An Autism Mystery: Why Does My Child Laugh and Cry for No Reason?
New patients at my center commonly report bouts of laughing or crying for no apparent reason. I often compared my young son with Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) to the giggling Pillsbury Doughboy. The inexplicable goofiness at the end of a long day was especially draining.
So what’s a parent to do? Let’s look at the scientific and medical reasons behind these puzzling behaviors.
Top Three Reasons for Unexplained Laughter in a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
The brain is downstream from a number of toxic substances in children with Autism. These pollutants affect the brain, mood and emotions, and can be cleared up in many cases with simple treatments and strategies you can do at home.
1. Yeast Overgrowth
The number one reason for unexplained laughter is a yeast overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract. Yeast are little alcohol and toxin factories and can really get the giggles going. Why are children with ASD so yeasty? Research indicates their immune systems may be imbalanced, which makes them more susceptible.1,2
Natural interventions to tame your “yeasty beastie”:
• Multi-strain, refrigerated probiotic blends. I suggest 25 billion CFU’s (Colony-Forming Units) or more daily.
• Under the care of your doctor or chiropractor, consider a stool test, and adding antifungal botanicals such as grapefruit seed extract, Caprylic acid, Uva Ursi, Oregon grape, and Pau D’Arco among others. These can be found in convenient liquid extracts that are easier for children to take.
• Reduce sugar intake.
• Take Saccharomyces boulardii during a round of antibiotics.3,4
2. Opioid Neuropeptides from gluten and casein
Some of your child’s favorite foods can be a big source of unexplained laughing. Is your child a picky eater? Does he or she want only mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza? Would he drink a gallon of milk a day if you let him? Such addictive eating patterns may be a sign that opiate-like neuropeptides are forming in the gut and causing everything from constipation to uncontrollable giggling to social withdrawal or even aggression.
• Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV as an alternative to the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) Diet
• GFCF Diet
• A complete gut-healing program
3. Phenolic Foods
Phenols are natural compounds found in some of your child’s favorite foods. If your child has dark, smudgy under eye circles and inappropriate giggling, especially at night, he or she may have a phenol overload. Foods that are high in phenols are strawberries and apples, red grapes, bananas, oranges, peaches, peppers and chocolate. Favorites such as ketchup and tomato sauce are loaded with phenols. Children seem to target the foods they are the most sensitive to.
• Remove highly phenolic foods from the child’s diet
• Use digestive enzymes that target phenols
• Consider the Feingold Diet
Top 3 Reasons for Unexplained Crying
1. Pain Behavior
This is the most alarming scenario and everyone should sit up and pay attention, especially if the crying seems utterly random. Do not pacify yourself with platitudes such as “Oh, that’s just another autistic behavior”, or “Maybe the dose of Risperdal isn’t high enough.”
Individuals on the autism spectrum may have significant gastrointestinal problems.5 Children with autism often cannot express the pain and discomfort of inflammation, constipation and reflux, but will act out with random bouts of crying, tantrums and even aggression. Other signs of pain: they may drape their tummies over the arm of the couch or against a table edge to lessen the pain; unsuspected acid reflux results in poor sleep patterns.5
Conservative strategies (after checking out sources of pain with your pediatrician):
• Elevate the head of your child’s bed to help with acid reflux
• Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV
• High-dose probiotics
• Gentle antifungal rotation
• Essential Fatty Acids
• Mild Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
2. Dysbiosis and Parasites
Many of the stool tests at our center reveal dysbiosis, an imbalance in gut bacteria and yeast, as well as parasites. Children with ASD frequently put their fingers, objects or even feces in their mouths, or go to school with other children who do. Such hand to mouth behavior creates a risk for parasitic infections.
Clinical Case: A three-year old female patient with autism came to our center, with a history of unexplained crying and irritable behavior. Her pediatrician had prescribed Risperdal, but the parents were reluctant to try it due to her young age. The stool test revealed Helicobacter pylori, a significant yeast overgrowth, and two parasites: Ascaris lumbricoides (giant human roundworms) and Blastocystis hominis.
Would Risperdal have helped in this case? Proper treatment for this young child was anti-parasitics, antifungals, antimicrobials, probiotics and digestive enzymes. Her behavior cleared right up.
3. Sensory Overload
Our five senses constantly send updates and information to the brain, which acts as the “command center” for all of this sensory activity. If the brain is not wired to efficiently handle this constant flow, it can be painful and exhausting for the child.
A number of parents do not realize their child may be overwhelmed by sensory input. They are told the crying and tantrums are the child “getting his way” or “doing it for attention”. When I see a child having a meltdown at a busy store or mall, I see a child who cannot tune out all of the sights, sounds, smells and motions, and yet unsuspecting passersby see only a “spoiled brat” trying to get his way.
• Go to these busy places at off-peak times
• Keep your visit brief
• Have your child listen to music through sound-reducing ear buds
• Get a babysitter
• See an Occupational Therapist
• Treat yeast
Does your child with ASD laugh or cry for “no reason”? It’s time for love, patience and some medical detective work!
1. J Leukoc Biol. 2006 Jul; 80(1):1-15. Epub 2006 May 12.
The immune response in autism: a new frontier for autism research.
Ashwood P, Wills S, Van de Water J.
2. Th1- and Th2-like cytokines in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in autism
Sudhir Gupta; Sudeepta Aggarwal, Babek Rashanravan, Thomas Lee
Division of Basic and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
3. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Sep 1;22(5):365-72.
Meta-analysis: non-pathogenic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.
Szajewska H, Mrukowicz J.
4. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2012 March; 5(2): 111–125.
doi: 10.1177/1756283X11428502 PMCID: PMC3296087
Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders
Theodoros Kelesidis Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA Charalabos Pothoulakis
5. Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals with ASDs: A Consensus Report
Timothy Buie, MDa,b,c, a Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
Et al: Daniel B. Campbell, PhDd, George J. Fuchs, III, MDe, Glenn T. Furuta, MDf,g, Joseph Levy, MDh, Judy VandeWater, PhDi, Agnes H. Whitaker, MDj, Dan Atkins, MDk,l, Margaret L. Bauman, MDb,m,n, Arthur L. Beaudet, MDo, Edward G. Carr, PhDp, Michael D. Gershon, MDq, Susan L. Hyman, MDr, Pipop Jirapinyo, MDs, Harumi Jyonouchi, MDt, Koorosh Kooros, MDu, Rafail Kushak, PhD, DrSca,m, Pat Levitt, PhDv, Susan E. Levy, MDw, Jeffery D. Lewis, MDx, Katherine F. Murray, BSN, RNc, Marvin R. Natowicz, MD, PhDy, Aderbal Sabra, MD, PhDz, Barry K. Wershil, MDaa, Sharon C. Weston, MS, RD, LDNbb, Lonnie Zeltzer, MDcc, Harland Winter, MDa,c
b Learning and Development Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services, Lexington, Massachusetts
c Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
m Department of Pediatrics
n Department of Neurology, Mass General Hospital for Children, Boston, Massachusetts
d Department of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
e Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock, Arkansas
f Section of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Children's Hospital Denver, Aurora, Colorado, and Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Health, Denver, Colorado
g Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado
h Department of Pediatrics (Administration), NYU Langone LangoneMedical Center, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York
i Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, California
j Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
k Division of Ambulatory Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Health, Children's Hospital, Denver, Colorado
l Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado
o Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
p Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York
q Department of Pathology & Cell Biology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York
r Division of Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
s Department of Pediatrics, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
t Division of Allergy/Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Pediatrics, New Jersey Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey
u Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
v Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute & Dept. Cell and Neurobiology (Dr Levitt), Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
w Division of Child Development, Rehabilitation and Metabolic Diseases, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
x Children's Center for Digestive Health Care, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia
y Institutes of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Genomic Medicine, Neurology and Pediatrics, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio
z Department of Pediatrics, Escola de Medicina, Universidade do Grande Rio, UNIGRANRIO, Brasilian Academy of Medicine, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
aa Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern, Chicago, Illinois
bb Department of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Children's Hospital Boston at Peabody, Peabody, Massachusetts
cc Pediatric Pain Program, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, California