Blog # 16- Autism And That “Gut” Feeling


Genetics Home Reference. (2019). “ADNP gene- activity dependent neuroprotector homeobox”. US National Library of Medicine. National Institute of Health. Retrieved 10 Jun. 2019 from

RMIT University. (2019, May 30). “Research confirms gut-brain connection in autism”. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 10, 2019 from

Many people diagnosed on the autism spectrum have been known to have gastrointestinal issues. In fact, “90 percent of people with autism suffer from gut problems, but nobody has known why” (RMIT University, 2019). Supposedly, the brain and the gut, in the context of genetics, both have the same alteration of genetic coding and sequencing which could explain some of the symptomatology behind the autism spectrum, specifically, with behavioral patterns.

Researchers are stating that a genetic mutation that affects neural development in the brain also affects gut function, and as a result, these are two potential causes of autism. The Gut-Brain Axis team that worked at RMIT University found some interesting results in terms of the function and the structure of the gut in mice that have this genetic mutation. For example, with regard to gut motility, we would expect to see differences in the muscle functioning of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract among people on the autism spectrum, and people that are not on the autism spectrum. What I am also thinking as well is that there may be distinctions between how food is digested, and how the nutrients are absorbed in people with autism and people without autism. Perhaps there are people with autism who are having difficulty with digesting certain food and difficulty with absorbing nutrients which could influence the reasoning behind the physical and mental symptomatology of some people on the autism spectrum, but there would have to be more research and data collection to make any conclusive statements. What this could also affect due to poor digestion and a lack of nutrition are rates in the speed and the number of neurons that are communicating between the small intestine (including the microbes) and the brain. Researchers think, “The link we’ve confirmed suggests a broader mechanism, indicating that the mutations that affect connections between neurons could be behind the gut problems in many patients” (RMIT University, 2019).

While researchers are certainly looking at the possibility of improving the mood and behavior in people with autism and improving their qualities of life by altering the interaction of microbes in connection with the small intestine and the brain, they cannot, “reverse the gene mutation” (RMIT University, 2019). However, when thinking about poor digestion and a lack of nutrition, when helping people on the autism spectrum, what I do think needs to be analyzed and evaluated more thoroughly are the kinds of food and drinks that they are drinking which could be affecting the processes of digestion and absorption, as well as evaluate problems with deglutition (swallowing) and mastication (chewing). Evaluating for any underlying medical issues or conditions also need to be investigated when conducting more research on the brain and gut connection in the context of people on the autism spectrum.

Clarity is another notion that needs to be considered as while the article did state a genetic mutation for both the brain and the gut with regards to autism, they did not state what gene (s) are involved. However, I did come across a specific gene called the ADNP gene- or the activity dependent neuroprotector homeobox. Once translated into a protein, the ADNP protein, “is particularly important for regulation of genes involved in normal brain development, and it likely controls the activity of genes that direct the development and function of other body systems” (Genetic Home Reference, 2019). The ADNP protein is likely involved with the gastrointestinal system in addition to neural development in the brain. I would definitely recommend that researchers do studies and clinical trials on the effect of the ADNP protein in relation to the brain and the small intestine in the context of how it implicates the mood and behavior in individuals on the autism spectrum. My educational guess would be that in addition to an alteration in gene expression, there is an antagonist that is causing a barrier between the translation of an ADNP gene to an ADNP protein which could be the key to understanding why there may be neural and gastrointestinal issues among people on the autism spectrum.