The Pill’s link to ADD and autism

by Andy Moore

The Healthy Home Economist blog reports on troubling findings from the book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Since the introduction of oral contraceptives in the early 1960′s, use of The Pill has soared to approximately 7 in 10 women of childbearing age…..

The widespread use of oral contraceptives is a troubling issue because these types of drugs devastate beneficial bacterial flora in the gut leaving it vulnerable to colonization and dominance from pathogenic strains such as Candida Albicans, Streptococci and Staphylococci among others.  By the time a woman who has used oral contraceptives is ready to have children, a severe case of gut dysbiosis has more than likely taken hold….

What’s worse, drug induced gut imbalance is especially intractable and resistant to treatment either with probiotics or diet change.

What does this mean for your future child’s health?  A lot, as it turns out!…

A human baby is born with a sterile gut. This means that there is no bacterial activity in a fetus’ digestive system prior to birth. The vast majority of gut flora that a child eventually develops is inherited from Mom, so if Mom has gut imbalance, so will her children and probably more severely so.

Children with imbalanced gut flora are particularly predisposed to autoimmune disorders in the form of allergies, asthma, and eczema. In more severe cases of gut dysbiosis, learning disabilities manifest such as ADHD, ADD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and others. Of course, there is sometimes an environmental “trigger” which instigates these disorders, but it is crucial to keep in mind that gut dysbiosis is the primary underlying cause.

[HT: Brendan Malone of The Culture Vulture blog]

35 thoughts on “The Pill’s link to ADD and autism”

  1. What?!!!  Oral contraceptives are bad?!!!  Who are you trying to fool now?!!!  All you religious zealots need to stop lying to us, stay inside your churches, keep your hands off our uteruses (or is it uteri?) and let us do whatever feels good!
    Sorry.  I could not help myself.  I was imagining the reaction from all the progressives.  And before I knew it, I was typing.
    Seriously though, what an incredible breakthrough!  Contraceptives are not the panacea of utopian happiness as promised?  Who would have believed it?
    OK, sorry again.  I do find it very interesting that oral contraceptives are now showing a link to autism.  I have read about gigantic increases in the incidence of autism and links to abortion.  Of course, those links have been vehemently denied by the pro-abortion crowd.
    It’s funny how they tell us to keep our religious beliefs to ourselves.  Then they want to ignore science when it does not agree with them either.

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  2. “The vast majority of gut flora that a child eventually develops is inherited from Mom, so if Mom has gut imbalance, so will her children and probably more severely so.”

    That just doesn’t follow.  If this is indeed a genetically inherited trait (like hair or eye color), I don’t see why the mom’s damaged gut flora would have any effect on her kids.   The kids would get what their mom started out with genetically, just as kids don’t inherit blindness because a parent suffered an eye injury, or baldness because a parent’s scalp was scarred from a house fire.

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  3. I kinda think this study might be bunk, but the gut flora is passed to the child through breast milk, I believe. So it does follow that it would be passed on but not genetic, and get worse in successive generations.

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  4. Well, then if gut flora aren’t a genetic thing (which I’m sure they aren’t), then they’re not just from mom.  They’re from anybody who has contact with the baby.  So dad’s gut flora should help the baby’s develop properly if he spends time in contact with her.  Incidentally, the dad’s normal gut flora should help replenish/restore the mom’s once she stops taking hormonal contraceptives.

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  5. This is so interesting, I’ve been following Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s work for a few years now.  I have a child with serious intestinal issues plus developmental delays.  We began following Dr. NCM’s protocols with lots of skepticism, and were completely shocked when our child’s body began healing in just a few weeks.  It was amazing.  

    I was on the pill for years before she was born and never went on it again afterwards, and neither of her 2 (soon to be 3!) younger siblings have any similar issues. If it’s a coincidence, it’s an interesting coincidence.

    Also-Dr. NCM doesn’t just discuss BCPs as being harmful, she implicates formula (someone raised that point earlier) and processed foods as well.

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  6. Inheritence doesn’t refer exclusively to genetics.  I mean, just think about it, Courtney.  Who spends the most time with a baby? Especially if the baby is breast fed, it is mom.  The original linked article does clarify it by explaining that the *majority* of gut flora is “inherited” from mom.  And breast milk, under normal conditions, is sterile.  The gut isn’t populated with flora from breast milk, it’s from touch.  Plain old physcal intimacy.

    I find the possibilities fascinating because I have long suspected that there was some common link behind so many of the seemingly endemic food allergies and chronic illness and also the rise of autism. What I’d like to see first, is a study or two linking oral contraceptive use with changed or reduced intestinal flora. A quick google search did not turn up anything.

    Kamilla

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  7. @Kamilla, sure, inheritance can mean things besides genetics (i.e., inheritance via a will), but in this sort of context that’s what it means.   Yes, I understand that the mom is normally the person who spends the most time with her baby.  So it’s reasonable to claim that if the mom’s gut flora are compromised, it could <i>slow</i> the baby’s gut flora development, but it wouldn’t halt it unless the baby had no contact with any other person.  Breastmilk, by the way, is not sterile.  It’s a body fluid.

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  8. Ah now Courtney, you’ve stepped onto my professional territory.  Breast milk is most certainly sterile under normal conditions as are the other body fluids like blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluid.  It is only in certain disease states that *any* of these body fluids ceases to be sterile.

    As to inheritence, it does not mean genetics in this context – that was my purpose in referring you to the original article which does clarify the sense in which the word, inheritence, is being used.

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  9. Kamilla, professional or no, you are mistaken.  Breastmilk is not sterile by any recognized use of the term.  

    sterile – adjective
    1. free from living germs or microorganisms; aseptic: sterile surgical instruments.
    2. incapable of producing offspring; not producing offspring.
    3. barren; not producing vegetation: sterile soil.

    Breastmilk has plenty of things in it (good bacteria and antibodies, for example) and is capable of passing on blood-borne pathogens, including HIV, as well as some drugs taken by the mother.  The fact that milk banks pasteurize breastmilk donated to them should tell you something.

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  10. It seems possible.  You have to remember that genes are like blueprints, and that you supply a body with the materials that the genes use to construct the body.  If you supply the body with faulty equipment, then the genes will produce a faulty body.  This is why it is so important for a pregnant woman to take vitamins, for example. 

    There has certainly been a huge spike in cases of autism lately, and it seems like far too many to just be attributed to it not being reported or understood in the past.  And at the same time, the number of women who waited until later in life to have children and delayed pregnancy through the use of chemical birth control has also spiked greatly.  It’s not farfetched to assume there’s a connection.

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  11. Courtney,

    If you’ve got some reference to show me breast milk lacks sterility under normal conditions, I’d like to see it.  Because when you write, “Breastmilk, by the way, is not sterile.  It’s a body fluid.”, and then write that breastmilk is “capable of passing on blood-borne pathogens” I have to wonder if you have even read what I wrote.  I’m not disputing that breast milk is capable of passing on bbp, breast milk that is passing along a bbp such as HIV is not a normal condition!  Being called a “blood borne pathogen” should be a clue – carrying a pathogen is not a normal condition for blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid or breast milk.  In fact, breast milk, urine and cerebrospinal fluid which could all be described as specialized filtrates of blood are all normally sterile since the blood they come from is normally sterile. In addition, breast milk contains lactoferrin, a natural bacteriostatic agent. 

    What pasteurization of donated breast milk tells me is the same thng exposing donated blood to UV lights and sterilizing surgical instruments between patients tells me (and, come to think of it, the same thing “universal precautions” tells me) — that any screening process for the possible presence of pathogens is imperfect and these procedures are implemented to ensure the safest products and procedures possible.

    So, unless you’ve got some solid references (recognized medical journals like JAMA, Lancet, NEJM, AJOG), I’ll leave it here.

    Kamilla

    P.S. to all – although the article is attractive, it seems to be unfounded.  I’ve never seen anything in the literature indicating OCP reduces normal gut flora neither have three friends I’ve contacted seen anything like that – two of them are pathologists and the third is a pharmacist.

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  12. Kamilla, how about Yale School of Medicine’s patient information website? Or this article from the Journal of Pediatrics (Martín R, 2003 Dec; 143(6): 754-8) entitled Human milk is a source of lactic acid bacteria for the infant gut. (The presence of bacteria, as you know, means it’s not sterile by definition.) And the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases & Medical Microbiology, which published an article that stated “[h]uman breast milk is not sterile”? (Canadian Paediatric Society, Maternal Infectious Diseases, Antimicrobial Therapy or Immunizations: Very Few Contraindications to Breastfeeding, 2006 Sep–Oct; 17(5): 270–272).

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  13. Courtney,

    A patient information website is not a solid reference, the sort of source I was asking for by listing several professional journals.

    I cannot access the full text of the Journal of Pediatrics article, but the conclusions listed in the abstract are inconclusive, leaving it open as to whether the bacteria are truly endogenous to the breast milk or the result of contamination from the surrounding skin (and, in fact, I think you’ll find that all the bacterial sp mentioned in the abstract are normal skin flora).  The next citation you give seems to confirm that the bacteria one finds in breast milk are indeed the result of contamination with normal skin flora and the article itself is actually about maternal infectious disease.

    Finally, on the contrary, the mere presence of bacteria does not mean “it’s not sterile by definition” — even by the definition you gave above.  That first definition reads, “free from living germs or microorganisms”  So, a fluid may contain dead bacteria and yet be sterile.

    I’m done here.

    Kamilla

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  14. I was born in 1957, long before oral contraceptives were in vogue.  Yet I had ADHD as a child and as an adult.  How do you explain that?  There are a zillion theories about what causes ADHD, but I don’t think anyone really knows. 

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  15. Kamilla, no, the J. Pediatrics article notes in the abstract that the researchers found that “none of the lactic acid bacteria isolated from breast skin shared RAPD profiles with lactic acid bacteria of the other sources [i.e., milk and infant oral swabs].”  In other words, that the lactic acid bacteria must have come from the milk itself rather than from the mom’s skin.  

    And I’m not talking about dead bacteria.  Nor are these researchers. Do I really need to specify?

    p.s. You mentioned earlier that this is in your professional territory. May I ask what your profession is? Are you a lactation consultant by chance?

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  16. Courtney,

    Since you ask, I am a Medical Technologist (aka Clinical Laboratory Scientist) with over 25 years in the field including working in both Microbiology and Hematology.   I have extensive experience in Hematology in particular, working in a large teaching hospital, where I was known to exceed our specialist’s ability in ferreting out malaria sp present in blood samples.

    The problem with your assessment of the JPed study cited is that raw data mean very little without interpretation – your interpretation of the results listed in the abstract does not match the interpretation of those same results given in the conclusion section of the abstract.  The conclusion says, “Breast-feeding can be a significant source of lactic acid bacteria to the infant gut.”  (emphasis addeed).  There is no definite statement in the conclusion as to the source of the bacteria.

    Lastly, I have just received confirmation of all I have argued for here from a pathologist friend.  So I am pretty certain I am not confused about the sterile nature of body fluids under normal conditions. 

    Now, I really am done here.

    Kamilla

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  17. I’m sure oral contraceptives contribute to gut imbalance, as do other medications and foods. We are so used to accepting whatever doctors prescribe or we can get over the counter, as well as eating whatever we feel like. I’ve only learned more about gastro-intestinal tract issues in the past few years, even though I’d been on medication for reflux and other conditions for years. I never knew it was connected to fertility. We were simply told we were infertile – after two children and two miscarriages and stillborn twins. A few years ago after being tired of feeling horrible, I took someone’s advice and went through colon hydrotherapy. When discussing my medical history, the certified hydrotherapist told me many people are diagnosed infertile when in reality their bodies are simply toxic. She said invitro (spelling?) clinics used to send patients to her to detox before undergoing IVF, but stopped when so many conceived naturally after detoxing. BTW, she said she also suggests to couples that both the man and woman go through detox. She also told me it was very likely my food allergies, high blood pressure, and others issues would resolve with detox. As for the reflux, she told me drugs like Nexium, which I’d been on for 12years eliminate the stomach acids, and allow undigested food to enter the colon, where they can lodge and result in toxicity. At that point, I wasn’t sure I believed her, I was just willing to try alternatives to feel better. FYI – I also changed my diet per her recommendations. My 12yo+ food allergies were gone after three sessions, as were my need for blood pressure, allergy, asthma, reflux, and other medicines. And, best of all, four months later I conceived and then carried to full term! Now, I have a beautiful little 18mo daughter. While pregnant and nursing, I haven’t been able to do any detox. After two courses of antibiotics this winter, my GI tract is a mess again – even with probiotics. I’m a true believer in “gut imbalance” and am sure that many, many drugs – including oral contraceptives – contribute to it and cause all manor of medical problems.

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  18. ADHD does not exist.  It is a political disease invented to solve a institutional problem: how to control boys in schools run by females.  All healthy boys are “ADHD.”  I regard both the Pill and anabolic steroids as recreational drugs.  Males take steroids to enhance athletic performance, while females take the Pill to protect continued sexual performance.  Liberals oppose steroid use for males because it damages their health but the promote it for females and get very testy at the thought of prohibiting the massive use of the Pill.

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  19. I could easily imagine a gut imbalance being passed on. After all, just about everything else about the mother can be passed on–including allergies.

    And with all the issues that can and do happen with contraceptives, would not surprise me if some of the results of taking said contraceptives get passed down. Whatever the mother does, the in-uteral pre-born human being does, too. (It was even on a poster in my OB/GYN’s office–but I already knew it before I saw the posters).

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  20. I am absolutely convinced that prenatal ultrasound may well be a contributing factor to the increase of autism, in fact I am convinced of it. According to one commercial by some autism foundation, autism has increased 600% in the past 20 years. What has also markedly increased in that time? The use of ultrasound from early pregnancy to birth. One theory is the soundwaves and heat generated by ultrasound may be detramental to immature, developing nervous systems.
    Check out Google for the research that is being done. I remember when autism was rare. Keep in mind that x-rays were once considered harmless as well.

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  21. Neither of these proposals fit, anecdotally, with what I know.  My nephew has autism.  He had no more than the normal amount of ultrasounds; my friend’s child was being scanned every week, and he has no sign of it.  (My daughter had more than her fair share, too, and is normal).  My SIL was never on hormonal birth control; my friend’s son was conceived on birth control.  Nephew was breastfed (for a while at least); friend’s kid only ever had formula.
    A special diet didn’t help my nephew, either.
    I hope someday there is a cure.

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  22. YCW,

    What you are pointing out is anecdotal. I know people with all kinds of x-ray exposure that do not have cancer. That doesn’t mean radiation does not increase risk. Some people smoke their entire lives with no ill effects. That proves nothing.
    There can be any number of factors including position of the baby, skill of the technician, maintenance of the machine, etc.
    What are the normal amount of ultrasounds these days? Its possible the normal amount of ultrasounds did cause your nephew’s problem given the above mentioned factors.I remember when they were rarely done and strictly for diagnosis of a known problem such as possible miscarriage.

    Like I said YCW, I well remember when x-rays were considered so harmless they were performed as circus entertainment and by shoe salesmen. Unborn children were x-rayed just out of curiousity. They had an increased incidence of childhood leukemia.

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  23. I too am confused about the sterility of milk.  Now I am not a scientist nor a mother, but I keep dairy animals and this discussion made me wonder — what about colostrum?  I believe that the primary function of colostrum is to pass antibodies and gut flora to the baby… doesn’t that make it necessarily unsterile?  It can’t just be bacteria from the skin, or just plain milk would be enough for the newborns, right?
     
    Kamilla I know you said you are done with this thread but maybe you are still around to give your perspective?

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  24. Colostrum differs from later milk in being higher in protein and lower in fat.  It also contains the antibodies which provide the newborn with passive immunity, which is why it is so important for the health of the newborn.  It does not provide the gut flora.  Otherwise known as “early milk”, colostrum and normal milk are both sterile in themselves under normal conditions.  They have to be since they are both produced within the body from a sterile body fluid.

    It is the intimate contact, mouth to skin, etc. which helps provide the normal flora. 

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  25. George at 9:51:  ADHD is not just an imaginary condition, though I do believe the typical school classroom is absolutely structured for GIRLS and not boys.  Boys just don’t learn as effectively in that kind of environment.
    ADHD results from low serotonin levels.  Serotonin is first produced in the gut.  I didn’t know this until I started looking into it because my son has focus issues.  Serotonin levels can be raised by restoring “gut ecology” which means restoring the natural bacteria in the gut, which will in turn affect the brain.
    I’m not sure what I think about links to autism, etc, because of the Pill – but I do know that antibiotics (which my son had from birth due to illness) throw off the natural bacteria in the gut.  I have been encouraging restoring that natural bacteria through supplements and diet change in my son, and his memory retention has been markedly improved.  Still working on the focus. :D

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  26. I’m pretty much in agreement  with Kamilla’s story, having a related educational and research background prior to pharmacy.  If there is no disease and you were able to probe the milk ducts, it would be very clean up there.   If bacteria get up there and propagate, …… you’ll have mastitis, which is very painful.

    Just watch the process of obtaining milk, down on a dairy farm, and you’ll get an idea of where the bacteria in milk comes from.  Gurls,  catalog the various things that came in contact with your areolar area (don’t write ’em here, this isn’t facebook ;-) )  and imagine if those things were free of bacteria.  Nope, there are bacteria galore and the best ones can do well in the breastmilk.  Balance of flora is crucial to health, with differing populations of humans maintaining different balances of flora.  There’s no single formula for this balance.  It varies based on the environment.
    Antibodies in colostrum are proteins, coming from the bloodstream.

    JAMA and NEJM have gone down the tubes,  since it is no longer socially unacceptable to be dishonest.  You should  see the massive amount of  retraction that goes on in scientific journals because people in all walks of life have abandoned honesty and integrity.  Read everything, including the formerly respectable medical journals, critically.

    Female hormones modulate the immune function, decreasing the possibility of mom rejecting the baby when pregnant.   Add analogous things to the mom from  the pill, and the immune system will be somewhat suppressed.  This itself will alter the flora of the gut, skin, mucosa, etc.   Women on the pill are a bit more susceptible to infection from various causative organisms.

    The jury is still out on the causes of autism, the latest Diagnosis Ju Jour.  (Everything is autism these days, and even the wonderfully well adapted Pharmer could score  such a diagnosis by messing with the tests.)  That’s not to say that autism doesn’t exist.  It just happens to be another abused diagnosis like Alzheimers, ADHD, Bipolar affective disorder, Fibromyalgia, and PTSD.
    Babies’ guts are populated with bacteria from their environment and the people close to them.  Since the gut floral populations of humans vary with their environment, no optimum balance has actually  been elucidated, and there’s not much real info about the fine alterations which might affect a person’s mental functioning, and whether those might be temporary or permanent.

    Eat your vegetables.
     

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  27. I know people with all kinds of x-ray exposure that do not have cancer. That doesn’t mean radiation does not increase risk. Some people smoke their entire lives with no ill effects. That proves nothing.
     
    Dang, Mary, gonna have to get you arguing for global warming pretty soon….  : P

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  28. I’m with Kel about ADD, having lived with it since childhood. While the exact causes of ADD and autism are not known (and I think you’re on the right track about ADD, Kel), these are legitimate biologically-based neurological disorders However, I’m also in agreement with pharmer, that some of these legitimate diagnoses are being over used and abused, “the latest Diagnosis Ju Jour”. Also for the necessity of gut cleansing, I don’t buy it. You can maintain good intestinal health and regularity through a healthy diet: cutting back on processed foods and carbohydrates (including bleached flour & grains) and instead by eating plenty of fresh, green vegetables (or a vegatable supplement such as V8), getting plenty of fiber with vegetables and whole grain products, and getting enough natural beneficial bacteria such as L. acidophilus through live cultures present in dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese.

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  29. :-P at my own typo, above.   Diagnosis Du Jour.
    Gut cleansing and interest in colonic ministrations  comes in cycles, maybe every 20 or 30 years.   Kind of  interesting.  I remember a 30 year old story of a patient who regularly went to the hospital for such procedures and had soft music played in the background.
    Takes all kinds….
     

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  30. Fascinating reading, all of it.  Has anyone done a study on whether the grandmother’s who took the pill early on have passed this gut issue onto their daughters who have in turn then passed it onto their autistic children?  
    All the autistic children we’ve heard of in our circle fall into exactly that category. Coincidence?
    I can tell you that I’ve watched these grandchildren grow up and that those who are having ‘gut’ related treatments (usually diet and supplement related) are doing fantastically well.  Again, not a medical study, merely an observation of a very limited group of children fortunate enough to be receiving treatment from a very broad minded medical group.
    Would that a cure could be this simple…

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  31. “Dr Roy Hertz , in a contribution to the 1966 FDA Report on the Oral Contraceptives, reported, “An unequivocal abnormality produced by estrogen-progesterone combinations is the suppression of ovulation itself.  It is only reasonable to consider the ultimate fate of the ovum that would have normally been released from the ovary.  We donot know whether this ovum dies or survives.  If it survives, is it altered in any way? ” From ‘First Do No Harm’ by Natalee S Greenfield p 162-3 Published 1976.
    I believe that the problem extends well beyond the issue of gut flora, however I very much appreciate and thank you for your work. 

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  32. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) does not exist.  It is a made up disease to deal with a socially created problem, mass compulsory education, which requires children to sit still for long periods of time.  It is similar to the made up disease, ‘drapetomania,’ which physicians used to diagnose slaves who escaped their bondage.  It cannot be a coincidence that drugs used to treat ADHD, like Ritalin, account for huge profits for the pharmaceutical industry.

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