Does MMR cause autism?
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD
Talking about autism it is impossible to avoid the issue of the MMR vaccine and vaccination in general. I my practice I see some parents of autistic children who would link their child's disorder with MMR vaccine where many can not make this connection. Following research by Dr. Wakefield there has been a lot of publicity on this subject. The government has put a lot of effort and money into convincing the public that MMR vaccine is safe. While the MMR vaccine was in the lime light, other vaccines got questioned as well, due to the fact that many of them contain Thimerosal, a Mercury compound. Others are new and have not been tested long enough, yet apparently the number of unreported complications from these vaccines is much higher than anybody would expect. On top of all this we have to remember that vaccines are commercial products made with profit in mind. Is it true that the 3 million pounds which the government recently spent on MMR promotion were paid for by the companies who have a commercial interest in this vaccine?
So, does MMR cause autism?
I do not believe that things are so simple. Here we have to look at autism as a whole picture and vaccination as a whole.
Let us have a look at what is happening to children in our modern society. If you look around, how many healthy children would you see? Childhood asthma, eczema, diabetes, allergies, hay fever, digestive disorders, ADHD and autistic spectrum disorders have all gained epidemic proportions! The majority of siblings of autistic children have eczema, asthma or another one of those disorders. And though all these health problems appear to be different, they have one thing in common. A very big thing - a compromised immune system with suppressed Th1 and overactive Th2 parts of the immunity. These two opposing arms of the immune system normally should be in balance. But in these children they are out of balance reducing the body's ability to fight infections and predisposing the child to allergies and autoimmune reactions. A compromised immune system is not going to react to environmental insults in the normal way! Vaccination is a huge insult for the immune system. The manufacturers of vaccines produce them for children with normal immune systems which will react to these vaccines in a normal way. And perhaps 50 or even less years ago the majority of children had normal immune systems, so vaccination was producing the expected results of protection against infections without any harm for the body. However, in our modern society with our modern way of life we are rapidly moving to a situation where a growing proportion of children do not have a normal immune system and will not produce an expected reaction to the vaccine. In some of these children vaccination, putting an enormous strain on an already compromised immune system, becomes that "last straw which breaks the camel's back" and brings on the beginning of autism, asthma, eczema, diabetes, etc.. In other children, whose immune system is compromised to a lesser degree, vaccination will not start the disorder, but it will deepen the damage and move the child closer to it.
But what makes the immune system compromised? What is it in our modern life styles that does this damage?
There are a number of factors which play their part in damaging the delicate balance of the immune system, but some major factors deserve particular attention:
1. Gut Dysbiosis.
2. Use of antibiotics, steroids and other drugs.
3. Consumption of sugar and processed foods.
4. Consumption of trans-fatty acids.
5. Food additives.
Let's look at some of these factors in detail.
1. Gut Dysbiosis.
Not everybody is aware that our bodies are a home to huge numbers of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes. In a healthy body this micro-world is properly balanced and fulfils a whole host of beneficial functions, without which we would not be healthy. The largest population of microbes, called gut flora, live in our digestive systems. The gut wall with its microbial flora has been described as "the right hand" of the immune system. If the bacterial layer is damaged or worse than that, abnormal, then your immune system is trying to function with its right hand chopped off.
Let us have a look at some details.
· The epithelial surface of the colon is inhabited by huge numbers of bacteria, and can be truly described as a "cradle" of the immune system, both systemic and mucosal. The beneficial bacteria in the colon, engage lymphoid tissue of the gut wall and take part in the production of huge numbers of immunoglobulins. For example, in the cell wall of Bifidobacteria, one of the major inhabitant groups of a healthy gut flora, there is a substance called Muramil Dipeptide, which activates synthesis of B and T-Lymphocytes. As a result, a healthy gut wall is literally infiltrated, jam packed with B and T Lymphocytes, ready to protect the body from any invader. Your digestive system is a major gate into the body and needs good guarding.
· The beneficial flora of the gut has got a pronounced anti-viral activity. They take part in the synthesis of such anti-viral substances as interferon, lizocym and surfactins, which dissolve the membranes of lipid envelope viruses. The food and drink which we consume are full of disease causing viruses, but the healthy gut flora would not allow them to take hold in your body.
· Immunoglobulin A is a substance which is secreted by the gut wall into the gut lumen in response to new food arriving from the stomach. It is the immune system's way of dealing with the unwelcome invaders coming with food and drink. Fairly soon after being excreted the Immunoglobulin A naturally degrades. The beneficial bacteria in the gut slow down this degradation, allowing the Immunoglobulin A more time to do its work.
· Healthy gut flora absorb considerable amounts of heavy metals, phenols, formaldehyde and other toxic substances, acting as natural chelators and protecting the immune system from them. It is known that the immune system is particularly vulnerable to these substances.
As a result of all this activity your healthy gut flora keeps the two major arms of the immune system, the Th1 and Th2 immunity, in proper balance. The condition, when the gut flora is not healthy, is called - Gut Dysbiosis. In this condition the beneficial bacteria in the gut are damaged or eradicated. As a result the gut wall gets taken over by a large number of pathogenic and opportunistic bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, all producing very toxic substances. The digestion and absorption of food becomes abnormal, the gut wall becomes damaged and "leaky". But most importantly, as we are concentrating on the immune system here, the person with gut Dysbiosis becomes immune-compromised.
A number of factors in our modern life styles can damage the delicate balance of the gut flora. Antibiotics and steroids are major contributors, consumption of processed foods, a toxic environment, prolonged stress, etc.
Here we are talking about vaccination, so we need to look at babies' and children's gut flora. Babies get their gut flora from the mother. So, if the mother does not have healthy bodily flora, then the baby will not have it either. Widespread use of the contraceptive pill (steroids) in young girls damages the gut flora. When it is combined with regular consumption of processed sugary foods and antibiotics, then the damage gets deeper. The majority of mothers of immune-compromised children with eczema, asthma, learning disabilities, etc. show symptoms of Gut Dysbiosis, such as digestive problems, allergies, skin problems, PMS, migraines, thrush, or simply chronic lack of energy. After the baby is born the breast milk promotes the process of populating the gut wall with appropriate bacteria. Formula milk does not fulfil this function. So, breast again is the best. However, in cases when the mother has a considerable Gut Dysbiosis with an overgrowth of abnormal bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites in her gut, she will be excreting their toxins in her milk. A lot of these toxins have an opioid structure and act on the brain as real opioids would do. In these cases the mothers report that their baby would fall asleep on the breast after a couple of mouthfuls of this opioid rich milk. In other cases the baby refuses the breast or develops an allergic reaction. The recent research shows that the toxins, produced by abnormal gut flora, play a major role in development of autism.
The population of the gut wall with normal gut flora plays a major part in the appropriate development of the baby's immature immune system. If the gut flora is not normal then we can not expect a normal immune system. The breast milk provides a ready immune protection for the baby. So, while exclusively breast fed our babies can do quite well without properly developing gut flora, but when the breast feeding stops, it takes a few months for pathological symptoms to start appearing. This is exactly when the vaccination, and I mean any vaccination, may prove to be too much of an attack on an already compromised immune system.
2. Antibiotics and steroids, including contraceptive pills, and many other drugs apart from damaging the gut flora have a direct immune suppressing effect. Their wide spread use in mothers before and during pregnancy have a damaging effect on the immune system of the future baby. Antibiotics, taken by the mother during breast feeding, will pass to the baby through the milk and add to the damage of it's gut flora and developing immune system.
3. 4. 5. Consumption of sugar and processed foods have a direct damaging effect on the immune system. On top of that these foods feed abnormal flora in the gut contributing to Gut Dysbiosis and hence to immune imbalance. Processed foods are a very poor source of nutrition and a very rich source of various toxic substances, like preservatives, colours, flavouring, aspartame, MSG, and all those E-numbers. Food additives have been shown in a vast number of studies to have a detrimental effect on the immune system, brain chemistry, liver function, etc.. On top of that processed foods are a rich source of very harmful trans-fatty acids. Trans-fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids with changed chemical structure. They have been shown to have a direct damaging effect on immune system. Children who are routinely fed on crisps, sugary foods, soft drinks and meals out of tins and packets run a great risk of being immune-compromised.
Consumption of processed convenience foods, antibiotics, steroids, and the toxic environment are all features of our modern life style. Our children are paying the price for it. It is a fact that we can not afford to ignore!
So, my conclusion is that while MMR and other vaccines may not be the cause of autism, in immune compromised children they can do a lot of harm and in some children may well provide the trigger which starts the disorder.
Vaccination, which saved the lives of millions of children world-wide in the last century, is becoming dangerous thanks to changes in our lifestyles. The number of immune compromised children in developed countries is enormous and growing every day. It is time for the medical profession to review its attitude to vaccination. The cry "Vaccinate everybody!" has to change. Here is what I propose: a comprehensive immunological test has to be done with every baby before a decision about vaccination would be made. There are a number of very good tests already in existence to assess the state of one's immune system. These tests have to be put into an appropriate pre-vaccination panel for all babies and results of these tests have to be an essential part in the process for deciding which of the following steps to take:
· The standard vaccination protocol.
· Single vaccines only.
· Delayed vaccination until the results of the tests are better.
· No vaccination at all. A child presenting with eczema, asthma, digestive problems or any other disorder, which would indicate compromised immunity, should be a red flag not to vaccinate!
Those 3 million pounds which the government spent on promoting MMR might have been just enough to develop such a test panel, and in my opinion, a much more worthwhile investment in the future health of our nation.
Published in Issue 9 of The Autism File. February 2002