The Probable Cause of Autism
In 2014 I came down with a mild case of thyroid cancer. I was actually elated when we discovered the tumors on my thyroid because for the last five years my health had been spiraling downward, and no medical professional had yet been able to tell me why, though my tests always came back as showing elevated white blood cell count. A much longer version of this story ends with my life being upended and having to fight this disease on my own, a journey that took me down paths of discovery I never thought possible, and over the last few years I have not only been able to get rid of my cancer symptoms but have also been able to regrow my lost hair (not lost from treatment, but from aging) restore my thyroid function, and eliminate conditions of depression, insomnia, erectile dysfunction, and even my alcoholism and addiction which I discovered to be a neurological disorder.
Recently, while investigating a therapy to leverage the neurotransmitter GABA and its promotion of sleep, relaxation, and more importantly cellular regeneration I inadvertently stumbled on a possible cause and thence treatment for conditions of autism. The most important regulating factor in GABA production, I found, is the B vitamin biotin. You will not see this directly cited in medical studies because biotin’s role comes further up the chain of pathways which eventually lead to GABA production, as biotin is required to break down macronutrients for the body to make use of them, most pertinently and consequentially the branched chain amino acids (usually abbreviated BCAA). The material of which branched chain amino acids are made is used to supply other amino acids, proteins, and enzymes which directly influence our overall health and metabolic function, and this is especially relevant to the storage and elimination of ammonia sequestered in the protein glutamate, as though ammonia is an important mediator of metabolic processes in excess it causes a wide range of deleterious health effects, and without biotin this process is inhibited.
Those with autism present with low biotin, and a few recorded cases of biotin supplementation have shown to reverse symptoms of autism — but which returned on cessation of biotin supplementation, which seems to suggest that biotin is related to autistic symptoms, but also that some other factor is the true root cause of the condition, and does so by interfering with biotin activity. There are pathogenic species of bacteria which produce a protein called streptavidin which has an extraordinary affinity for biotin. Researchers do not know what biological function streptavidin performs for the microbes which produce it, because it does not sequester biotin for their own purposes (as I understand it), but it is clear to me that streptavidin’s purpose is to alter host metabolism through blocking biotin, as streptavidin’s binding to biotin is one of the strongest bonds in nature and can’t be broken by our normal digestive enzymes, and in so doing cause the branched chain amino acids to remain intact which in turn stimulates conditions which better favor the survival of those pathogens. The resultant drop in glutamine and GABA from biotin deficiency predictably raises ammonia, and those with autism also often present with high ammonia, and ammonia impairs brain function as well as interrupts sleep, and those with autism often also suffer from insomnia. Streptavidin is also shown in studies to block T cell function and Interleukin-2 and those with autism also have deficient interleukin 2 and T cell function. All humans eventually harbor the bacterial species which produce streptavidin, but due to healthy immune systems and gut microbiomes the majority of us are resistant to them until after we are already grown and fully developed and it is not until our immune systems decline through aging that they take up residence where they more commonly result in symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, metabolic disease, thyroid disease, weight gain, brain fog, and insomnia. But their ingress in young people who have yet to finish growing halts and impairs mental and physical development through the effective and direct inhibition of biotin. This premature ingress of streptavidin producing bacteria probably originates during a stress event which compromises the immune system or the gut microbiome sufficiently, which is also reflected in the fact that all those with autism suffer from one or more gastrointestinal disorders, including an increase in odorous bacteria. This probable cause of autism also accounts for the wide range and seemingly nebulous timing, speed, condition, and severity — it can even be justified by vaccine courses which are occasionally a burden to young immune systems if those young people are also already stressed by other nutritional or environmental factors which lower the immune function at the time of vaccination, such as the presence of glyphosate in food which can impair synthesis of the active form of vitamin D, which would explain some of the perceived association with vaccination events but not all, as clearly vaccination does not cause autism conditions as evidenced by the millions of vaccinations which take place that do not result in autism.
Even more tellingly, biotin is also needed in order to promote the cholesterols and fats which eventually contribute to the production of vitamin D during exposure to sunlight — and those with autism are also deficient in vitamin D, and a vitamin D deficiency actively alters the gut microbiome, so it seems that a total depletion of vitamin D stores (from glyphosate exposure or lack of sun exposure) alone or combined with another stress event such as exposure to glyphosate or a weakened immune system allows these bacteria to access the gut of a young person and take up permanent residence through the total inhibition of biotin, and in fact the relevant mechanism in the development of autism is the absence of vitamin D due to the lack of biotin and thus an inability to maintain a healthful gut microbiome.
Streptavidin is synthesized from protein, and I inadvertently discovered this potential therapy while developing ideas for dealing with excess ammonia levels in the body using short, strategic protein fasts since most conditions of excess ammonia also originate from protein fermentation by bacteria in the intestinal tract. Similar to the process I developed to address gut dysfunction in adults to help cure conditions like thyroid and metabolic disease, a strategic protein fast will halt streptavidin synthesis by invasive microbes since protein is necessary for streptavidin synthesis, and studies have shown that substrates that include amino acids like proline and arginine promote an increased affinity for biotin binding by streptavidin. The nature of streptavidin and its interference with biotin absorption is the primary reason why people see a temporary improvement in health when they first practice vegetarianism or veganism, as the substrates for this molecule are eliminated (meaning those who don’t supplement protein), but a long-term protein deficit is harmful and is also why those on such diets eventually begin suffering different health consequences. Making matters more complicated, for decades the research industry has used these very microbes which produce streptavidin to mass produce streptavidin for the research industry, as it is used in many aspects of scientific and medical research, and some have even developed mutant strains which produce molecules that are far more powerful than natural streptavidin at binding biotin, and I think it likely that the activity of these bacteria has increased in the general populace, which accounts for the general and inexplicably increased rates of autism, where those bacteria which naturally produce streptavidin have been given an advantage by human activity or which increased the potency of their biotin binding molecule in a species which is making its way through the general population, and if my hypothesis proves correct it will eventually only be necessary to screen children for autism by identifying these offending pathogens in simple fecal sample.
Most families who deal with autism have already confirmed the bacterial component of autism through the recognition that certain dietary changes help with symptoms, and many families with autistic members practice some form of dietary alteration to cope with significant bowel issues. A protein deficiency can have its own serious metabolic consequences, so this should not be taken as advice to avoid or reduce protein generally, as doing so will prevent healing and accelerate and worsen emotional, mental, and metabolic health in the long run. But in order to inhibit streptavidin and replenish biotin for vitamin D synthesis it is necessary to go on a very low protein diet while also supplementing extra biotin in order to saturate and inactivate any residual streptavidin. Typically when I do this myself for my own gut issues I begin in the evening with a big, protein-free dinner and dessert, and begin taking supplemental biotin with every meal. By the time I wake up my gut begins to change already with favorable increases in gut motility. But streptavidin has been shown to concentrate in the kidneys and stays there for a full three or four days, and the kidney is where vitamin D made in the skin eventually converts into the active form. So this therapy will be most successful if the fast can eventually be done for more than several days. It is better when starting to do it in short durations of one or two days to test the effect on your family and devise better strategies for lengthening it.
It is important that all major protein sources like meat, milk, beans, cheese, nuts, and grains be abstained during these protein fasts (yes, even bread and cereal), as even a small amount will enable these microbes to produce streptavidin and block biotin absorption, and you must educate yourself to the protein content contained in food. It is impossible to avoid all protein, as there is protein every food and abstaining from all of it is not desirable anyway, but abstaining from as much of it as possible will be sufficiently effective, and there is no need to be overzealous about it. Protein fasts are especially stressful for children and the elderly, so only abstaining from protein so long as everyone is comfortable. Luckily there is one source of protein which can be consumed during this diet to effectively provide complete protein nutrition while also blocking the effect of streptavidin. There is a dietary therapy promoted by some which promotes avoiding gluten and casein proteins specifically, but this is partly misguided. This approach was based on the discovery of increased circulation and urinary excretion of peptides in those with autism compared to those without it (peptides are pieces of protein). Gluten does contribute to autism symptoms because the gluten in common wheat is very, very difficult to digest and does cause metabolic problems in all humans. But casein is actually very easily digested, and the reason for these increased urinary peptides is in fact simply the deficit of biotin caused by streptavidin, as biotin is required to break down nutrients like proteins for our body to make use of them, and so without sufficient biotin these peptides are never broken down and so unusable in metabolic processes, which is why cognitive and development impairments occur. Furthermore, several studies have shown casein to actually be antibiotic. I believe casein is antibiotic because of the micelles in which it is enveloped, which is a fatty capsule which surrounds the casein protein, which I believe shields the protein from pathogenic bacteria which would use it for their own nutrition. Scientists commonly use milk to inhibit streptavidin as well, but I believe it is the casein in the milk which performs this function, and so it can be extremely effective and helpful to use a high quality casein supplement during this practice to both supply much needed protein and further inhibit streptavidin and streptavidin producing bacteria. An example of a good, high quality casein product is one made by the brand Naked Nutrition. Their product is expensive but it is really well made and there are no other binders or additives, which can sometimes be harmful, and it is also a very large 5 lb jug which will last you for several months, so it’s well worth the purchase if you can afford it. If not, you can search for a more affordable product, just look for one with as few ingredients as possible. The use of casein will make this diet very effective without having any side effects caused by protein deficiency.
One of the most helpful foods that you can consume during a protein fast is the root vegetable Yuca (pronounced yooka, also called Cassava). Yuca is one of the most effective dietary fibers for shifting the gut microbiome, but like almonds yuca contains cyanide compounds and must be prepared properly (boiling in water) to remove the cyanide which in excess can be a problem. Consuming yuca during the protein fast strongly shifts the gut microbiome to one which supports healthy gut microbes and inhibits unhelpful varieties. Here is a great recipe for yuca hash browns, but cassava flour can also be purchased and used to make delicious desserts such as cassava cake (some cassava flour products are only the starch, which is tapioca, which is not beneficial for this purpose, and real cassava flour should be mealy and coarse, not fine and powdery).
More important than protein fasting is the requirement for exposure to natural sunlight during the protein fast to thus achieve an increase in endogenous vitamin D (endogenous means made within our body rather than supplemented). Doing a protein fast without also getting sunshine will not alter the gut microbiome in any meaningful way and thus not permanently eradicate these bacteria, so it is worthwhile to wait until weather conditions permit sunbathing. Supplementing vitamin D is not sufficient for this purpose, as certain hormones which are elevated during light deficiency actively inhibit vitamin D, so getting sunshine is crucial to the success of this therapy rather than supplemental intervention, and avoidance of foods potentially contaminated with glyphosate will be necessary for the body to complete the full vitamin D pathway and avoid any effects it might have on the gut microbiome to begin with. Non-organic grain is the biggest offender for glyphosate, so that includes any and all breads, pasta, cookies, and cereal that is not organic, but any conventionally grown food like potatoes, fruit, and even nuts, can have large amounts of glyphosate as well. Please take care to avoid times of day and conditions which promote sunburn — because both sunblock and glass inhibit vitamin D synthesis, so sun exposure to bare skin during safe hours and climates is ideal.
Practicing this therapy a few times might be sufficient to totally restore a healthy gut microbiome (after the 3-4 day mark when streptavidin is completely cleared from the kidneys), as a good session of sun exposure (1-3 hours—again, do not burn) can produce enough vitamin D to last for several days to several weeks, and vitamin D stores probably last even longer in children because they do not yet have sex hormones which use up vitamin D more rapidly. Signs of improvement should be immediate if this practice works and are signs like improve gut function in the autistic person which includes better smelling excrement as one of the most obvious signs as healthier bacteria take over, but may also include improved sleep and relaxation as well. The sudden increase in vitamin D may produce a significant bowel movement several hours later after sun exposure, and this would also be a good sign that the migrating motor complex has kicked in, which is the mechanism by which our gut evicts unwanted microbes but can sometimes be quite forceful.
It is extremely important during a protein fast that you prepare adequately to provide a substantial increase in calories, meals, and snacks from carbohydrates and fat during this time, as the reduction in protein will stimulate a significant increase in hunger stimulus and requirement for nutrients. Many people do not heed this advice and find themselves feeling poorly quite soon after beginning (you can do this too to benefit your own health for the same reasons it will benefit your autistic charge). The only way to avoid discomfort and distraught children or yourself is to stay ahead of your hunger, make satisfying meals, and keep a shit-ton of fruit and other quick access foods handy in order to prevent lapses in hunger and caloric supply. A few recipes in the food section of my blog are both low in protein and really satisfying. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, and cassava are especially helpful. Squash, greens, and fruits are also other great choices. Cream, butter, and coconut oil can help boost caloric intake in healthy and delicious ways, and lots of good fruit both whole, frozen, or dried are also necessary in order to achieve good nutrition and caloric intake. Tapioca is a great protein-free starch which can be used to make yummy desserts to provide both calories, carbs, and entertainment (also called cassava flour which can be used in stews or soups to increase carbs and provide thickening). Complex salads with lots of vegetables and homemade dressing (store bought are made with bad oils that are unhealthy). Healthy candies which are made of good sugars and simple ingredients are also a great way to provide some fun and entertainment or distraction while also assisting the metabolic rate and the production of vitamin D precursors.
I have not been able to develop this approach significantly, and there may be variables that I am not aware of, and I am working on easier ideas on how to reset the gut in the case of autism, but I think that this is an extremely promising and simple course of investigation for those families whose loved ones present with autistic symptoms. This also has implications for adults and other metabolic conditions — many of which I discuss in my book including my journey through cancer recovery, how to regrow lost hair, cure thyroid disease, and address such problems as candida, white-tongue, depression, insomnia, erectile and libido dysfunction, and how to maintain healthy weight through easy and accessible therapies. In the future a more direct and effective treatment would be a pharmaceutical which directly antagonizes streptavidin itself. Antibiotics will not likely be effective in this case because the gut requires the presence of healthy bacteria producing biotin and other B vitamins in order to support vitamin D synthesis and normal metabolic health. Avoiding foods with glyphosate and other pesticides, again, is also of paramount importance.
This is just a beginning, and this idea warrants further investigation and discovery by those who are more competent than I. If you’d like to know more about how to improve your own health you can explore more articles on this blog or get a copy of my book Fuck Portion Control.