Autism and Gastrointestinal Inflammation

Chronic ileocolonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia (LNH) and enterocolitis characterized by mucosal inflammation of the stomach, small and large intestine resembling an autoimmune condition. Genetically, there may be a correlation between autism and other inflammatory diseases.88

HBOT has been used with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  HBOT also reduces prostaglandin production (which increases inflammation, pain, and edema).

There is growing evidence of immune dysregulation in autistic individuals and new research is revealing the link between the immune system and the nervous system.89 An increased number of autoimmune diseases exist in autistic families compared to control families. Some researchers believe that autism is an autoimmune condition with genetic components.90

HBOT may be useful in treating some autoimmune diseases and has shown promise in rheumatic diseases, including lupus scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis.  In patients with MS HBOT produced a significant increase in total and helper T-cells.  Some of the immunomodulatory effects of HBOT might be due to the increased pressure, not necessarily the increased oxygen tension.  Even low hyperbaric pressures without additional oxygen can affect the immune system.

Autistic children show evidence of increased oxidative stress and increased lipid peroxidation. Further oxidative stress can occur from HBOT but is less of a concern at pressures under 2.0 ATA. At this level HBOT can actually decrease oxidative stress by reducing lipid peroxidation.

There is evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction in autism.

88Zhang, 217.
89Ibid., 220.
90Ibid., 221.