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Title: Gut-brain axis in children with cerebral palsy or autism

Reidun Stenberg

University Hospital Research Center, Sweden

Biography

Reidun Stenberg MD, PhD is a Swedish pediatric neurologist working at Örebro University hospital and Örebro University doing research on the gut health and undernutrition/underweight in children with cerebral palsy and autism with focus on gut-brain axis. Member of the Swedish Neuropediatric society and neuropediatric representative to the Cerebral Palsy follow up program register, CPUP. Teacher at Örebro University in Pediatric Medicine and Neurology, since many years, for medical students, nurses, medical personnel and occupational therapists. Teacher in scientific program for future physician’s specialists at the University Hospital in Örebro. Scientific publications of original peer reviewed articles and reviewer for suitable scientific journals.

Abstract

Undernutrition with poor weight and height gain is frequently seen in patients with cerebral palsy (CP) and is a consequence of feeding and gastrointestinal problems that are poorly understood and investigated and therefore difficult to treat properly. Children with autism also have gastrointestinal problems with symptoms that can be difficult to interpret since they have problems to communicate.

The overall goal of the research is to study gut health (gut biomarkers in relation to clinical data, the intestinal permeability and the gut microflora) and it´s impact of the brain.

Undernutrition/underweight has a great negative impact on a person’s life quality and can lead to disturbances in the gut, the brain and the bone density. In our previous studies of CP- children we found a high frequency of antibodies against food in children with the lowest weight. Our hypothesis is that they have increased permeability in the gut allowing entrance of undigested proteins in the circulatory system that could stimulate the immune system and interfere with other transport mechanism over the gut barrier such as uptake of vitamins, nutrients and water, leading to difficulties for weight gain. The clinical significance of the dietary antibodies is subject of a collaborative research at Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, New York. We do not know anything of the microbiota in these patients but have ongoing studies.

Research has shown that probiotics that can be a promising therapy on altered gut flora and that it can improve the immune system, reinforcing the colonic defense barrier, and protects the body against pathogens. The gut microbiota and probiotics treatment relating to the brain will also be discussed.

Take away message: Knowledge about underweight and gut health in persons and especially in disabled persons is poor. More research on this topic is essential since undernutrition/underweight is treatable and should be done, especially early in life, to avoid sequele in the gut and the brain. The importance of a normal microflora has according to recent research been highlighted and its impact on our health and the function of the brain. Dietary antibodies especially gluten has also been discussed to have negative impact on the brain for example on behavior in autism and mood in patients with celiac disease.