Understanding the probiotics of autistic patients

Gastrointestinal issues often affect the daily lives of individuals with autism. Treating these issues with probiotics can improve their comfort and quality of life. In fact, researchers suggest that an unhealthy gut is one of the reasons for some of the adverse symptoms seen in individuals with autism and ADHD.

Clinical studies show that the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome of children with autism is usually lower than normal, while the number of pathogenic bacteria is higher, leading to digestive health issues.

Supplementing with specific strains of probiotics can not only help improve gut health but also improve neurological and mental health, potentially reducing these adverse symptoms and increasing comfort. While all the potential long-term benefits of daily probiotic supplementation are not yet clear, current data suggest that probiotics have a promising future in improving the quality of life for individuals with autism.


What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeasts. To be called a probiotic, the microorganism must provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts.

Some cultured and fermented foods, like yogurt and kombucha, contain potentially beneficial microorganisms that may support gut health. While getting "probiotics" from food seems more natural than taking supplements, the specific organisms present and the provided dosage are unknown, and there is variation between batches.

Probiotic supplements and medicinal probiotics list specific strain compositions and dosages on their packaging. They are packaged as capsules, powders, or liquids. Some products contain a single probiotic strain, while others are mixtures. Look for probiotics that have been scientifically researched in humans (even in individuals with autism) and proven beneficial for gut health and/or another aspect of human health.

Another supplement that supports gut health is prebiotics, like inulin. Prebiotics are "food" for friendly bacteria, allowing them to thrive in the gut at the expense of pathogens. When a person's gut microbiome is properly balanced between beneficial and unhealthy microorganisms, they typically experience less gut inflammation and gastrointestinal issues. Prebiotics can help maintain this balance.

Prebiotics are very beneficial for your gut health, especially if you're also taking a probiotic supplement. These special complex carbohydrates are found in many different fruits and vegetables. If you're unsure how to incorporate high-fiber foods into your diet, check out our prebiotic superfood guide for new food ideas to try.


Types of Probiotics

Incorporating a high-quality probiotic supplement into your daily life to intake beneficial bacteria can improve your digestive health. Some probiotic strains can even have a positive impact on your immune health, mental health, and help you address common skin problems like acne. Different strains and species of probiotics can benefit your health in unique ways.

There are two types of probiotics that can impact many individuals with autism:

Gut health probiotics


Gut health probiotics primarily restore balance within the gut. They can also reduce systemic inflammation caused by poor gut health or leaky gut. As chronic inflammation can lead to depression and other mental health challenges, gut health probiotics may indirectly contribute to mental health.

Psychobiotics have a more direct impact on mental health. They seem to regulate the levels of neurotransmitters that affect mood and impact other aspects of brain chemistry in various ways. Importantly, psychobiotics can help people, whether or not they also have gastrointestinal symptoms.


Gut Health Strains

Factors like bacterial exposure, antibiotic use, genetics, and life experiences play a crucial role in the unique composition of gut bacteria. For various reasons that require more research, individuals with autism are more prone to gut dysbiosis: an imbalance between the "good" and "bad" microorganisms in the gut microbiome. Some studies also report a correlation between more severe gastrointestinal symptoms and the level of support required by individuals with autism.

Probiotics beneficial for gut health help protect people from viral invasions, support digestion, and synthesize vitamins. Probiotics can also reduce inflammation by replacing pathogens and improving the balance of gut microbiota. Using gut health probiotics to reduce inflammation and gastrointestinal symptoms can have a significant impact on overall physical and mental health.

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most commonly consumed and researched probiotics beneficial for gut health.


Psychobiotic Strains

The gut (stomach, small intestine, and large intestine) plays a positive role in our mental and neurological health. The gut nervous system and the microorganisms within the gut impact the brain through the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA). Thanks to the GBA, the microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract can interact with the neurons connecting the gut and brain, the gut endocrine cells regulating brain chemicals, and even immune receptors.

Certain probiotic strains, referred to as psychobiotics, appear to modulate neurotransmitter levels and activity and/or alter gene expression in brain cells, leading to mental or neurological health benefits. One example of a psychobiotic that can positively impact the quality of life for people with autism is Lactobacillus Rhamnosus LR99.

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus LR99 is a neuroactive probiotic strain. This means that even if LR99 does not leave the gut, it can still function in mood, attention, and behavior through the GBA. Studies have shown that this particular strain can help reduce repetitive behaviors in some children with autism, while also improving their attention and communication skills.

LR99 psychobiotics may also help alleviate stress and anxiety, which can be a significant part of the life experience for people with autism. An 8-week study conducted on 36 highly stressed adults showed a reduction in cortisol (our stress hormone), a 20% decrease in perceived stress, and improvements in mood, sleep, anxiety, and overall quality of life.

While the main benefits of psychobiotics like LR99 are mental and neurological health, some people have found these probiotics can also positively impact gut health by reducing bloating, spasms, and constipation.


The Gut-Brain Axis

Our bodies contain almost as many bacterial cells as human cells, and the role of our gut microbiome goes far beyond helping us digest food. As you're starting to see, it has far-reaching impacts—in fact, all the way to the brain.

The Gut-Brain Axis (GBA) is a bidirectional signal transmission between the central nervous system and the gut nervous system. It connects the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with gut functions and the microorganisms within the gut, allowing them to communicate.

The simplest way to think about the GBA is to visualize it on a scale (see above). When something happens on one side, it affects the other. This means that when changes occur in the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain, gut functions respond accordingly, and vice versa.

When the GBA is out of balance, it can affect a person's mood, cognition, sleep cycles, and stress levels. Supporting individuals with autism in ways that better balance the GBA could improve their quality of life and that of their caregivers.

Many studies have explored the connection between the brain and the gut, especially in the past 10 to 15 years. For example, in a human study, participants who took a multi-strain fermented milk probiotic supplement for four weeks showed significant changes in brain scans using functional MRI. The use of probiotics led to differences in the way their brains processed tasks related to emotional attention.


How do probiotics help individuals with autism?

It is well known that individuals with autism not only experience gastrointestinal symptoms, but also have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity than neurotypical individuals. Safe and effective supplements can alleviate any of these stressors, greatly improving the quality of life for individuals with autism. Fortunately, preliminary research into the effects of probiotics suggests that they can improve not only "regularity," but also mood disorders and anxiety.

Studies also suggest that over time, probiotics may enhance the gastrointestinal barrier, thereby alleviating the gastrointestinal discomfort typically associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders. A reduction in physical discomfort can help "balance the scales" (as previously mentioned), thereby reducing emotional and psychological discomfort.
While strong emotional reactions are not always directly caused by poor gut health, probiotics may help establish a more harmonious balance between the gut and the brain, reducing the intensity of overstimulation.
Determining a diet and supplement routine that is suitable for you or a family member with autism can help address digestive and neurological health issues. Probiotics can also alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. You may find that your stress response to unpredictable stimuli begins to lessen when taking probiotics.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently does not regulate probiotic supplements, but considers them safe for children and adults to consume. Before starting a probiotic supplement, please consult your primary care physician. Individuals with certain conditions or weakened immune systems may experience severe side effects from taking probiotics.

How do I know if probiotics are helping me?

Physical and emotional discomfort is known to trigger meltdowns, shutdowns, and overall irritability in adults and children with autism. However, determining what triggers a specific reaction to stimuli is not always the simplest task.

In any case, it is important to look for signs of physical pain or discomfort before, during, or after a meltdown. If an individual experiences physical discomfort in their stomach or gastrointestinal tract, supplementing with probiotics may be helpful. Probiotics may help alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms as well as emotional distress caused by gut discomfort.

This correlation between the gut and behavior is thought to be directly related to the GBA. Repetitive behaviors are an example of behaviors thought to be triggered by gut difficulties.

Encourage your loved ones to tell you if they have stomach pain, bloating, or difficulty going to the bathroom before or after feeling overwhelmed, emotionally distressed, or having a meltdown. By listening and focusing, you may learn enough information to suggest that probiotics can provide help.

If an individual with autism is nonverbal, increased bathroom frequency, changes in bowel movements, stomach contractions, or changes in appetite may all be signs of gut discomfort.

Please communicate with their healthcare provider and listen to all symptoms they verbally report or any signs they are experiencing pain.


The best probiotics for individuals with autism

Establishing a healthy gut can be tricky, feeling like a tough battle of trial and error. Sometimes, simply eating a nutritionally balanced diet can be extremely challenging. Trying to regularly consume prebiotic fiber and fermented foods may be beyond the practical capabilities of many individuals with autism. Due to texture, taste, and/or smell, these foods may also cause sensory overload for some individuals.

Therefore, obtaining therapeutic amounts of probiotics through diet alone is usually impossible. Luckily, probiotic supplements have been shown to help balance gut health and alleviate symptoms of digestive health conditions. Reducing the stress brought on by abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms can also benefit mental health, such as better sleep and reduced mental strain.

To improve gut health, look for probiotic supplements that contain specific strains that have been isolated and observed for their benefits to gut health. Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium are two of the most recommended probiotics for treating Autism Spectrum Disorders and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here are other strains that benefit gut health:

Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
Bifidobacterium longum BB536
Lactobacillus paracasei PS23
Lactococcus lactis A17
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactobacillus plantarum 299V

Remember, the probiotics that are best for the gut health of a baby or child may differ from those suitable for their parents. Read labels carefully and consider trying a probiotic blend to better find the strain that suits you. You may also need to try multiple products to find one that is helpful. Your healthcare provider can help guide you.

If possible, eating foods that contain soluble fiber can also alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal issues. These prebiotic foods can be tried alone or in combination with gut health probiotics.

Regardless of whether you or your loved one has chronic gastrointestinal issues, psychobiotics may also be extremely beneficial. These psychobiotics seem to be able to alleviate stress and anxiety, providing valuable mental health benefits for individuals with autism.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus LR99 is a probiotic strain that can increase oxytocin levels, helping to reduce anxiety, improve social behavior, and interaction.

Additionally, Lactobacillus rhamnosus LR99 provided many neurological health benefits for children with autism in clinical trials. These include reducing anxiety and behaviors associated with high anxiety or sensory overload, and it also helps some people's gut health.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus LR99 can be purchased as LR-99. Adding probiotics like LR-99 to your daily life can improve gut issues, alleviate anxiety, and increase comfort.


Are probiotics safe? Do they have side effects?

Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms, typically considered safe to consume. Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal reactions, such as bloating, abdominal distension, minor diarrhea, or changes in bowel frequency. These changes usually subside as the body adjusts to the probiotics. If symptoms become unbearable or persist, seek medical help and discuss these potential side effects with a knowledgeable healthcare professional.

For individuals with compromised immune systems or serious illnesses, the risk of harmful effects from taking probiotics increases. These side effects include but are not limited to:

Antibiotic resistance
Increased opportunities for harmful substance production
Before adding daily probiotics, please consult your doctor or healthcare professional.


How to take probiotics

For those with unaffected immune systems, taking probiotics is generally considered safe and beneficial. Consult your doctor about adding probiotic supplements to your daily life and the recommended dosage. Your healthcare provider can help ensure you are taking the correct probiotic strains to achieve the maximum health benefits or address any specific issues you may encounter.

Many people find that probiotic supplements containing multiple strains or species are more effective for gut health than single strain supplements. However, you may find a particular single strain product, such as LR-99, to be very effective for you or your loved one.

Probiotics are sold in capsule, powder, and liquid forms. Some individuals with swallowing difficulties or eating disorders open probiotic capsules and mix the powder into cold food or drinks.


The role of probiotics in individuals with autism

Every individual with autism is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all probiotic. Some days will be better than others, but with the help of supplements like probiotics, you can confidently provide robust support for your or your loved one's gut and neurological health.

LR-99 Medical Probiotic contains a unique psychobiotic strain that can reduce anxiety in individuals with autism and promote clearer thinking. *Try it yourself and see if it impacts your gut and mental health.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.










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