Autism Begins in the Womb

Majid Ali, M.D.

Oxygen Model of Autism

In this and the companion article “Autism Begins in the Sperm,” I present a biologist view of altered brain development as the basis of autism and related entities. In this model, autistic neuro-development begins with parental gene mutations, worsens under toxic womb conditions, and proceeds with toxicities of foods, environment, and parental lifestyles after birth. I point out that more genes are involved in the development of the brain than any other organ in the body.

For over twenty years, I have focused on issues of fundamental cellular energetics of the developing brain cells for answers to the questions of the causes of ADHD, learning disorders, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), the autism spectrum disorder, and related entities. In my view, altered neuronal development must be related to impaired neuronal energetics due to toxicities of foods, environments, and thought. Specifically, I recognized the frivolity of considering the children’s neuro-developmental problems as psychological and psychiatric disorders.

After years of listening to the autism theories of mental health professionals, imagine my surprise at the following quote in The New York Times of August 25, 2012: “So here’s the short of it: At least a subset of autism – perhaps one-third, and very likely more – looks like a type of inflammatory disease. And it begins in the womb…autism, now estimated to afflict 1 in 88 children.”

The Inflammation-Autism Connection

There is a growing body of evidence of the inflammation-autism connection which is drawn from observational and experimental studies. Some important lines of evidence include the following:

* In general, in the U.S. the prevalences of inflammatory disorders, autoimmune diseases, and autism in the U.S. have increased in a parallel fashion.

* There is an increased risk of autism in children born to mothers who suffer from asthma and allergy during pregnancy.

* A large Danish study of 700,000 births over a decade revealed that mothers with inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, had significantly increased risk of autism in their children.

* Mothers of autistic children often have unique “autistic” antibodies that bind to certain proteins of fetal brains. Injection of such antibodies into pregnant macaques increased the risk of autism-like behavior in their babies.

* One Caltech study found that altered and overactive immune responses contribute to autism-like behaviors in mice. In some cases, abnormal immune responses appeared to be related to what developing fetuses experience in the womb.

* I define disease as a state of separation from one’s nature. From an evolutionary perspective, one would expect that people living under conditions that prevailed a hundred years ago (farm conditions with much less chemical load) would have less inflammatory stress and autism. That, indeed, is the case. For the same reason, insulin toxicity, obesity, and diabetes in mothers would be expected to increase the risk of diabetes in their children. The emerging data supports this.

Oxygen Governs the Inflammatory Response

In a 2005 article published in Townsend Letter, I described my “oxygen view” of inflammation with the following words: “Life is an unending injury-healing-injury cycle. Injury is inevitable in an organism’s struggle for survival. Healing is the intrinsic capacity of the organism to repair damage inflicted by that injury. Inflammation—in my view—is one aspect of the energetic-molecular mosaic of that intrinsic capacity. This view of inflammation—that it is a physiologic component of the essential injury-healing-injury nature of life — extends far beyond the classical and wholly inadequate notion of it being a process characterized by edema, erythema, tenderness, pain, and infiltrate of inflammatory cells. Since oxygen is the organizing influence of human biology and governs the aging process in humans, it follows that inflammation, first and foremost, is one of the many face of oxygen homeostasis. In 1990, I devoted a large part of Oxygen and Aging to this subject

The Oxygen Model of Autism

I proposed my Oxygen Model of Autism as an extension of my Oxygen Model of Disease. It is a unifying model that explains all aspects of autism—causes, clinical course, consequences, and control—on the basis of altered oxygen signaling. These abnormalities essentially begin during fetal life and continue through infancy and childhood. This model is based on a biologist view of the brain development and neurotransmission. Again, autism is not a psychological or psychiatric disorder.


What can women do? Many women might find the information in this article disturbing, whether expecting now or planning to have a family later. Here is a comforting note: healthful habits focusing on issues of nutrition, environment, and stress can be expected to reduce the effects of the trio of toxicities of foods, environments, and stress on the womb environment.

See the articles in our category The Toxic Womb State

Autism Trials of Nutrients

Autism Genome – Childrens Health Corps

Autism Spurious Debate

Autism – Nature Article Supports My Toxic Womb Model of Autism Spectrum

Autism, DNA Glitches, and Lapdog Joes




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