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Gut Treatments- Anti-Fungals

Anti-fungal treatments are based on the rationale that children with autism tend to “have low levels of beneficial bacteria, and high levels of harmful bacteria and yeast.”4 It is hypothesized that gastrointestinal damage can lead to an overgrowth of undesirable bacteria and yeast, which can cause nutritional deficiencies that may be partially responsible for the behaviors seen in individuals with autism.31 It has been hypothesized that a yeast known as candida albicans could be worsening many of the behavior and health problems associated with autism, and may even be an underlying cause for the disorder in some individuals.32 Other research has shown that individuals on the autism spectrum ingest a larger quantity of antibiotics.9-10 This increased use of antibiotics can lead to an overgrowth of yeast and antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be absorbed by the blood stream, worsening the behavioral and health problems caused by ASD.33 Individuals implementing a dietary intervention of anti-fungals will generally provide their child with anti-fungal medication and probiotics, while avoiding foods that contain yeast, like bread, alcohol, vinegar, fruit juice, cheese, mushrooms, and more. According the Autism Research Institute, a parent rating of “got better” was achieved by 62% and 52% of parents who used antifungal medications Diflucan and Nystatin, respectively.21

The research of Dr. William Shaw and his colleagues found that “[a]nti-fungal drug therapy may be a promising therapeutic method for the treatment of autism.”33 Their research was based on two brothers that were found to have excreted a number of possible microbial compounds in their urine during consistently performed tests during a two year period. Their study expanded to include 23 individuals on the autism spectrum, including the two brothers. After the study’s participants received regiments of the anti-fungal drug Nystatin, parents reported “decreased hyperactivity, increased eye contact and vocalization, better sleep patterns and concentration, increased imaginative play, reduced stereotypical behaviors such as spinning objects, and better academic performance.”33 Many parents also reported a loss of these gains after the drug therapy stopped. While these results are certainly promising, more methodologically sound research on the potential benefits of anti-fungal medication for individuals on the autism spectrum must be conducted.

A 2004 study published in Integrative Medicine, found that when neuro-typical children were compared to children on the autism spectrum they had greater amounts of tartaric acid, which was the compound initially detected in the 2 brothers mentioned in the previous study. These findings are the opposite Shaw and his colleagues.34 The study concluded that “it should not be assumed that improvement with drugs is necessarily indicative of fungal causation in autism and other conditions.”34 Clearly, more high-quality research on the potential benefit of anti-fungal treatments is warranted.

*Parents should consult their physician before implementing any dietary interventions for their child.