White JF. (2003) Experimental Biology and Medicine 228 (6) 639 - 649
Autism is a life-long developmental disorder affecting as many as 1 in 500 children. The causes for this profound disorder are largely unknown. Recent research has uncovered pathology in the gastrointestinal tract of autistic children. The pathology, reported to extend from the esophagus to the colon, is described here along with other studies pointing to a connection between diet and the severity of symptoms expressed in autism. The evidence that there is impaired intestinal permeability in autism is reviewed, and various theories are discussed by which a leaky gut could develop. Lastly, some possible ways in which impaired gastrointestinal function might influence brain function are discussed.