New Research Finds a Gut Health-Autism Link

Scientists now have more than just a gut feeling about the link between autism and the health of the digestive tract. Over the years they found that autistic children had more digestive issues than children who were not suffering from the disease, which led researchers at the Arizona State University in Tempe to explore what’s going on in the guts of those with autism.

Using a form of therapy known as microbiota transfer therapy (MTT) they assessed whether administering the bacteria from healthy people to those with autism could help with digestive issues and other symptoms of the disease. They found that people with autism tend to have poor bacterial diversity in their guts—in other words, they lack some of the bacterial species of healthy people. The lack of bacterial diversity appears to play a role in brain development or functions.

Published in the journal Nature, the researchers found that autistic children lacked Bifidobacteria and Prevotella bacteria in contrast to healthy individuals, leading them to believe that these bacteria play a role in the condition. After giving the children a “bacterial transplant” they found a 58 percent decline in gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as a 45 percent improvement in other symptoms, including: language, social interaction and behavior. While the latter changes happened slowly, the improvements were significant. The scientists also published their earlier research findings in the journal Microbiome.

The Gut and Brain Health

It is likely that the study results are due to a mechanism in the body known as the gut-brain axis. That essentially means that what happens in your gut plays a huge role in determining the health of your brain and can affect the health of those suffering from brain diseases like autism. That’s because your gut health plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy brain.

While the new research findings give us greater insight into the gut-brain axis and autism, more research is necessary to determine whether probiotic supplementation may be beneficial in the treatment of the disease. The results using MTT, or bacterial transplants, certainly were impressive and offer hope for those suffering from the condition, but more research is necessary.

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of brain and nervous system disorders involving repetitive patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are typically present from early childhood and affects the person’s daily ability to function. Spectrum refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills and disability levels that can occur in people with the disorder. Some people require assistance with basic functions while others are able to perform all the activities involved with daily living.

Symptoms of Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder

Because symptoms can vary greatly for those on the autism spectrum, it can be difficult to pinpoint exact symptoms of the condition. Here are some of the most common ones in children:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Difficulty responding to names or avoiding eye contact with other people
  • Lack of understanding on how to play with or engage with other children
  • Preference to be alone
  • Difficulty understanding other peoples’ feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Different verbal abilities ranging from no speech to fluent speech that is awkward or sometimes inappropriate
  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Repetition of phrases or giving unrelated answers to questions
  • Repetitive movements or unusual behaviors such as arm flapping, rocking from side to side, or twirling
  • Need for routine to the point that unexpected stops or new experiences can be challenging or cause anger or emotional outbursts
  • Some people experience depression, seizures and lack of focus

Related Stories:


Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, founder of Scentsational Wellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life. Follow her work.



Peggy B
Peggy Byesterday


Ingrid A
Ingrid A1 days ago


Jan S
Jan S3 days ago


Hui S
Hui S4 days ago

thanks for sharing. I recently read a similar gut-brain article tying in what we eat to Alzheimer's. what we eat nourishes the mind as well as the stomach.

Tania N
Tania N5 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Tania N
Tania N5 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Tania N
Tania N5 days ago

Thanks for sharing

Thomas M
Thomas M5 days ago

thank you for posting

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris5 days ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Christine V
Christine V5 days ago

More research needs to be done.