Candida Yeast-Autism Connection
Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon
There is a great deal of
evidence that a form of yeast, candida (rhymes with "Canada") albicans, may
cause autism and may exacerbate many behavior and health problems in
autistic individuals, especially those with late-onset autism.
albicans belongs to the yeast family and is a single-cell fungus. This form
of yeast is located in various parts of the body including the digestive
tract. Generally speaking, benign microbes limit the amount of yeast in the
intestinal tract, and thus, keep the yeast under control. However, exposure
to antibiotics, especially repeated exposure, can destroy these microbes.
This can result in an overgrowth of candida albicans. When the yeast
multiplies, it releases toxins in the body; and these toxins are known to
impair the central nervous system and the immune system.
Some of the behavior problems
which have been linked to an overgrowth of candida albicans include:
confusion, hyperactivity, short attention span, lethargy, irritability, and
aggression. Health problems can include: headaches, stomachaches,
constipation, gas pains, fatigue, and depression. These problems are often
worse during damp and/or muggy days and in moldy places. Additionally,
exposure to perfumes and insecticides can worsen the condition.
Dr. William Shaw has been
conducting important research on yeast and its effects on autistic
individuals. He recently discovered unusual microbial metabolites in the
urine of autistic children who responded remarkably well to anti-fungal
treatments. Dr. Shaw and his colleagues observed a decrease in urinary
organic acids as well as decreases in hyperactivity and self-stimulatory,
stereotyped behavior; and increases in eye contact, vocalization, and
There are many safe methods
to treat yeast overgrowth, such as taking nutritional supplements which
replenish the intestinal tract with 'good' microbes (e.g., acidophilus)
and/or taking anti-fungal medications (e.g., Nystatin, Ketoconazal, Diflucan).
It is also recommended that the person be placed on a special diet, low in
sugar and other foods on which yeasts thrive. Interestingly, if the candida
albicans is causing health and behavior problems, a person will often become
quite ill for a few days after receiving a treatment to kill the excess
yeast. The yeast is destroyed and the debris is circulated through the body
until it is excreted. Thus, a person who displays negative behaviors soon
after receiving treatment for candida albicans (the Herxheimer reaction) is
likely to have a good prognosis.
Please note: treatment for
candida albicans infrequently results in a cure for autism. However, if the
person is suffering from this problem, his/her health and behavior should
improve following the therapy.