Some children with autism have low levels of helpful bacterial and high levels of harmful bacteria and yeast.
The harmful bacteria and yeast produce toxins that can severely affect mental functioning and behavior;
alcohol is just one of many toxins that yeast can produce, and is a good example of a yeast toxin that can
critically affect behavior. It seems that the best way to treat these problems is with a combination of
antifungal diet, antifungal medications (if yeast is present) and probiotics (helpful bacteria). These can help
restore normal gut function.
The human gut contains a large number of bacteria (10x more gut bacteria than cells in the entire body).
Most of these gut bacteria are beneficial, and help with food digestion, water balance, and limiting the
growth of harmful bacteria and yeast. Some clinicians believe that autistic symptoms are made worse by the
overgrowth of Candida albicans, (a yeast-like fungus present everywhere) and usually prescribe anti-fungals.
For mild cases of yeast over-growth, diet along with a healthier lifestyle may resolve the problem. However,
in moderate to severe problems an anti-fungal drug or a natural product with anti-fungal ingredients may be
needed. Consult with your physician before the use of any new regimen.
Limited studies suggest the natural products seem to be as effective as many of the anti-fungal drugs. Most
doctors treating yeast overgrowth recommend that patients take the anti-fungal treatments for at least 3
months and some will have to stay on them permanently. While using anti-fungals any number of unpleasant
symptoms can arise as a result, most frequently a flu-like feeling or intensify symptoms that are already
present. The solution to this may be to take a lower dose of anti-fungal for a while or take extra fiber to help
carry the toxins out of the body before they are absorbed.
The Connection between Autism and Yeast
According to research there appears to be several pathways. One of these seems to be the direct effect of
Candida toxins on the brain. A second way Candida may be related to autism is through the disturbance of
the normal balance of microorganisms in the intestinal tract. When this occurs, the protective membrane
lining in the intestines is damaged. Consequently, food allergens are absorbed and this may cause adverse
reactions in the nervous system.
Research does not prove that the behaviors found in children with autism are yeast-related and/or that
antifungal medications offer a miracle cure. However, based on reports received from parents and
professionals, children given prescription antifungal medication and a sugar-free diet as an essential part of
their treatment program have shown dramatic improvement in charactertics.
Children most likely to benefit from anti-fungal are the following:
• Children whose development status was normal during the first 6 – 18 months of life.
• Children who are treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics for ear or other infections.
• Children whose autistic symptoms developed during the second or third year of life.
Reach studies (including a scientific report in a major psychiatric journal) also show that nutritional
supplements of vitamin B6 provide significant help to many children with autism.
Types of Anti-Fungal Treatments
There are several prescription and non-prescription anti-fungal treatments, and sometimes several need to be
tried before finding an effective one for a given strain of yeast. Nystatin is the safest because it is not
absorbed, but yeast is now resistant to it. Diflucan, Sporanox, Lamisil, and Nizoral are alternatives which
yeast are less likely to be resistant to, but since they are absorbed into the body they have a very small
chance of exhausting the liver, so liver enzymes should be checked every few months if they are used long-
term. Some non-prescription antifungal treatments include capryllic acid, oregano concentrate, citrus seed
extract, and undecylenic acid. An unusual treatment is saccharomyces boulardii which is harmless yeast that
kills off other yeast and promotes beneficial bacteria, but will disappear within a few weeks when you stop
taking it, often leaving behind a now healthy gut.
Die-off reaction: When yeast is killed, they can release all their toxins at once. This can cause a temporary
“die-off” reaction lasting a few days, followed by good improvement when the toxins leave the body.
Activated charcoal can be taken to absorb these toxins and reduce side-effects.
Nystatin was one of the first anti-fungal drugs developed and probably the most commonly used to treat
intestinal yeast overgrowth. It is extremely safe due to the fact that hardly any of the substance is absorbed
by the intestinal tract. As a result the only side-effects that may occur are mainly restricted to the digestive
system and are usually mild. In addition, in rare cases patients may develop a rash as a result of an allergic
reaction. Nystatin is available in a number of different forms including, tablets, powder and liquid oral
suspension. You can therefore choose the form that suits you best. The liquid and powder forms are
probably superior to tablets because they don't need to be digested before they start to work and
consequently will kill yeast further up the digestive tract. The only drawback to this treatment is the foul
Amphotericin B is similar to nystatin as it is chemically related. As with nystatn it is not absorbed from the
intestine in any significant amount so again is very safe. You may hear stories of amphotericin being very
toxic or poisonous but don't worry, this is most likely referring to IV use of the drug in hospitalized patients
suffering a fungal infection of the blood or severe infection of body tissues. This doesn't apply to its use in
the digestive tract. Amphotericin B may be effective in cases where nystatin has failed so it is something to
Diflucan belongs to a group of drugs called the 'azoles'(a class of organic compounds having ring structure
made of five atoms) and unlike the previous two drugs, Diflucan is absorbed by the intestines and is referred
to as a systemic anti-fungal drug. Diflucan is a more modern drug than nystatin and amphotericin; it was
first used in Europe during the 1980's and licensed in the US in 1990. A lot of doctors and patients have
found Diflucan (and other azoles) to be effective where nystatin and amphotericin have failed. It has been
found to be very safe considering its systemic action with few side-effects reported by patients.
Sporanox is one of the most recent azole drugs being licensed in the US in 1993. It would seem to be
similar in safety and effectiveness as Diflucan but may be a more successful treatment for certain types of
Candida and other fungal infections as Diflucan may be more effective for other species. Unless you have a
stool sample tested and a particular group of Candida/yeast can be detected and tested for sensitivity to
different drugs, it is a matter of trial and error in finding the one that works best for the individual.
Nizoral (ketoconazole) was the first of the azole drugs to be developed but its use is limited due to the
possibility of serious liver damage. As a result, patients must undergo regular liver enzyme tests during
treatment to monitor the effects. In cases that have failed to respond to any other anti-fungal agent its use
may be necessary but otherwise it is best to refrain from using.
Lamisil (Terbinafine HCL) is the newest anti-fungal drug in routine use. It is a complete drug but is
unrelated to the other group of 'azole' drugs. As a result it is an effective treatment as yeast has not yet had
chance to develop resistance to it. Lamisil has become more and more commonly used since its introduction
a few years ago and is set to become the systemic drug of choice, replacing Diflucan. As with most of the
collection of drugs there have been instances of adverse effects on the liver and as with Sporanox, Lamisil
has recently been linked with congestive heart failure.
Saturated Fatty Acids such as undecylenic (a white crystalline substance by the distillation of castor oil)
and caprylic acids are common medium series of saturated fatty acids used to treat yeast infections. Both
are found naturally in the human body in small amounts. Common commercial sources of caprylic acid are
palm and coconut oils, whereas undecylenic acid is extracted from castor bean oil. Caprylic acid products
are far more common than those of undecylenic acid this does not means it is better, undecylenic acid has
far more research information available and was the treatment of choice for fungal skin infections for a long
time before more modern drugs where discovered.
Berberine is an alkaloid found in an herb called barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and related plants as well as in
goldenseal, Oregon grape root and Chinese goldthread. This herb has long been used in Chinese medicine.
Berberine has significant anti-fungal action and is also triumphant against some kinds of bacteria. As with all
previously covered anti-fungal's, berberine is reported to ignore useful organisms such as lactobacilli
(bacteria that disturb lactic acid from sugars and are the contributing agents in the souring of milk). An
added benefit for some people is its anti-diarrhea action. Research has shown that berberine can successfully
stop Candida from producing an enzyme called lipase which they use to help them take over.
Oregano is familiar to most people as the strong smelling herb commonly used as a seasoning. For cooking
it usually requires Oregano leaves rather than Oregano vulgare which is used here. Oregano vulgare contains
a variety of substances that make it an effective anti-fungal. In a study analyzing its action against Candida
albicans, carvacrol, a major part of the oil, was found to inhibit Candida to a greater extent than caprylic
acid. It is also highly effective against many bacteria with studies published in the most prominent medical
journals showing it is as effective as many antibiotic drugs.
Garlic (Allium sativum) contains a large number of sulfur (a yellow with a greenish tinge) containing
compounds that exhibit potent anti-fungal properties. Some studies have found garlic to be at least as
effective as nystatin at killing Candida. A point that should not be overlooked is that because of the many
different compounds with anti-fungal properties in garlic, yeast and fungi are unlikely to become resistant to
it. Garlic also has many other beneficial properties particularly for the cardiovascular system. For treating
intestinal yeast infections garlic is available in a number of different forms including, odorless capsules,
liquid extract and tablets. However, a study at the National Institutes of Health found that fresh garlic was
significantly more potent against Candida. It also found that the fresh garlic could be a suitable alternative to
drugs for serious total infections in patients with severe immune suppression. For that reason adding garlic
to food (raw) or crushing and swallowing raw cloves if it can be tolerated, is a cheap and powerful anti-
Colloidal Silver is a suspension of silver particles in water (colloid is defined as a very small particles of
one substance suspended (not dissolved) in another). Silver is a well known anti-microbial (germs of
biochemical properties; often considered to be plants that causes disease), it is commonly used in items such
as water filters to kill any germs that may be in the water, including bacteria, fungi, and worms. Colloidal
silver is said to be effective against up to 650 germs including, yeast and fungi species including Candida. It
was used widely to treat infection before the development of antibiotic drugs. It is now classified as a pre-
1938 drug by the FDA which means that it is available without prescription. The number of companies
offering colloidal silver as an alternative to antibiotic medications is increasing daily. The renewed interest
can be explained by the increase in chronic infections and the fact that many organisms are becoming
resistant to the frequently used drug treatments.
Cellulase is a relatively new treatment approach for intestinal yeast infections. The cell wall of common
intestinal yeast such as Candida types have been found to be made mainly from cellulose. Cellulase (several
enzymes, produced primarily by fungi and bacteria) breaks down and when significant absorption comes
into contact with yeast cells the cell wall is unfixable damage and the germ dies. It's claimed that using this
method, the yeast do not release a flood of toxins when they die as occurs with most other anti-fungal
agents so that the sufferer does not experience the usual die-off symptoms. The yeast should be unable to
develop resistance to cellulase products as they lack the ability to modify their cell wall. As cellulase
products have only been around for a few years reports of their effectiveness in practice is limited but they
offer a promising alternative to more established treatments.
Plant Tannins are natural substances found in a number of plants such as Black Walnut and a vast array of
plants used in traditional eastern medicine. Tannins are what give red wines such as merlots and cabernets
their sharp, biting taste. They are also found in the bark of trees that are particularly resistant to fungus such
as the redwood tree. Tannins are one of a number of natural substances tested against germs found in stool
samples by functional medicine labs. Tannins are available in a number of forms, both isolated and
concentrated, to treat intestinal yeast overgrowth.
Outcomes from using anti-fungals for Autism
While there are no drugs, vitamins or special diets that can correct underlying neurological problems
associated with autism, parents and professionals have found that some drugs used for other disorders are
sometimes effective in treating some aspects of behaviors associated with autism.
Changes to diet and the addition of certain vitamins or minerals may also help with behavioral issues. For
more then a decade, there have been claims by parents and some professionals that adding essential vitamins
such as B6 and B12 and removing gluten and casein from a child's diet may improve digestion, allergies and
sociability. Not all researchers and experts agree about whether these therapies are effective or scientifically
There have been numerous reports from parents stating that their child’s behaviors improved following anti-
Candida therapy, a sugar-free, and nystatin. On a comprehensive treatment program that included nystatin, a
special diet and the avoidance of chemical pollutants, the child improved significantly, although he continued
to experience developmental problems. Speak with your child’s physician before starting a new treatment.