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Can Primal Defense’s HSOs Aid Autistic Children?
Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living Article Reprint – 2004

The following article discusses the connection of the gastro-intestinal tract to Autism. It also discusses the importance of probiotics and a specialized diet in supporting gastro-intestinal health. The doctor’s studies and research in this article provide a growing body of evidence that dysbiosis (bad bacteria invasion in the colon) can cause or contribute to Autism by creating toxins and altering chemicals in brain function.

First steps in science often come from observation—from patients and their doctors. In the case of children’s health and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD, of which autism is part), one of our initial reports on Primal Defense™ and its benefits in cases of autism came from a physician whose child suffers from autism.

Two years ago, through her contacts with the Autistic Society of Great Britain, Natasha Campbell-McBride, M.D., of Cambridge, England, learned of Primal Defense from Garden of Life. Parents attending this autism support group revealed that the homeostatic soil organisms (known as HSOs™) in Primal Defense had become an important part of their children’s recovery program. Dr. Campbell-McBride’s seven-year-old son, Normie, had been affected by autism from the age of three, and his condition was complicated by recurrent diarrhea. So, from another mother at the autism society, this physician acquired the HSO probiotic organisms specifically to relieve her son’s loose bowels, which they did do. Simultaneously, she observed that the HSOs also slowly but steadily rid Normie of his autistic symptoms, shown by his improvement in social interaction, the development of peer relationships, elimination of his use of repetitive language, and the stopping of repeat motor mannerisms.

Dr. Campbell-McBride holds a degree in medicine and a postgraduate degree in neurology. She is currently completing a second postgraduate degree in human nutrition. In her Cambridge Clinic she specializes in nutrition for children with learning disabilities, and adults with digestive and immune system disorders. A mother as well as a physician, Dr. Campbell-McBride is enthusiastic for Primal Defense as an autism treatment. “Children with autism do not have normal gut functioning,” the physician explains. “Often they are infected with Candida albicans and clostridium, and the metabolites of these cultures cause havoc with the gastrointestinal tracts of these autistic children.
“Such infected children fail to develop normally. But if the parents put their little patients on a dairy-free diet and supplement their food with Primal Defense, much improvement in their communication skills occurs,” Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride assures us. “By use of these probiotics, parents of autistic children will see a change for the better. Many symptoms of their autism disappear and do not return. This happened for my son.”

This initial report was so encouraging and we received so many similar reports from other parents of children with PDD or autism, they led us to research the annals of science to see what other health experts were saying with regard to autism and probiotics.

This is a very promising area of research. The evidence that probiotics can aid autistic children is newly emerging but makes sense.

Anyone who has read the Patient Heal Thyself book, by Jordan Rubin, knows that Jordan has often said the gut is the key to health, and, once again, we find this confirmation in newly emerging lines of thought when it comes to helping autistic children.

Novel Form of Mercury Poisoning?
Autism is a developmental disease characterized by a spectrum of symptoms ranging from decreased verbal skills and social withdrawal, to repetitive behavior and violent outbursts. Genetic analysis has yielded a few potentially interesting genes; however no clear linkage has been established, note experts. For this reason, it has been suggested that the etiology of autism may involve multiple causes. This, in large part, explains why so many different theories abound.

One such theory is that autism is caused or exacerbated by heavy metal poisoning. Environmentally acquired heavy metals including mercury, either through some causal contact or through vaccination, has been postulated as a major culprit. (Mercury is used as a preservative in some types of vaccinations.) Mercury is thought to be exerting its neurological effect on the brain. There are of course other areas of causation that are also critically important. But autism as a form of mercury poisoning is one of the areas that we need to take seriously.

The standard treatment parents of autistic children commonly use has been to apply medically prescribed chelating agents in an attempt to extricate the mercury.

But the human body has an amazing ability to detoxify itself when given the proper nutrients. “One missing component in the treatment is the utilization of the body’s own detoxification mechanisms,” notes autism expert Mark Brudnak, Ph.D., N.D. In several articles in the journal Medical Hypotheses, Dr. Brudnak combines several potential mechanisms associated with autism to construct a theory that explains how the condition could develop and progress, and how probiotics can help.

“Arguably,” he says, “the largest detoxification component of the body—the endogenous enteric bacteria—are an enormous reservoir, which can be constantly and safely replenished.”

Piecing Together The Puzzle Of Autism— Linking the Digestive Tract to the Brain
Next, we went to Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, which has been pioneering many different diagnostic tests that allow us to determine whether the gut flora of autistic children are in balance, and whether their intestinal tract suffers from excess permeability. Could there be a link between an imbalance of gut flora, intestinal permeability and autism? (By permeability, we mean that the gut is leaking and is allowing undigested chemicals to pass directly through into the bloodstream. Some of these compounds are thought to be toxic and manifest their toxicity as autism symptoms.)

Childhood vaccinations have been implicated in the onset of autism, while diet has been implicated in its subsequent prognosis, Dr. Brudnak points out. A strong gut-brain connection is also apparent, with poor digestive function often appearing as a hallmark of the disorder. That takes us back to Normie, the seven-year-old son of Dr. Campbell-McBride, M.D., whose initial symptoms were accompanied by severe gastrointestinal distress.

According to the Great Smokies Lab Connection newsletter [October 10, 2001;14(5)], “Dr. Brudnak speculates on the following chain of events. In early childhood, sensitivity to a vaccine, or a reaction to a mycobacterial infection, could disrupt pivotal molecular mechanisms that regulate how specific genes in the body switch ‘on’ or ‘off’—what’s known as genetic expression. This may trigger malfunctioning of the immune and gastrointestinal systems, particularly in gut-associated lymphoid tissue, which Dr. Brudnak cites as ‘a major contributor to the pathological manifestations of autism.’

“When this happens, proteins are no longer properly broken down in the digestive tract. Cells in gut tissue die off prematurely, as the gut lining becomes ‘leaky’ and unable to repair itself. Compounds in the diet, like casein and gluten, normally kept at bay, may then permeate into the bloodstream. Their activated by-products, called exorphins, could act directly on the brain to trigger opioid-like effects associated with autistic symptoms.

“Such a scenario could explain why restoring healthy gut barrier function in autistic children is a treatment approach that ‘has met with a degree of success,’ Dr. Brudnak observes. Enzyme therapy (which improves the gut’s ability to break down proteins) and probiotics (supplementation with beneficial gut microbes that help repair the intestinal lining) have both produced positive clinical results in autistic children, he points out.

“In most cases symptoms of autism begin in early infancy. However, a subset of children appears to develop normally until a clear deterioration is observed. Many parents of children with ‘regressive’-onset autism have noted their children were given antibiotics immediately prior to the regression and that such use was followed by chronic diarrhea. This leads to researchers to speculate that, in a subgroup of children, ‘disruption of indigenous gut flora might promote colonization by one or more neurotoxin-producing bacteria, contributing, at least in part, to their autistic symptomatology.’”

This line of thought stimulated recent research at the Section of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Rush Children’s Hospital, Rush Medical College, Chicago. To help test this hypothesis, researchers took 11 children with regressive-onset autism for an intervention trial using a minimally absorbed oral antibiotic. Short-term improvement was noted using multiple pre- and post-therapy evaluations. “These results indicate that a possible gut flora-brain connection warrants further investigation” as a “meaningful prevention or treatment in a subset of children with autism.”

Now let’s take this even further and look at what happens to the gastrointestinal health of children with chronic gastro-neurological-related disorders.

Chronic Immune Reactivity May Damage Intestine
“The challenge that many chronic disorders pose to modern medicine is that they often emerge as an interrelated tapestry of imbalances within the human body, rather than in response to a single, isolated cause,” notes the newsletter. “And autism may be a prime example of this.”

Many children with autism have chronic digestive problems. In fact, gastrointestinal symptoms in autistic children often first appear in conjunction with initial changes in emotion and behavior during the onset of autism, leading researchers to suspect a gut-brain connection.

A recent study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, lends strong support to this possible gut-brain link. Researchers performed a colonoscopy on 60 children with autistic spectrum disorders who also had symptoms such as stomach pain, constipation, bloating, and diarrhea. The autistic children had much greater evidence of intestinal lesions than healthy children or non-autistic children with similar digestive problems.

Over 90 percent of autistic children showed clinical evidence of chronic enterocolitis, such as lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, a six fold greater rate than found in the non-autistic children with inflammatory bowel disease.

“The pathology seems to reflect a subtle new variant of inflammatory bowel disease…” the researchers concluded, a type of “autistic enterocolitis.”

Enterocolitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the intestine. Researchers are not sure what could be causing the condition in children with autism, although it usually arises from chronic immune reactivity.

In autism, such immune responses might be triggered by substances in the diet (e.g., opioid peptides), viral agents (such as measles virus), mercury, or other causes, the researchers speculated.
The opioid peptide theory was first presented to the medical world in 1979. Excess peptides (breakdown products of dietary proteins) act as opioids affecting neurotransmitters within the central nervous system.

In the normal course of events, proteins are digested in stages by enzymes; firstly to peptides (the intermediate compounds), then to smaller amino acid components, which are absorbed into blood capillaries in the gut mucosa. The larger peptides are generally unable to cross this membrane barrier, but when they do, they can act as opioids affecting neurotransmitters in the brain causing abnormal behaviors and/or activity. This theory suggests a higher percentage of these opioid peptides reach the brain in autistic children.

These incompletely digested peptides—known as exorphins, casomorphins, and gluteomorphins—usually come from milk proteins such as casein or from wheat (gluten) and are structurally similar to morphine. In experimental studies, they have been shown to exert a morphine-like neurological influence. The formation of excess peptides in the gut is possibly associated with sub-optimal enzyme activity or an insufficient supply of enzymes required to breakdown these peptides. This may be genetic in origin, or caused by other factors, such as enzyme inactivity secondary to nutritional deficiency, or by altered gut microflora. So if we repair the imbalance of beneficial bacterial organisms in the gut and the gut lining, which we can with soil organisms, we have a chance to help some of our children with autism.

Indeed, a report from a dietician at the Royal Free Hospital, London and published in the Journal of Family Health Care recently discussed the link between autism and abnormal gut flora “and the use of probiotics and prebiotics in improving the integrity of the gut mucosa.”

“The gut-brain connection is now recognized as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine,” writes Eammonn M. M. Quigley, MD, in a related editorial, “and examples of gastrointestinal involvement in a variety of neurological diseases are extensive.”

Andrew Wakefield and colleagues have raised the possibility that a subset of children with pervasive developmental disorder (which includes autism), particularly those with a history of developmental regression and chronic gastrointestinal symptoms, have a disregulated immune response to measles antigen from the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. This has been suggested as a possible precipitating factor associated with intestinal abnormalities.

Did you know—What is PDD?
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) is an umbrella term used to describe a group of disorders, including autistic disorder, which involve delayed development of communication and social-interaction skills and particular behavioral abnormalities. Although both genetic factors and environmental insults have been implicated in the pathogenesis of PDD, the underlying causes remain poorly understood.

Primal Defense’s Role
Besides aiding repair of the gut lining and improving digestion, there is both anecdotal and clinical evidence that “soil-based organisms” can help with detoxification, notes a recent report from Clinical Pearls, one of the nation’s premiere nutrition newsletters. “Aerobic organisms have been shown to readily detoxify mercury. . . . According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 90% of methyl-mercury is excreted through bile in the feces. . . . With large numbers of probiotic bacteria, mercury can effectively be driven toward expulsion. The administration of probiotics would prevent any recycling of toxic mercury. Mercury can cause an autoimmune response.”

Obviously, we don’t know all the answers yet, but use of homeostatic soil organisms, what we at Garden of Life term HSOs, appears to be a promising lead in helping children with this very difficult-to-treat condition. If your child’s autism is accompanied by gastrointestinal distress, their potential to help might be further amplified.

Protocol for PDDs and the Autistic Child

Follow the diet prescribed in Chapters 8 to 10 of Patient Heal Thyself, as diligently as possible. Many children have poor health or even illness due to poor nutrition and improper detoxification. The improvement in diet and the addition of key nutrients can keep children healthy and may even aid in the reversal of many childhood health problems, especially as we find that these disorders are exacerbated or, in some cases, caused by gastrointestinal imbalances. By following the Maker’s Diet, I believe each child will have excellent health, improved learning ability and the potential grow into a healthy adult. It is also recommended to read Restoring Your Digestive Health by Dr. Jordan Rubin & Dr. Joseph Brasco to understand gastrointestinal health and therapeutic diet suggestions.

Therapeutic Foods
These therapeutic foods can help improve the health of the gastrointestinal tract and other related bodily systems:

  • Cultured goat’s milk dairy products: Consume eight to thirty-two ounces of the highest quality cultured dairy products from goat’s milk.
  • Grass-fed red meat: Red meat from grass-fed cattle, buffalo, and lamb is very healthy and can be eaten a few times per week. This meat is a great source of protein, minerals, vitamin B12, vitamins A and D, omega-3 fats, and conjugated linoleic acid.
  • Omega-3 eggs: Consume as many as one or two eggs high in omega-3 fatty acids each day. These eggs contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), vitamins E and B12, and antioxidants including lutein.
  • Extra Virgin Coconut oil: This oil is perhaps the healthiest of the widely available oils. I recommend cooking almost exclusively with coconut oil. Consume as much as two tablespoons per day of the oil in cooking, smoothies, or right off the spoon. It contains large amounts of lauric acid, a potent antimicrobial and one of the chief fatty acids in breast milk.
  • Ocean-caught fish: This type of fish is perhaps the healthiest of all protein sources. Wild (Alaskan) salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna are high in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaneoic acid and DHA. Ocean-caught fish can be consumed every day to enhance digestive and immune system health.
  • Icelandic Cod liver oil: Take ½ to one teaspoon of plain or flavored cod liver oil each day. The amount consumed should be based upon the amount of sunlight you receive. People in colder climates generally need to consume larger amounts. Cod liver oil is a fantastic source of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, as well as vitamins A and D. This is also available in caps and called Cod Mega.
  • Vegetable juice: Consume vegetable juices that are low in carbohydrates, such as celery and green juices mixed with a small amount of higher carbohydrate veggies such as carrot or beet. Mix in some form of healthy fat with each glass of the juice. One to three teaspoons of cultured goat’s milk, coconut oil, canned or fresh coconut milk and cream, or flaxseed oil enhances absorption of minerals and prevents spikes in blood sugar.
  • Fermented vegetables: Consume a few tablespoons of fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut with each meal to aid in digestion. Fermented vegetables are an excellent source of naturally occurring probiotics and enzymes.
  • Stocks: It is a great idea to consume stocks on a regular basis. Stocks made from the bones of chicken, fish, lamb and beef contain minerals, gelatin, cartilage, collagen, and electrolytes from the vegetables. Stocks are an excellent source of proteins, especially collagen. They help to heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation.

The following health supplements are recommended:

Primal Defense: Follow suggested use on bottle. Primal Defense is best taken first thing in the morning and right before bedtime. Primal Defense may be taken with other nutritional supplements, but it is recommended be taken one hour apart from medications. If you experience symptoms of detoxification (i.e., increased elimination, loose stools, constipation, excess gas, flu-like symptoms or fever), reduce the dosage and slowly increase to the recommended amount on bottle. Primal Defense is available in powder, which is easier for children’s serving sizes or is also available in caps.

Note: Children’s Serving Sizes: For Children, it is best to divide their body weight by 150 pounds (average adult weight) and give them that percentage of the suggested use on bottle. For example: If the child weighs 50 pounds, it is suggested to start the child with 1/3 of the suggested (adult) serving size.

OmegaZyme™: Follow suggested use on bottle. OmegaZyme could well be critical to aiding the digestive secretions of the autistic child and helping to completely digest and breakdown various potentially toxic proteins and peptides, thus alleviating one potential cause or contributor to autistic symptoms. See Children’s Serving Sizes above. OmegaZyme is also available in powder as well as caps.

Fruits of Life™: Use one to two tablespoons as part of a healthy diet. Fruits of Life is an excellent source of antioxidants and minerals and may be taken with water, juice, yogurt, mixed in cereal or smoothies, or even eaten right off the spoon.

Perfect Food™: Use one to three teaspoons once daily with eight ounces water or fruit or vegetable juice (works very well with apple juice or in a smoothie, see below).

Super Seed™: Consume one to three teaspoons twice per day, morning and evening, mixed in water or juice to ensure proper fiber intake. Super Seed Fiber can provide essential nutrients and help remove toxins from the colon.

SuperCritical Omega 7 by New Chapter – Is very helpful for restoring the intestinal gut lining. Use as directed on bottle.

CaProtein by Mt. Capra is a great source of pre-digested goat protein powder and contains probiotics. This can be used in a smoothie or mixed with liquids. See smoothie recipe that combines the Perfect Food, Fruits of Life and Goat Protein. It is great tasting and great for you.

Restoring Your Digestive Health book, by Dr. Jordan Rubin & Dr. Joseph Brasco This breakthrough book details Rubin's remarkable and successful battle with Crohn's disease by using his new, self-designed Guts and Glory Program, a revolutionary new diet and health regime. In this easy-to-understand manual, Jordan Rubin and Joseph Brasco give not only a guided tour of the major reasons why our guts revolt against our modern ways of living, but step-by-step directions on how to reverse gastrointestinal complaints.

Additional Therapies
For children who are rapidly developing a strong immune system, avoiding contact with chlorinated water is of the utmost importance. That includes bathing water and drinking water. Chlorine kills bacteria, friendly and unfriendly, in the intestines. It can be absorbed through the skin. I recommend installing a shower filter to remove chlorine. Avoid swimming in chlorinated water as well.

For More Information on recommended products and books, please contact Christine’s Cleanse Corner, Inc. by visiting the following website: or call their office at 858-673-0224.

How to Contact Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory
This pivotal role of gut function in physical and emotional health is a central tenet of functional medicine and integrative treatment. For this reason, Great Smokies provides a variety of gastrointestinal assessments to help practitioners to detect and treat gut dysfunctions that may underlie or contribute to symptomatology in a diverse range of illnesses, including PDD and autism. Their website is or call (800) 522-4762.


Note: The content provided in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. You are encouraged to consult with your medical health care provider regarding any health concern or health-related condition you may have.

Brudnak, M.A. “Probiotics as an adjuvant to detoxification protocols.” Med Hypotheses, 2002;58(5):382-385.
Sandler, R.H., et al. “Short-term benefit from oral vancomycin treatment of regressive-onset autism.” J Child Neurol, 2000;15(7):429-435.
Wakefield, A.J., et al. “Enterocolitis in children with developmental disorders.” Am J Gastroenterol, 2000;95(9):2285-2295.
Pinesap, J. “A neurochemical theory of autism.” Trends in Neuroscience. 1979;2:174-177.
Reichelt, K.L., et al. “Gluten, milk proteins and autism: dietary intervention effects on behavior and peptide secretion.” Journal of Applied Nutrition, 1990;42(1);1-11.
Reichelt, K.L., et al. “Childhood autism: a complex disorder.” Biol. Psychiatry, 1986;21:1279-1290.
Garvey, J. “Diet in autism and associated disorders.” J Fam Health Care, 2002;12(2):34-38.
Quigley, E.M.M. & Hurley, D. “Autism and the gastrointestinal tract [editorial].” Am J Gastroenterol, 2000;95(9):2154-2156.

Note: Statements in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for informational and educational purposes only. We make no medical or curative claims. If you are dealing with any health condition, it is advised to see your health care practitioner.

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