It’s becoming common knowledge that autism is a multi-system medical condition strongly associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction. Since sustaining a series of medically induced injuries in 2014, that you can read about here, I’ve been working hard to heal my autistic gut. My goal isn’t to become neurotypical, but to reduce the inflammation in my brain so that I can be the best autistic I can be.

I’ve written before that I believe there’s an autistic sweet spot, a point at which the gifts bestowed by the condition outweigh the deficits. That sweet spot is the point to which I’m trying to return. I love my unique thought processes and my artistic abilities. I don’t mind my lack of social acumen. But I hate the neuroinflammation that makes me want to punch myself in the head with my fists, and I don’t like it when I want to speak but can’t.

I’ve been experimenting with dietary changes and probiotic supplements for several months.

It’s best to increase the microbial diversity in one’s gut through diet, but I’m not yet at a point where I can tolerate many foods. Earlier this year, I transitioned from years of eating a pro-inflammatory, high histamine, high lectin vegetarian diet, to low histamine, Paleo style meals. My ability to eat more than a handful of foods without dire duodenal consequences disappeared in 2014. Reintroducing foods to a decimated gastrointestinal system is a slow process, so I’m experimenting with probiotic supplementation in the short term.

Finding a balance that promotes health without causing setbacks involves a lot of trial and error. Research into the effects of different probiotic strains is in its infancy. Data is scant. While it’s questionable whether probiotic supplements can colonize the gut in and of themselves, research shows they can transform the types of bacteria present in the intestine.

My adventure with Lactobacillus reuteri was a big heavy histamine flop, so I moved along. Next up was Lactobacillus rhamnosus. What caught my eye about L. rhamnosus is the fact that it’s one of the most studied probiotic strains. One study of particular interest to me investigated the effect of lactobacillus rhamnosus vs. placebo in seventy-five babies. The children were given Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or placebo in the first 6 months of their lives. The children’s gut microbiota were assessed at 3 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 24 months and 13 years of age. Remarkably, when the children were evaluated at 13 years of age, 17.1% of the placebo group were determined to be on the autism spectrum, while none of the L. rhamnosus group were diagnosed with autism.

The best known L. rhamnosus probiotic on the market is Culturelle. But I’m on a budget, so I looked for a less expensive alternative. I decided to try CVS Health brand Maximum Strength Probiotic after carefully examining the ingredient label. The CVS formulation contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus A191, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, and Bifidobacterium longum. It’s also free of any excipients or fillers that have been problematic for me in the past.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium breve, and Bifobacterium longum are all reputed to lower histamine, so it was clear where I’d be getting more bang for my buck. So how am I getting along with my L. Rhamnosus blend?

So far, so good. I’ve been taking it once daily since September 12th and haven’t noticed any ill effects. You still won’t find me making eye contact with strangers, but my anxiety seems less intense since mid-October. Time will tell what else these strains have in store for me.

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Twilah H is a recovering patient. She studied Philosophy with a concentration in ethics at the University of Kansas. Through writing, meditation, relationship building, and quilt creation she has found a place of peace.

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