Understand the Gut-Brain Connection and GMO food

Dr. Tasreen Alibhai, N.D.

Dr. Tasreen Alibhai

Hello everyone. I am currently attending a very interesting conference by the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) in Atlanta, GA. Such a great city, with incredible history and spectacular weather.

The conference is about biomedical treatments for children with special needs, with an emphasis on Autism treatment.

I attended lectures by Dr William Shaw and Dr Nancy O’Hara today and I wanted to share a few thoughts and insights. There is so much to learn at these conferences. I love the “ah-ha” moments I have when someone provides an answer to a piece of a puzzle I have been trying to understand. This particular lecture discussed the role of gut bacteria, the gut-brain connection and the link with GMO foods.

I have learned a lot from my pediatric patients with Autism. Most children on the spectrum have gastrointestinal issues, including stinky loose stools, constipation, abdominal bloating, gas and abdominal pain. On microbiology and Organic Acid Testing, most ASD kids have high levels of Clostridia bacteria in their gut and high levels of dopamine in their body. Today both brilliant doctors gave some insight into a possible relationship between Clostridia, dopamine and GMO foods.

Lets discuss propionic acid first. A research article published in Anaerobe 2010 by Feinegold et al. (1) found children with autism have more types of clostridia and in greater amounts than children without Autism. Children with autism also have lower levels of beneficial bacteria compared to children without autism.


A second study by MacFabe published in Behavioural Brain Research 2006 (2) found when a substance called propionic acid (that is made by clostridia) was injected into the brains of rats, they developed behaviours similar to what we see in Autism. These included repetitive behaviours, hyperactivity, seizure like activity, decreased Glutathione levels, constipation, problems digesting carbohydrates and OCD behaviours. Incredible! Systemic Propionic acid is tested on the Organic Acid Test as DHPPA marker.

Now lets discuss Dopamine. I commonly see elevated dopamine markers on an Organic Acid Test. Symptoms of elevated dopamine include addiction (such as sugar addiction), irritability, tantrums, hyperactivity, inattention/ lack of focus. Very similar to symptoms seen in children with Autism. Dopamine is normally broken down by Dopamine beta-hydroxylase (sorry to get so technical, but parents with an Autistic child undergoing biomedical treatments will appreciate the scientific explanation linking gut to brain ) Clostridia bacteria produces toxins that inhibit this enzyme. Now the body does not adequately break down dopamine and its levels build up. High clostridia equals high dopamine in this explanation. High dopamine leads to the behaviours I described above.

Lastly lets bring GMO foods into this picture. I learned about Glyphosate today, a weed killer found in GMO foods. Glyphosate has been found to damage healthy bacteria in the gut (the good guys). Some types of Clostridia are resistant to glyphosate. So eating GMO foods (most corn and soy is GMO) destroys our healthy bacteria, allowing more strains of Clostridia to grow, which in turn affects how dopamine is broken down, which in turn increases dopamine levels, which in turn leads to brain inflammation and symptoms we see in Autism. Elevated clostridia also leads to elevated propionic acid that can enter the blood stream (especially if the gut is inflamed) and lead to behaviours seen in Autism. Phew!! And Wow!

I know I have been discussing this theory and its possible (theoretical) connection to Austim. But this rationale holds true for any patient of any age. Clostridia levels are also high in my adult patients who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. We should also be looking to the gut when treating these conditions. And remember, the best way to change your gut bacteria is to change what you eat. That is another discussion topic I will write about later. We should all be taking a good quality probiotic, eliminate harmful bacteria (or greatly reduce) and eat only organic non-GMO foods.

So there you have it. My summary of a possible relationship of the gut-brain connection seen in conditions such as ADHD and Autism.

At vitalia Health Care we offer both comprehensive stool testing and Organic Acid Testing. These are 2 great places to start when introducing biomedical treatments for Autism.

I will be writing more about the great science based biomedical treatments I have learned about this weekend. Watch for them!!!

Yours in health
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND

1. Finegold SM, Dowd SE, Gontcharova, V et al. Pyrosequencing Study of Fecal Microflora of Autistic and Control Children. Anaerobe 2010.
2. MacFabe et al. Neurobiologic effects of intraventricular propionic acid in rats: possible role of short chain fatty acids on the pathogenesis and characteristics of autism spectrum disorders. Behavioural Brain Research, 2006.

brain-gut relationship