Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior of those affected. It includes difficulties understanding social behavior and interactions.
Sufferers also tend to have restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. People who have ASD struggle every day to overcome ‘invisible’ obstacles such as sensory issues like sounds, bright lights or strong smells which can overwhelm their senses.
School and work environments can be a nightmarish place for anyone suffering from ASD.
Autism spectrum disorder can affect 1 in 68 people in the US. Since Autism is a spectrum disorder, not everyone diagnosed with having autism reacts to treatment in the same ways.
Although many people believe autism is something that solely affects the brain, it has now been linked to gastrointestinal issues (GI). This is why it not unusual for people who are on the spectrum to also suffer from Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gluten or dairy intolerance or other GI issue.
Because of this discovery, researchers now believe that by addressing these problems in the gut as well as the brain, they can affect a positive change in the behaviors of autistic sufferers. One of the potential treatments for Autism is the administration of MCT Oil.
What is MCT oil?
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride which is a type of fat that can be obtained from coconut oil, palm oil and certain dairy products like goats milk.
Medium chain means each molecule is typically only made up of 7-10 atoms.
Triglycerides is a type of fat molecule that is composed of 1 glycerol with 3 fatty acids attached.
People who use MCT oil often combine it with a Ketogenic Diet. MCT oil can be absorbed into the bloodstream and converted into energy quite quickly. The advantage for taking MCT oil is that it encourages the body to run on fat for fuel instead of glucose.
MCT oils boost brain power.
People on the Autism Spectrum who have trouble digesting high quantities of fat could benefit from using MCT oil as it is a more easily digestible source of fat.
A fat based diet has shown to improve cognitive functioning and overall brain power.
It is shown that ketones are a better source of energy than glucose for the brain because fat diffuses from the blood capillaries into brain cells unlike glucose.
This means brain cells have a better supply of energy. Unlike other fats that once they are digested by the gut they are stored in the body, MCTs go to the liver which are immediately turned into ketones to be used for energy mainly to supply the brain.
The brain is made up of 60% fat. The brain contains thousands of tiny neurotransmitters composed of fat, which are responsible for sensory information and behavioural issues.
The consumption of MCT oils can supply the brain with fat to help repair and make neurotransmitters which in turn can potentially help improve behavioral issues in ASD suffers as well as help with sensory overload problems.
MCTs and gut health.
Most behavioral issues stem from inflammation caused by the gut that impairs proper cognitive functioning in the brain.
Some researchers have discovered that when individuals who have previously been suffering from a neurological disorder such as autism, changes their diet from glucose-based to fat-based the symptoms improve, however more research is needed to prove this.
MCT oil can also help balance beneficial gut bacteria and can help preserve the gut lining.
If you have a healthy gut you have a better chance of having a healthier mind.
MCT can optimize the growth of good bacteria and support the gut lining. Studies have shown that it is now estimated that the human intestine is ‘colonised by a large population of above 100 trillion microbial cells orgainsed in several taxa and constituting the gut microbiota.’
There is approximately ‘1kg of bacteria‘ found in the gut.
The fact that there is such a high number of ‘foreign cells’ means our immune system has to work hard to ensure it is tightly regulated.
MCTs also help fight against harmful bacteria, but do not have any effect on the good bacteria. This means they have a unique ability of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome which in turn can have a positive effect on the brain and improving digestive function. MCTs have also been linked to improving our immune systems.
Types of MCT oils.
There are 4 main types of MCTs:
(The shorter the strain of MCT the quicker it can be broken down into energy. The shortest strain here is C6 and the longest is C12.)
- C6 –Caproic acid. Quickest at converting into ketones but it is in a smaller quanitity than the other strains of MCT. It has a bad taste according to many and can cause stomach upset.
- C8- Brain Octane oil also called caprylic acid. Probably the best MCT oil on the market. C8 can quickly be broken down to use as energy – even faster than sugar and producing 4 times as many ketones as coconut oil. It’s the shortest of the MCTs, which makes it the easiest for your body to break down into fuel. Has antibacterial properties. Can help restore gut lining and reduce gut inflamation.
- C10 – capric acid. Cheaper than C8, however it takes a longer length of time to turn into ketones. Having antifungal properties, it is superb at fighting infections in the gut and boosting the overall immune system similar to C8.
- C12 – Lauric acid. Main strain found in coconut oil. Does not create the same effect on brain as C8 or C10 as it takes longer to break down because it is a longer strain. Has the strongest antibacterial properties of the 4. Can aid in weight loss. Because of its strong antibacterial properties it has been used to fight against acne.
MCT oil can be easily added into meals and drinks and can be used as part of a ketogenic diet.
Unfortunately there are some side effects from taking MCT oil, some include intestinal cramping and or stomach upset.
MCT does not have essential fatty acids so it is important to maintain a balanced diet when taking MCT oil. Before taking it, it is advisable to consult a dietician.
MCT oil is different from other fats as it is a small molecule, it can be easily digested. So it gives you an immediate brain boost, energy boost and creates a feeling of fullness.
Thanks for reading!
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