic GI symptoms ranging from constipation to diarrhea, while other studies state that up to 78% actually suffer from issues, if more mild ones are included. (In my personal experience, it’s at least 78%. Many people don’t report constipation as a problem because they’ve actually come to believe it is normal!)
(One note: The author interchangeably use the two acronyms FMT (fecal microbiota transplant) and IMT (intestinal microbiota transplant).
A few points then of particular interest to me, and, judging by the emails I got when I asked you for your suggestions for posts in the survey I conducted a couple of weeks ago, to you was well:
Toward the end, the authors very briefly mention that other means of modulating the gut flora are being explored, including the casein/gluten free diet and FODMAPS. The evidence of these diets making any meaningful difference to children with autism is mixed for the former and non-existent for the latter. I found it extraordinary that even now, there was no mention made of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet which has long ranked as the most beneficial diet for children on the autism spectrum, according to the data presented by the Autism Research Institute…and which as true scientific merit, as I talk about in multiple articles on this blog, like here and here. I found that enormously disappointing…especially in light of the fact that not all children in the study maintained there gains. The first thought that went through my head upon reading that trial originally was, “Well, what were those children eating?” Why would anyone expect them to maintain gut health and bacterial diversity if they went home to a diet of French fries and Chicken McNuggets?
The paper concludes with the researchers’ expert opinion that more research is needed and that “…within five to ten years we anticipate that MTT [microbial transplant therapy] may become commercially available for treating gastrointestinal disorders in children wand adults with ASD, with additional development of optimized microbiota over the following five to ten years.”
That will bring my son to his 45th birthday, perhaps.
And then they wonder why it is that the victims of these chronic illnesses and their families end up self-treating.
[i] Adams, JB, Borody, TJ, Kang, D-W, Khoruts, A, Krajmalnik-Brown, R, Sadowsky, MJ. Microbiota transplant therapy and autism: lessons for the clinic. Expert Review of Gastoenterology & Hepatology. 2019;13(11). https://doi.org/10.1080/17474124.2019.1687293