Immune system dysregulation is linked to various conditions that co-occur with autism. These include chronic inflammation, GI problems, autoimmune diseases, and mental health issues. For many autistic individuals, immune dysregulation can impact daily living, well-being, and overall quality of life. This list of resources covers contemporary research on the drivers of immune dysregulation and nutritional treatment strategies for immune dysfunction in autism.
Immune Function & Autism
This information page outlines the connection between the immune system and autism. It details antibody classes and health problems associated with immune system dysregulation in autism. Conclusions about when to evaluate autistic patients for immunodeficiency and food allergies are presented. Resources on the page include a recorded symposium on biomarkers and autism and a list of published studies on the immune system and autism.
Webinars Related to Immune Function in Autism
Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome
In this video, Dr. Nancy O’Hara discusses Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), a condition that results from exposure to biotoxins like mold, and its potential link to autism and other chronic illnesses. She explains the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for CIRS, as well as its impact on overall health and well-being. This lecture is geared towards healthcare professionals and individuals seeking to learn more about CIRS and its potential connection to autism.
Immunological Issues in ASD – Gestational Influences
Judy Van de Water, Ph.D., discusses immunological dysregulation during gestation. She examines the etiology of autism and explores the interplay of genetic markers and environmental factors by examining correlations in infections, gestational immune system dysregulation, and autoimmune and autism diagnosis. Van de Water outlines studies on early markers in autism (EMA), maternal autoantibody-related autism (MAR), and intracellular MAR staining, demonstrating the significance of maternal antibodies both as biomarkers and developmental contributors. She highlights the findings and emphasizes their value in future research, screening, treatments, and prevention before opening to questions.
Gluten-free/casein-free diets – research updates
Director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Johnson Center for Child Health and Development, Kelly Barnhill, MBA, CN, CCN, discusses gluten-free and casein-free diets (GFCF) in autism. She details research history, present findings, and future exploration pathways. Barnhill outlines multiple case studies and discusses what we do and do not know about GFCF diets. She presents nutrition concerns and practicalities associated with GFCF diets and advises listeners to seek medical support for such changes.
Systemic Inflammatory & Autoimmune Diseases—PANS
Jennifer Frankovich MD MS, clinical professor at Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, discusses the co-occurrence of systemic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases – including the overlap between pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) and autism. She outlines the presentation of classic rheumatologic diseases noting the prevalence of mental health symptoms and provides clinical criteria for PANS. Frankovich discusses PANS as a relapsing/remitting condition and explores the clinical management options, citing recent studies on steroid use. She concludes by reemphasizing the association of psychiatric symptoms with autoimmune and rheumatologic diseases and states the importance of post-flare rehabilitation before opening the floor to questions.
Eating Well for Immune Health
Alan Gutierrez, MS, RD, LD, presents on optimizing immunity with nutrition and lifestyle. The speaker outlines the dangers of flu season and provides a brief overview of the immune system and its functions. He describes the GI tract as an extension of our external environment, underscoring its significance in immune response and stability. Gutierrez advises on nutrient-rich foods, their benefits to the immune system, and how to prepare them for optimal nutrient intake. He discusses critical vitamins and urges viewers to use caution and consult a practitioner before adding supplements to one’s diet. The speaker touches on the importance of lifestyle in long-term immune health, especially sleep, hygiene, physical activity, and stress. Gutierrez provides suggestions for stress management and summarizes the presentation in five action items.
Evidence Supporting a Nutritional Approach for ASD and Comorbid Conditions
Dr. Viki Koblinor dives into evidence-based approaches for nutrition in autism, PANS/PANDAS, and POTS. She describes nutritional biochemistry and which nutrients are vital to proper gut and overall body function. The speaker discusses a 2018 study that employed holistic nutrition-based treatment strategies over 12 months. Koblinor underscores the gut-brain communication pathway and outlines what a nutrient-rich, healing diet looks like. She touches on PANS/PANDAS and POTS, noting that nutritional treatments and strategies greatly resemble those she discussed for autism. The presenter highlights inflammation as a driver for many behaviors and presentations of autism, PANS/PANDAS, and POTS. Koblinor underscores the importance of balance in a healthy diet before the Q & A session.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Other Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders in Families with Autism
Dr. Casanova dives into Ehlers-Danlos (EDS) and related hypermobility syndromes in this webinar. She describes EDS with a focus on the joint hypermobility spectrum. The presenter highlights that this field of study is in its infancy and that much more research is needed. She outlines recent findings that have shed light on the roles collagen fibers play within the body and the brain. Casanova discusses the co-occurrence of EDS and autism and other hypermobility syndrome disorders and wonders what other roles collagens play in the body. She outlines future research aims and closes with a question-and-answer session.
PANS/PANDAS – Research Updates
Susan Swedo, M.D. discusses research findings on causes, symptoms, and treatments for PANS/PANDAS. She highlights the differences in syndromes and diseases and discusses the diagnosis and clinical presentation of PANS/PANDAS, asserting that comorbidities are the rule, not the exception. Dr. Swedo also details the disease pathway and historical links of OCD and Sydenham Chorea to PANDAS and affirms its recognition as a form of autoimmune encephalitis.
Research Updates on Maternal Autoantibodies and ASD
Judy Van de Water, Ph.D., discusses current machine learning research used to identify several patterns of maternal autoantibodies associated with the diagnosis and severity of autism. She outlines the history of autoantibody research related to autism, defines a new subtype, and details animal model development. Van de Water discusses commonalities across presented models and findings, highlighting the potential for biomarkers and preclinical studies. She summarizes significant findings and research themes before opening the question and answer session.