Autism and Your Gut

You hear and read a lot these days about the possible connections between childhood vaccines and the soaring rates of autism and autism spectrum disorders. But Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride (author of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and Donna Gates (author of The Body Ecology Diet) both have a different story to tell.

In the video below, they join forces to discuss what they feel is a major contributing factor to autism: poor digestion, particularly in relation to developing a healthy balance of gut flora.

In Dr. Campbell-McBride’s practice, the mothers of autistic children all universally had imbalanced or poor gut flora. According to her, babies are born with a sterile gut, and their gut flora is populated within the first 20 days of their life. Their primary source of intestinal flora is from their mothers. So, poor gut flora in mothers = poor gut flora in babies. She gives four primary causes for this biological imbalance:

  1. The mothers were not breastfed. They were raised in a time when breastfeeding went out of fashion, so they did not inherit their mother’s intestinal flora in the breast milk.
  2. The mothers took antibiotics. Of course, antibiotics have a devastating effect on all intestinal flora (the good along with the bad).
  3. The mothers took hormonal birth control pills. As with antibiotics, there is a proven link between oral contraceptives and damaged gut flora.
  4. Modern diets. Whether it’s our lack of living, enzyme-rich foods, or the over abundance of sugar and alcohol in our diets, we eat in a way that encourages the growth of pathogens and bad bacteria in our gut.

Imbalanced intestinal flora causes malabsorption of nutrients in the gut. You could be feeding yourself or your children the healthiest foods on the planet, but if your digestion isn’t working properly, you will not be well. Rather, the over abundance of bad bacteria in your gut will not only destroy the gut lining, it will also use the nutrients in your food to flourish and produce toxins. These toxins then get absorbed into your blood stream, weakening your immune system, taxing your organs, and throwing multiple body systems out of balance. Furthermore, these toxins can also cross over the blood brain barrier in the right conditions (conditions usually created by the current vaccine schedule in the U.S.).

This is why autism has gone from being a disease affecting 1 in every 10,000 to 1 in every 150 in just ten short years.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to heal your child from autism, watch Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6!

Here’s a hint: it’s much more complicated than a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Although that does help, it doesn’t help heal the gut.

In addition to detoxing using healthful, natural foods, both ladies also recommend adding fermented foods and probiotic supplements. You can find good sources of these on my new Resources page.

(photo by wes4ua)


  1. says

    I find this very interesting. I am so happy that Dr. Campbell-McBride made these videos. It will help tide me over while I wait for her book to arrive.

    May I ask your opinion? How important do you feel getting tested for things like yeast overgrowth are before starting something like the GAPS diet?

    I have a daughter with some difficulties. I’m not sure exactly what they are, but she definitely has many struggles (including sensory issues) and could fit into the ADD or Aspergers categories. We also have a nephew with autism.

    I’d like to get her tested, but can’t find a doctor who will listen to me :) I’ve also seen a place where you can do the Organic Acid Test (the one for yeast overgrowth) online. It is just so expensive.

    I don’t imagine it would hurt to do probiotics and some dietary changes without testing. However, I know the GAPS diet is a huge undertaking and one that I might not feel so confident in if I didn’t know for sure there was a digestive problem.

    Sorry to come out of the blue with a big comment! I’ve been reading here for the past 2 months and have learned a lot! We are making a lot of changes, including adding raw milk, pastured eggs, real butter and grass-fed beef. Thanks for the work you put into this blog.


    Stacy@Delighting in the Days

  2. says

    Stacy — If budgetary constraints are an issue, I’d say there’s no need to test. The GAPS diet (and the BEDROC diet) will not harm you or your child at all. Since there’s no risk involved and a LOT to gain (health & mental stability!), I’d simply try it on for a month or two and then re-evaluate things from there. Obviously, that’s not enough time to heal you or your daughter, but it is certainly enough time to decide if the diet is making a difference. If you’re worried about the stress of keeping such a restrictive diet (particularly in its early stages), then perhaps start doing the “normal” go-to things like eliminating sugar & starches, introducing a lot more fermented foods, switching to fermented beverages (particularly coconut kefir and kombucha), and taking probiotic supplements. You should immediately notice your bodies detoxing (with cold-like symptoms, etc.), and then you should start to feel a bit better. If after a couple of months of this you’re not seeing the improvement you were hoping for, consider going full-blown GAPS.

  3. Edd says

    I’ve seen many children with Autism who have digestive trouble. However, I have never seen any research that has pointed to these problems as the CAUSE for Autism as Dr. Campbell-McBride has claimed in this video. I would be VERY interested to see research that makes the causative connection. I am sure that her diet plan could help many symptoms experienced by individuals with Autism. I have difficulty believing that it can CURE autism.

    I would also like to see verifiable, reproducible research that implicates vaccinations in CAUSING Autism. As far as I know the evidence for these claims is coincidental in nature, i.e. there is not enough information to determine whether vaccines are the CAUSE of Autism.

    For those who would flame me, please know that I want a cure as badly as anyone else. I’m just not willing to drink every bottle of snake oil I come across until I find it.

  4. says

    Edd — I can’t imagine anyone flaming you for asking for proof. I’d recommend you read Dr. Campbell-McBride’s book (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) for her treatment of the evidence. Also, why not watch the other videos in this series and see if her surface level treatment of the material makes sense?

  5. says

    That is a fascinating theory, and overall makes sense as a contributing factor. If the body can’t process the many toxins most of us consume it all builds up – along with the mercury and heavy metals in vaccines. I wish I could remember more details about what was said at a recent seminar on toxins, but there was a story about a family who had themselves tested for various toxins and they were surprised to see that among the four of them (2 adults, one 7 year old and an 18 month old) the 18 month old far surpassed them all in the amount of toxins built up in the body. The reason was in part because mother’s pass on any toxins in their system directly to the fetus. Plus the toxins in the environment are exponentially growing so more is being passed on. Very scary stuff – especially hearing about heavy metal exposure from vaccines and amalgam fillings. It is no wonder there are an increasing amount of health problems in children.

    Earth Friendly Goodies

  6. says

    wow, this is unbelievable and so scary! 1 in 150 is such a staggering number. how would you know whether you have bad gut flora? would you have problems going to the bathroom or indigestion? yeast infections? is there a way to test for this? my mom did not breast feed me, but ALOT of mothers didn’t when i was younger. what if you cannot breast feed, is there any way to build that flora in the baby? so many questions. i will visit all the links. great info to pass on! thanks!

    Morta Di Fame

  7. cathy says

    Morta you would know if your flora was damaged. If you feel great physically and mentally and enjoy a good shit most days then you’ve probably got healthy gut flora.
    I’ve read Natasha’s book GAPS and its amazing. It put another huge peice of the puzzle together for me, together with WAPF ( ).
    For mothers who truly can’t breastfeed (and most women can) there are real whole food formula recipes at WAPF. No baby should ever be fed a conventional baby formula.

  8. says

    Thanks so much for offering your opinion about testing. I really appreciate it.

    I watched all of the videos by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride and Donna Gates. They were very interesting and informative. I am really looking forward to reading the Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

    Thanks again!

  9. Jessica says

    I would add to the list of primary causes of bad gut bacteria…Cesarean Section. It now accounts for 37% of births in the US and all those babies are being born without catching the bacteria from their moms as they normally would. With C-sections skyrocketing, this will surely have consequences in the coming years.

  10. Shannon says

    Watched an interesting show last night on the Nature of Things (in Canada) and they talked exclusively about gut flora and austism. The numbers are staggering now, at 1 in 90 children will have autism. They compared Somali immigrants coming to Canada, and how some of them have two of four children with austim. They come from a very underdeveloped country to one that is very high in pollutants, including all the poison that we dump on our food to keep it safe. There has to be a correlation here. Keep up the good work! Love your site!

  11. Carrie Hogan says

    Hi I’m with Morta. Can you answer those questions some more please? So many questions. I have an 8 week old about to get a Hooping couch shot,because of all this outbreak…and I am wondering how do I know if I have bad gut flora? I was prone to yeast infections in the past, a leaky butt, and I have Thrush. Is there a way to test for this? What can I do to make sure that I don’t? My mom did not breast feed me. I am breastfeeding, and supplementing. Is there any way to build that flora in the baby?Is there a test that the baby can get before I get the shot? I appreciate any help I can get..I am heading to the doctor this week and I want to make sure I do the right thing. Thank you so much.

  12. Chris says

    I have a child with autism(among other problems). I can tell you from my son’s personal experience that diet and environmental exposure does affect the symptoms BUT does not cure it. We follow a lactal-paleo diet now.
    Here’s how we made the food-autism connection. A few yrs ago our family got a vicious stomach bug with violent vomitting and diarrhea. We could bearly hold down water for days. When our son began ‘coming back’ my husband and I looked at eachother in shock bc for the first time in his 4yr life he spoke TO us. It wasn’t difficult to see the connection.
    I began researching and eliminated gluten and casein and everything artificial. We continued to see improvement when progressing to paleo. I highly recommend reading dr. Martha Herbert’s book The Autism Revolution. She explains how reducing negative environmental factors while increasing positive ones (like food) brings our kids with neurological disfunction to a higher state of functioning. A great read with lots of easy to implement strategies to improve lives of those suffering neurological disorders.
    Not related to food but another great read is dr. Ross Greene’s The explosive child, which covers a method of parenting/teaching all types of challenging kids.

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