The Use of Probiotics for Children with Autism
By Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
We were one of the founder families of the group of parents which subsequently became PEACH. There were only 30 or so families in the UK doing ABA Programmes with their children back then in 1996. I remember our first meeting in London when we decided to form a charity and were all thinking what name to give it. It seems like a century has passed since then. Some children have done extremely well, some not as well, but everybody involved acknowledges how powerful the programme is in pulling our children out of autism.
Over the years, apart from gaining a lot of knowledge in behaviour modification we have learned a lot about the biochemistry and physiology of autism and how to manipulate it with diet and supplementation. If only we knew then what we know now! We can't turn the time back for our children. But we can pass this knowledge to others who have just had the devastating diagnosis of Autism announced to them. Unfortunately, there will be more and more coming as the incidence of autism is increasing rapidly.
We have learned that many diseases and conditions including autism begin with dysfunction in the digestive tract. A crucial part of the digestive tract are the beneficial bacteria that live there, which weigh around 1.5kg. Without them we simply can not be healthy. The functions of normal gut flora, known to science so far, are multiple and far reaching.
Normal balanced gut bacteria:
· have a protective and barrier role against invasive pathogenic micro-organisms by producing antibiotic-like substances, antifungal volatiles (AFV), and surfactins that dissolve the lipid membrane of envelope viruses and bacteria .
· play a major role in the digestion and absorption of all nutrients.
· provide a major source of nourishment and energy for the gut lining.
· synthesise various aminoacids, vitamin K, panthotenic acid, thiamin, riboflavine, niacin, folic acid, piridoxine, and cyancobalamine.
· play an important role in recycling of bile acids and normal cholesterol metabolism.
· play a major immuno-modulating role by stimulating antibody production, interferon synthesis, and inhibition of IgA degradation (IgA is secreted into the lumen of the digestive tract in response to approaching food and is essential for the proper digestion of that food).
This microscopic world within us is highly organised. In healthy people it is dominated by certain "good" bacteria which keep under control a huge variety of pathogenic "bad" bacteria.
For whatever yet unknown reason, autistic children develop deficient gut flora. While purely breast fed, these children may be developing quite well, as mother's milk is the easiest thing on Earth for the baby to digest and absorb and it provides that essential initial immune protection to keep the "bad" bacteria under control. But, as these babies get weaned off the breast to other foods, things start going terribly wrong. Lacking properly established "good" bacteria in the gut, so essential for appropriate food digestion and absorption, an autistic child starts developing multiple nutritional deficiencies (vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and fatty acids) which have got a drastic effect on it's development. In parallel, pathogenic and opportunistic microbes, not being controlled by weakened "good" bacteria, grow into big colonies and transform into active states (like in the case of Candida which transforms from its inactive one cell state into highly invasive micelle).
This growth produces a whole host of toxic substances which go into the blood stream and, to put it simply, poison the baby. The developing brain is particularly sensitive to these "poisons" as well as to the nutritional deficiencies. As a result, whatever skills the baby has developed, while exclusively breast fed, are gradually lost, there is no normal development of language, comprehension, behaviour etc. - all of which you are very familiar with.
Putting the gut flora right is the first and the most important step in the right direction in treating autism! Gut flora is a living organism very sensitive to the diet, quality of drinking water (chlorinated water is very damaging, it is best to drink bottled mineral water or install a good water filter), antibiotics, steroids, vaccines and stress. A diet full of sugars, wheat, processed foods and soft drinks with all the colorants, flavourings and preservatives not just alters gut flora by feeding the pathogenic microbes, but changes the whole body metabolism altering its pH towards acidic. This has got far reaching and immediate consequences: altering the brain chemistry and altering microbial flora in other body areas (skin, upper and lower respiratory tract, vagina, bladder etc.) which predisposes children to eczema, asthma, ear infections and colds and has a direct damaging effect on the immune system. Diet on its own is a very powerful tool in helping an autistic child. But to normalise the gut flora a strong probiotic is needed. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria in a capsule. Unfortunately, many probiotics on the market are weak and not very effective. A probiotic called Bio-Kult contains a unique combination of bacteria very effective in eliminating Candida and other pathogenic species and restoring normal gut flora. It is used by many families with autistic children in the UK and Europe with good results. This probiotic has got strong immuno-stimulating properties. It has been recorded that people with food intolerance after using Bio-Kult start tolerating foods they used to be allergic to. This probiotic also is said to increase absorption of nutrients which addresses the nutritional deficiency problem of autistic children. Bio-Kult contains 14 strains of the most effective beneficial bacteria, including soil bacteria, and is UKAS Laboratory certified at a strength of 10 Billion Units per Gram. It has been designed with children in mind, because it is very easy to administer. It dissolves in drinks without discolouring them, it can be mixed with food, and it has got a slightly sweet taste. It also complies with all dietary restrictions being gluten, casein, lactose, yeast, wheat, sugar, salt, and dairy free, as well as being in vegetable based capsules. I was a member of the scientific team who formulated this product, and I was able to bring to it not only my medical and nutritional knowledge, but also my experience as a parent of a child with autism who from being diagnosed at three as autistic, is now in mainstream school.
I have a 7,5 years old autistic son. Since we started Bio-Kult, Ronny became much more affectionate and happy. We have been doing an ABA programme with him for 2 years now. He has no language but since using Bio-Kult he started to point at things spontaneously, which he has never done before, and his understanding of language and what is going on around him got much better. Before Bio-Kult Ronny was taking Nystatin for 2 years and every time we tried to stop it he would have quite violent withdrawal symptoms. Since taking Bio-Kult we were able to stop Nystatin completely, and the withdrawal of it was amazingly mild. I recommend Bio-Kult to all my friends with autistic children.
Kerry & Andrew Harris
Our daughter Sophie was diagnosed on the mild end of the Autistic spectrum
in March 1999.
An ABA programme was commenced in June 1999. Sophie progressed extremely
well on the programme, showing consistent improvement.
We also commenced a GF/CF diet, which appears to have helped a great deal
with her language development and concentration skills.
We still however felt that we were "missing something" at that point. We
had researched the use of probiotics, and when we noticed Cambridge
Probiotics Ltd. in the AIA newsletter, we contacted them immediately.
We were given all of the relevant information required, and at first decided to try
Primal Defense with Sophie (she has since switched to Bio-Kult with no
It was straightforward to include into our daily routines, in fact simple
compared to commencing a GF/CF diet !!!!!! We were warned that Sophie may
go through a period of irritability and suffer mood swings after about three weeks.
We were reassured that this was a good sign, that the probiotic was having
an effect, and that this would not last for long.
This was definitely the case. Sophie was decidedly "out of sorts" for
about three days and since then she has shown increasing improvement in her
concentration, listening skills and tolerance. We did not inform anyone (especially her
nursery) about her taking Bio-Kult, as we were keen to establish whether
there was any objectively noticed improvement, in the absence of any sort of
We were delighted when the nursery staff reported that Sophie had shown a
huge improvement in her ability to concentrate, to stay on task and to
tolerate difficult situations. One member of staff enquired: "What have you done
with her???" This was about six weeks after she had started Bio-kult. This
has been sustained for four months now. Needless to say, she will continue taking Bio-kult.
If anyone wishes to contact us about our experiences, please do so via
Thank you very much for introducing us to Bio-Kult it is working really well for Ali. Although we were using primal defense before, but switching to Bio-Kult helped Ali tremendously. On primal defense Ali had to take up to 15 capsules a day (Ali cant take capsules we had to mix the powder with water), and on primal defense his bowel movement was ok but not consistent.
As for Bio-Kult, Ali takes 6 small capsules a day, the powder has a pleasant taste and Ali likes it. After a few days on the Bio-Kult Ali's bowel movements improved so much and now it is normalized. Ali has been on gluten and milk free diet for more than three years. It was ok but introducing the Bio-Kult along side the yeast free diet (high protein and specific carbohydrates diet) worked even better, it worked extremely well. Ali started putting on weight (4 pounds) and eating food he would not even touch before, got his rosy cheeks back (he had them when he was 1 year old) and he started demanding spontaneously for food, items and anything he needs.
I could not believe it a week ago, Ali started taking his nappy off indicating he is ready for toilet training, on the first day of training (this Monday) Ali started demanding to go to wee spontaneously.
I must admit I was a bit hesitant about using Bio-Kult instead of primal defense, but now from my own experience it is definitely working better.
Thank you very much for your help. Ali is now a very happy child and this is due to your advice and efforts
Michael has been taking Bio-Kult probiotics for two months. Towards the end of this time we have seen improvements in Michael. During these two months we saw a period during which Michael became jumpy and easily excitable. He also developed itchy skin rashes on his arms and hands. For two days Michael developed redness on his face and ears. He also had a lot of diarrhoea which has more or less settled down. This was the "die off" period.
The improvements we have seen have been most noticeable in his Lovaas sessions, particularly during the last two weeks when we have noticed an improvement in his fine motor skills. He learnt to sting buttons within two days, and he can now cut along a line of approximately 3 inches. Another notable improvement has been in his expressive labels.
He surprised me one day by expressively labelling five pictures in a row. This has been a particularly hard programme for Michael, which we have been struggling with for several months. He has now added several more expressive labels to his repertoire and I hope this continues. In general all his learning has improved and his behaviour appears more sociable.
It is early days with the probiotics, but there have been no other changes made to his diet or lifestyle, which could account for these improvements.