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Severe Symptoms Of Autism Lowered by Improving The Gut in Teenager with Autism (Case Study)

I am familiar with this situation because my son was diagnosed with severe autism, and I went through the same situation. He was aggressive with self-injury behavior but after improving his gut with a couple of antibiotics to get rid of harmful bacteria and improve existent major deficiencies like vitamin D, omega-3, and others; he had made major improvements like doing well in school, and playing different sports like basketball, and soccer.

In reality, my son was aggressive because it was his way of communicating with me that something was wrong with his belly (gut). How many kids with autism are out there with severe symptoms and self-injury behavior that are merely trying to let people know that something hurts inside of them? Other kids with autism may not be severe but can improve significantly by improving their nutrition. After going through different practitioners, I was able to find a physician that explained to me the connection between the gut and the brain and other imbalances common in autism. He was able to explain to me his lab results and what's happening in his body. After this event, a fire was ignited inside of me to research and make a difference not only in my son but also the whole community.

The gut and the brain are connected. In fact, the gut is called the second brain. Gastrointestinal issues are common in children with autism. We need to create awareness that:

A Healthy Gut Will Produce A Healthy Brain

The Integrative Medicine Clinical Journal published a case similar to my experience. A 16-year old autistic teenager presented with severe obsessive-compulsive behavior and with a high degree of self-injurious behavior. He was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old.

Self-injury behavior started to reach a severe level at the age of eleven, and he began to wear a helmet to protect his head from constant headbanging. His behavior was so extreme that he was confined to his house. Curiously, his actual physician had excellent nutrition knowledge and began to optimize vitamin D to optimal levels and add some anti-inflammatory nutrients like curcumin.

The physician started a probiotic called S Boulardii, which helps to improve the gastrointestinal function. It is worthy of mentioning that not all probiotics are the same, and the effectiveness of probiotics depends on the particular specie of beneficial bacteria and the dose used. The dose of the probiotic was increased every week until it reached an adequate level.


The use of the helmet (headbanging) was significantly diminished, and the obsessive-compulsive behavior was lowered to a parent rating of 2 out of 10 (10 is the highest level of negative behavior).

Children with autism will do better in therapy like behavior therapy or occupational therapy, if they have appropriate nutrition.

Things to Learn From This Experience

*There is an incredible potential inside of children with autism. Parents have to become detectives to see what's wrong with their kids.

*Children with autism need to be evaluated for multiple deficiencies and the physician needs to be aware of the difference between low, average levels, and optimal levels of a vitamin or nutrient.

*Parents have to become involved in improving the nutrition in children with autism.

*Never give up, never give up. The answer to your question is closer than what you think.

David Rivas, RPh, MSc, CCN

Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist/Consultant


Guo, M., Zhu, J., Yang, T., Lai, X., Lei, Y., Chen, J., & Li, T. (2019). Vitamin A and vitamin D deficiencies exacerbate symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders. Nutritional Neuroscience, 22(9), 637-647.

Kobliner, V., Mumper, E., & Baker, Sydney. (2018). Reduction in Obsessive Compulsive and Self-Injurious Behavior with Saccharomyces boulardii in a child with Autism. Integrative Medicine Clinical Journal, 17 (6), 38-41.

Strati, F., Cavalieri, D., Albanese, D., De Felice, C., Donati, C., Hayek, J., ... & De Filippo, C. (2017). New evidences on the altered gut microbiota in autism spectrum disorders. Microbiome, 5(1), 24.

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