Autism and Allergies

The potential link between Autism and allergies is a subject which I find very interesting.

Three members in my family are Autistic and all of us also suffer with asthma and allergies – nuts, dogs, dust, pollen, kiwi and tomatoes to name only a few!

I am always interested, yet not surprised, when I hear of others on the spectrum, who like me, also suffer from allergies.

There seems to be a possible link between the two?

There’s not much research out there with regards to this subject but, by using what I have found, I’ve managed to put together this short blog which lists some prominent facts relating to a potential link for anyone who has an interest.

In 2018 a group of researchers examined responses from parents who completed the National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2016 – a health survey among children and adults in the United States of America.

Parents of 199,520 children aged 3 – 17 answered questions about whether their child had experienced a food, skin or respiratory allergy in the past year. Of these children, 1,868 had an Autism diagnosis.

Out of the Autistic children, 11.25% recorded a food allergy, compared with 4.25% of the neurotypical children… 19% declared a respiratory allergy, compared with 12% of the children without an Autism diagnosis… and 17% of children with Autism suffered from eczema or some type of skin allergy, compared with 10% of the neurotypical children.

This study gives the impression that allergies are more than twice as likely to appear among Autistic children as they are among their peers. However, the researchers were clear to state that this is not proof that Autism causes allergies or vice versa.

So why is it that we are more likely to suffer from allergies? What do researchers believe makes us more susceptible to the physical reaction of an allergic reaction?

Due to the lack of studies being carried out, answers to these questions are impossible to find. I have tried contacting various sources to ask if more information is available and received no response. The only information I can source are the following sentences which indicate potential theories but neither expand their case further:

‘One theory is that the gut microbiome – the natural bacteria found in your digestive system – might be altered somehow, and may trigger inflammation that plays a role in these conditions.’

‘Another theory is a possible common problem somewhere in the immune system.’

I am by no means a medical professional or a scientist but I found the following statement during my research and it sparked an idea…

‘Hypersensitivity – an over-reaction to innocuous foreign material, out of proportion to potential damage (allergy).’

Your immune system is the reason you can develop an allergy. If there is a difference in your system it can cause ‘hypersensitivity’ this is an ‘over-reaction to innocuous foreign material, out of proportion to potential damage (allergy)’.

Those with Autism are sometimes hypersensitive to our environments – often taste, sound, light, touch and smell. This hypersensitivity is due to a reaction in our brains caused by the various stimuli which surrounds us. This reaction is often different than that which would be expected in a neurotypical.

I suppose if you compared our reactions to that of a neurotypical then our brains could be seen as having an ‘over-reaction to innocuous foreign material’. But, as an Aspie myself, I can assure you we only ever have perfectly reasonable reactions to the world around us!!

If this is the case then it seems to make sense that our other organs would also have this hypersensitive reaction to ‘foreign materials’. It adds as evidence to the idea that our entire bodies are wired differently to that of a neurotypical.

Whilst experts still do not know why a link is possible, there is great indication that a link does exist. I hope that increased research does take place on this subject as I feel the results would be beneficial in creating a further understanding of Autism and may even help with the diagnostic process.

I would be really interested to hear other views on this subject and any beliefs/evidence you may wish to share via the contact page or in the comment section below.

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