Yeast Symptoms and Spring Regression in Autism

More than 50% of children with autism have more behavioural concerns in the Spring, often due to an increase in yeast symptoms.

More than 50% of children with autism (and ADHD) will experience and increase in their behaviours in the Spring. This is termed behavioural regression and is often caused by symptoms of yeast overgrowth.

  •  Is your child acting more silly and goofy than usual?
  • Are you seeing any toe walking?
  • Does your daughter have itchiness in the vaginal area?
  • Is your child bouncing, rolling, climbing or playing in ways that puts their head lower than their body?
  • Is your child waking up in the middle of the night? 
  • Are they jumping or pacing back and forth?
  • Does your child have trouble with self-regulation?
  • Is your child biting, hitting or head banging?
Upside down play or head down play is often a yeast symptom seen in Spring regressions.
Upside down play or head down play is often a yeast symptom seen in Spring regressions.

Our son who is on the autism spectrum, has been on a grain free, dairy free diet since May, 2012, to address a developmental regression he experienced as the result of multiple medical interventions.  All told, he has been on 5 rounds of IV antibiotics, not to mention 6 rounds of oral antibiotics.  This kid was FULL of yeast and had tons of yeast symptoms, including handing upside down every chance he got!

In spite of many improvements due to a very strict diet and a strict supplement regime, our son remained extremely susceptible to yeast symptoms in the Spring and Fall for many years.

Change in seasons (Fall and Spring), small amounts of sugar, starch or carbs, or an immune challenge, can result in a increased behaviours and even loss of skills.

Dr. Sonya, does yeast flare in the Spring?

This question, posed by a parent 8 years ago, changed the way I treat yeast and bacterial overgrowth.  It was the statement I needed to understand what was happening in my practice in the Spring and Fall.  Children who had higher levels of yeast or an imbalance in the gut microflora were regressing with their behaviour, seemingly all at once.  My staff would comment about the influx in calls from parents with concerns about odd symptoms, return of old behaviours or even loss of skills. 

With one insightful question from a parent, the pieces came together and I began to see with crystal clarity the intricate relationship between microbial overgrowth, the immune system and seasonal changes.

There is a known link between the microbes in the small intestine and the body’s immune system.  This is not surprising, as the digestive tract is home to innate immune function, which governs your first response to microbial invaders.  What new research is identifying is the connection to the seasonal patterns of immune reactions leading to behavioural regressions in the Spring and Fall.

Our intestines are part of our immune system:

Our intestines have a barrier system that protects us from infection.  The barrier is needs good bacteria like Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus delbrueckii and Lactobacillus bulgaricus to protect it.  There is a reason I am listing specific species.  Mounting research, much of it funded by the National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, is giving us with important information about individual strains, their function and where they fit into our gut ecosystem.

It turns out, there are thousands of different strains of good bacteria in the gut.  The delicate balance of these bacteria supports the intestinal barrier that protects us from microbes that make us sick quickly, and the microbe that can make us sick in a chronic way.  Any damage to the intestinal barrier impacts your bacterial balance.  When certain strains of good bacteria are absent, yeast overgrowth and dysbiosis is much more likely. Assessing and treating gut dysbiosis is essential to preventing and minimizing behavioural regressions.

Who experiences Spring behavioural changes and regressions?

These behaviours are really common amongst our children diagnosed with autism and ADHD; but more and more we are seeing gut dysbiosis and yeast issues in neurotypical children (children that are developing as we would expect).

Many parents assume that Spring, Easter and the time change are responsible for their child’s change in behaviour but research shows that up to 53% of children with Autism and ADHD have major behaviour changes in the Spring and Fall.  Neurotypical children also experience many of these symptoms and they are treatable and reversible.

Signs of yeast include:


  • Demanding
  • Non-compliant
  • Aggressive, emotional, rage, crying easily
  • Stimming
  • Hands over ears
  • Chewing (on everything and anything) and teeth grinding
  • Laughing for no reason, in the middle of the night or spontaneously during the day
  • Climbing all the time
  • Standing on head or hanging upside down all the time
  • Toe walking
  • Waking in the middle of the night
  • Brain fog: giddy super-silly behaviours
  • Loss of energy
  • Seeming out of it
  • Craving for bread, pasta and sweets

Clinical Signs:

  • Rashes
  • Eczema, cradle cap
  • Funky-smelling scalp (the “wet dog” smell)
  • Itching: perianal, genital and/or generalized
  • Redness: perianal, perivaginal
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Increase in flatulence
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Change in smell of stool (yeasty, bready, foul or sweet

Factors that increase susceptibility to yeast overgrowth:

  • C-section birth
  • Antibiotics – every round = two years of gut impairment
  • Genetically Modified Foods
  • Processed foods, foods high in sugar
  • Carbohydrates – check out Wheat Belly or Grain Brain for more information
  • Medications
  • CONSTIPATION – yeast thrives in a constipated bowel

Neurobehavioral Disorders Increased by Pollen Exposure in Children with Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Mar 20, 2005 –

This study, by Dr. Marvin Boris at the New York University School of Medicine,  has demonstrated that many children (53%) with Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD exhibit marked neurobehavioral regression during the spring and fall pollen seasons. This shows an association between pollen exposure and central nervous system dysfunction, not related to typical IgE mediated allergies. Pollen exposure may have multifaceted impact on multiple organ systems.

Learn more dysbiosis:

How yeast and clostridia overgrowth contribute to Autism and ADHD.

Sonya Doherty, N.D. FMAPS (Cand.)
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
Chief Medical Officer at Treat Autism