By Teresa Conrick
The issue of HORMONES comes up often in Autism. For my daughter with an Autism diagnosis, it came up with catamenial seizures and aggression. This developed in tandem to an estrogen level 3x higher than the norm. Now, seven years later, I want to connect that horrific time in our lives with more current research on the MICROBIOME. Why? There is research showing important connections. It´s very possible that this is an area of AUTISM research that has not been explored enough. Here is the typical Autism research:
That´s all very interesting but......WHY is it happening? Not enough researchers are asking that question.
Let's look at connecting the dots to some other research that gives compelling data and shows connections to Autism.
Let's start with that last one, about Oxytocin -- "the Love Hormone":
Believe it or not, the whole issue of this nasal hormone infusion came up over 10 years ago, yet it is re-circulated in the news almost yearly as if it is -- brand new! That merry-go-round type of research needs to end.
These results are consistent with studies linking oxytocin to social recognition in rodents as well as studies linking oxytocin to prosocial behavior in humans and suggest that oxytocin might facilitate social information processing in those with autism. These findings also provide preliminary support for the use of oxytocin in the treatment of autism.
BUT, last year, this study made the rounds and I believe it to be an IMPORTANT piece as to WHY Oxytocin has ANYTHING to do with AUTISM:
Other research groups are trying to use drugs or electrical brain stimulation as a way to reverse some of the behavioral symptoms associated with neurodevelopmental disorders -- but here we have, perhaps, a new approach," says senior author Mauro Costa-Mattioli, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine. "Whether it would be effective in humans, we don't know yet, but it is an extremely exciting way of affecting the brain from the gut."...The researchers believe that their work, which uses a human bacteria species [Lactobacillus (L.) reuteri ] to promote oxytocin levels and improve social behavioral deficits in deficient mice, could be explored as a probiotic intervention for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders in humans.
I´d like to point out that the mice who were low in Oxytocin had deficient amounts of Lactobacillus reuteri, ie... "reduced more than nine-fold" in that study. So there you have it. Chemicals from the gut bacteria are affecting the brain , ie...can explain SOCIAL deficits in Autism.
Here´s more on that BACTERIA - OXYTOCIN connection:
It is now understood that gut bacteria exert effects beyond the local boundaries of the gastrointestinal tract to include distant tissues and overall health. Prototype probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri has been found to upregulate hormone oxytocin and systemic immune responses to achieve a wide array of health benefits involving wound healing, mental health, metabolism, and myoskeletal maintenance. Together these display that the gut microbiome and host animal interact via immune-endocrine-brain signaling networks.
A key concept there related to Autism - A bacteria can upregulate a hormone that increases socialization and it also helps the IMMUNE SYSTEM -- meaning they are most likely connected.
More dots to this microbe - hormone connection for Autism Spectrum Disorder:
....specific changes in hormone levels correlate with the presence of the gut microbiota. The microbiota produces and secretes hormones, responds to host hormones and regulates expression levels of host hormones......Estradiol and progesterone enhance bacterial growth.
....Changes in expression of the estrogen receptor, ER-β, also affect the intestinal microbiota composition (Menon et al., 2013). This interaction goes both ways, as several types of bacteria have also been implicated in steroid secretion or modification (Ridlon et al.,2013). For example, Clostridium scindens converts glucocorticoids to androgens, a group of male steroid hormones (Ridlon et al.,2013). Intestinal bacteria also play a significant role in estrogen metabolism, because use of antibiotics leads to lower estrogen levels (Adlercreutz et al., 1984)......Microbes raise testosterone levels in male NOD mice......
This type of research needs to be explored for Autism as the connections can explain much. Here, 15 years ago, Dr. Sydney M. Finegold did excellent research on the bacteria of the MICROBIOME in Autism, as reported here in the book, Autism, Brain, and Environment https://tinyurl.com/ybcgkmhd:
"There is also good evidence of abnormal bacteria in the GI tract of ASD subjects. Stool analysis on 13 patients with regressive autism showed a dramatic increase in titers of the abnormal and potentially toxic Clostridia. The group of Clostridia is famously associated with severe disease including gangrene, botulism, and tetanus (depending on the particular strain). These specific hyper-toxic strains are rarely encountered in the GI tract; even so, Clostridium difficile is known to produce colon inflammation with abdominal pain and diarrhea, and is most commonly seen in patient treated with antibiotics that remove "normal" gut flora.
Finegold and colleagues  reported that titers of particular strains rose in ASD by up to seven orders of magnitude (10 million-fold) compared to controls. Titers of C. ramosum and C. scinden (identified by DNA sequencing) were respectively 6x10 (7) and 9 x 10 (7).
That C. scinden bacteria is VERY elevated in Autism and above it, we see that ¨Clostridium scindens converts glucocorticoids to androgens, a group of male steroid hormones.¨ The realization and significance of that has NEVER been discussed in AUTISM. I cannot stress enough that as these children hit puberty, and many, many even before then, develop levels of hormones that cause seizures, agitation, and aggression, with physical and emotional pain. Here´s that study, again not discussing AUTISM, but I think very related: Clostridium scindens: a human gut microbe with a high potential to convert glucocorticoids into androgens.
I believe this to be another pivotal role in the AUTISM-MICROBIOME connection. The spectrum of Autism may have much to do with the interactions of the Microbiome. HORMONES are another big clue.