Autism and Alzheimer’s—the answer lies in the gut


When autism was first formally identified as a special condition in the 1930’s, it was generally considered a mental health problem. At that time—there was no field connecting psychoneuroimmunology. The brain was treated separately from the body. There is no medical test for autism. The current criteria for diagnosing autism are based solely on behavior and noticeable outward symptoms. This means that if an individual shows certain predetermined behaviors then he/she is given a diagnosis of Autism, ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer’s, etc. These are “spectrum” disorders; named because of the myriad of possible symptoms and their degree of severity. But what if the behavior is caused by toxicity or deficiency in the gut? Could removing the toxic elements and adding essential nutrients change the behavior?

A few years ago Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride gave us the GAPS diet. “Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride adjusted her protocol to fit the individual healthcare needs of her patients suffering from a variety of intestinal and neurological conditions as a result of an imbalanced bacterial ecosystem within the GI tract.  The GAPS Diet focuses on removing foods that are difficult to digest and damaging to gut flora and replacing them with nutrient-dense foods to give the intestinal lining a chance to heal and seal.” Dr. McBride taught us to stop focusing on the brain and look to the source. Most people (and especially neurologists) have difficulty seeing the connection between leaky gut and neurodegenerative conditions. (GAPS diet source listed below)

What causes leaky gut? Any activity that stimulates the pores of the intestinal wall to stay open for too long, can lead to increased permeability. If you don’t produce enough digestive enzymes to break down food into nutrients, then these fragments may slip through your intestines and get back into circulation in your blood stream.

Digestive enzymes, especially proteases that break down protein molecules are critical for healing. Bacteria and parasites are made of proteins, viruses have protein coatings (films) and yeasts have outer shells consisting of cellulose and protein. If you can’t break down the protein barrier, your immune system can’t discover the toxin, the virus, or the cancer hiding inside the cell that doesn’t belong in your body, and remove it. Things like chronic stress, medications, environmental toxins, and heavy metals cause inflammation. Inflammation can result from insufficiently broken down food or infections of any kind. This is why you must have adequate stomach acid and stay away from proton pump inhibitors. Stomach acid (HCL) kills all bad bacteria. But you must have enough!

Gram negative bacteria, which make up a large portion of the bacteria living in the gut, are covered with a chemical coat called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). An elevated lipopolysaccharide level found in the blood would indicate that it somehow got out of the gut. An elevated level indicates that inflammation is present. According to Dr. David Perlmutter (Awakening from Alzheimer’s below), research shows that a dramatic increase of LPS correlates with both Alzheimer’s and autism. “The data is very clear that permeability of the gut increases inflammation in the body, and that inflammation can manifest itself in the brain as cognitive decline.” Dr. Perlmutter goes on to say, “From a genetics perspective, 99% of the DNA in your body is microbial DNA (100 trillion microbes live in your gut), not the 23,000 genes that you got from Mom and Dad. 99% of your DNA is contained in the microbes that live in your gut”.

If your jaw didn’t drop on that statement, read it again.

Other important protein molecules found in the Paneth cells of the gut villi crypts are called “metallothioneins” (MT). Paneth cells produce the enzyme “lysozyme” which kills harmful microbes. But MT cells have several critical functions within the gut. My guess is that you’ve never heard of them. (Resource below)

MT proteins act like heavy metal magnets that bind up heavy metals. These specialized proteins are responsible for removing harmful metals so they can’t enter the blood stream and wreak all kinds of havoc. Remember the old mercury thermometers? Mercury inhaled can make you seem “mad”; why it’s almost as if you lost your mind! (See Dr. Axe resource). Since MT cells are located in the gut lining, when that lining is compromised for any reason, these metal scavengers would be damaged, not present or otherwise unable to perform their function. Gut injury would then lead to poor heavy metal detoxification or metal toxicity. Many vaccines contain heavy metal nerve damaging adjuvants. Some contain Polysorbate 80: “The key danger of polysorbate 80 is that it assists in the delivery of compounds—including mercury and aluminum—across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The blood-brain barrier is weak and easily trespassed during the first two or three years of life and often during the senior years.” (Weston Price resource below)

Funny—infants and the elderly, and now pregnant women—are most often the ones encouraged to get flu shots.

MT proteins have an important role in maintaining the critical balance between copper and zinc. Excess accumulation of either element can cause toxicity. Copper toxicity is associated with many neurological problems. Studies found that most people with autism, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s have excessively high copper levels and are excessively deficient in zinc. Poor zinc absorption has been linked to a deficiency in stomach acid. Copper and zinc have a competitive relationship. Low levels of zinc limit how much MT is created in the body. This lack of MT allows heavy metals like copper to accumulate, which drives down zinc levels even further. Dr. Dale Bredesen states, “It has been estimated that as many as two billion people—more than a quarter of the world’s population—is deficient in zinc.” Dr. Bredesen’s new book, The End of Alzheimer’s, is a very valuable resource for both identifying the myriad of causes of cognitive and behavioral issues, and how to treat them. He also gives information on where and how to test for things like heavy metals, bacteria, etc. In order to address the issues, you must first have knowledge of where your toxicities and deficiencies are found. (The End of Alzheimer’s, resource below)

If toxicities and deficiencies exist in the gut, and these manifest as behavioral and cognitive disorders, then wouldn’t it be wise to heal your gut first before adding toxic drugs that merely suppress symptoms?



Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride


Metallothioneins (Karen DeFelice)

Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. Dale Bredesen

Polysorbate 80 and Vaccine ingredients


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Thomasina Copenhaver
Thomasina Copenhaver is a naturopathic doctor and registered nurse with over 30 years experience in the healthcare profession. Her passion is writing, researching, and empowering all humans with knowledge of healing at the cellular level; to enable them to make educated and informed choices regarding their health. For more information visit her website: or to buy her book, "Notes from a Naturopath" visit Amazon or Barnes and Noble.