There has been huge controversy in mainstream and alternative news media concerning the Autism epidemic. As of April 2018, the CDC has stated that 1 in 59 children (1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls) suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is a 15% increase from statistics in 2017. Raising and nurturing a child with ASD is not only challenging for families and friends of the patients, but also for their school teachers and community members. Common factors in the modern causation discussion include increases in glyphosate in inorganic foods, increased exposure to heavy metals due to poor air quality, living conditions, and vaccinations [contain aluminum, mercury, formaldehyde, egg protein, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and antibiotics], and mutations in genetic expression caused by intrinsic and extrinsic factors.   

Scientists have shifted the conversation of autism spectrum from a genetic disorder to a neuroinflammatory condition of the brain and central nervous system.s. A study from the 2015 Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience found that 69% of patients diagnosed as ASD have underlying neuroinflammation in the brain marked by immune cell activation, elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines, and dysfunction in T and B cells. Many studies have identified central and peripheral changes in inflammatory markers, alterations in immunoglobulins, and increased antibodies in ASD. Dysfunctional inflammatory response keeps the brain from conducting appropriate neurotransmission and signaling healing of the brain. The result of this inflammation is termed Encephalitis. This new understanding of the impact of central nervous system inflammation in ASD has challenged doctors to evaluate and treat the underlying causes of encephalitis and global inflammation in these patients.

Researchers have confirmed the human endocannabinoid system has a significant impact on systemic inflammation. New literature has presented cannabinoids can be utilized as anti-inflammatory modulators of the immune system, especially affecting the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and immune cells (astrocytes) within the central nervous system. One study indicated low levels of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide in the hippocampus and GPR55 and PPARy cannabinoid receptors are downregulated in mice with autism. This suggests that addressing deficiencies in receptors and low serum levels of anandamide may provide therapeutic benefits for autism spectrum disorder. Studies have also indicated that increased expression of CB2 receptors tries to equalize the inflammatory cascades in ASD in conjunction with increased levels of anandamide. Additionally, studies have suggested activation of the endocannabinoid system positively influences the functionality of immune cells in HIV infections. This has huge clinical implications for doctors and patients to utilize plant-based cannabinoid nutrients to augment healthy inflammation cascades.

From a genetic perspective, researchers have discovered that variations in the gene expression of the CB1 receptors in brain neurons may contribute to behavior obstacles in ASD. During the early stages of development, patients with autism often present with mutations in neuroligins – cell adhesion proteins that are released from postsynaptic neurons and attach to presynaptic neurons in the neural synapses. Dysfunction in the neuroligins, specifically neuroligin-3, does not allow proper retrograde feedback from the receiving neuron to the sending neuron. This disrupts the normal functioning of the retrograde neurophysiology of endocannabinoid signaling.

Also noteworthy, patients with ASD struggle with chronic sympathetic nervous system tone. Studies show that autism spectrum disorders may be associated with a poorly adapted autonomic nervous system response to anxiety. Subsequently, under-expression of parasympathetic tone is almost always noted in children with ASD. Neuroscientific research has confirmed that virtually every chronic disease known to man has an autonomic nervous system component, and surely this chronic stress, fight or flight tone directly contributes to the manifestations of ASD. This suggests that ASD patients can experience positive changes in their conditions based on their ability to move their body from a constant state of stress, to a rest, relax, and recovery status.

Another key factor modulated by the endocannabinoid system is circadian rhythm. Researchers have demonstrated in humans that anandamide levels are almost 3 times higher upon waking up compared to right before falling asleep. Children with autism often have difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule. Dysfunction of circadian rhythm is also contributed to by chronic sympathetic tone and the inability for the body to shut down at the end of the day. This suggests that establishing the proper function of the human endocannabinoid system with sustainable cannabinoid nutrition may provide the essential nutrients that the body needs in order to induce and sustain restful sleep for ASD.

Children with ASD commonly face difficulties with symptoms such as anxiety, seizures, behavior and motor skills. A case study showed a child with infantile autism had improvements in hyperactivity, irritability, lethargy, stereotype, and speech following just 3.68mg/day of synthetic cannabinoids. Evidence has supported the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for its therapeutic benefits in reducing epilepsy, sometimes resolving the seizures completely. Researchers have also demonstrated CBD as a palliative option for anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).  These findings set a framework for the clinical utilization of plant-based cannabinoids, including CBD from hemp oil, in ameliorating and healing people with autism spectrum disorder through the interactions of the human endocannabinoid system and the central nervous system.  

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This article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or mitigate any sort of disease, conditions, cancer or pathology. Please consult with your physician if you have questions about CBD or AUTISM.