Hippocrates (460-370 BC), the father of medicine, maintained that all diseases begin in the gut.

The gut is the gateway to your body, the place where food is broken down into molecules, absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to cells after waste products have been identified and eliminated.

If this highly sophisticated system starts to malfunction, we see, feel, hear and smell the effects all too well.

Is it possible for the gut to influence mental health?

Many parents of autistic children certainly think so.

Take the case of Nicholas Campbell-McBride who was diagnosed as being autistic when he was three years old.

He is now nine and doing surprisingly well in mainstream education, although his social skills are slightly behind.

At first, his parents were told that nothing could be done but his mother, who holds degrees in medicine and neurology, refused to give up so easily.

She decided to go back to university and train as a nutritionist.

Dr Natasha Campbell - McBride began to cut out all sugars, cereals, dairy and refined items from her son's diet and gradually replaced them with fresh, unprocessed, home-cooked food.

Carrot sticks, cucumber, tomatoes, freshly-prepared salads and vegetable soups all became a major part of her son's diet, along with fresh meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Although diet played a crucial role in the little boy's transformation, extra help was needed in the form of nutritional supplements.

One of the most important of these was a probiotic called Bio-Kult. Probiotics are friendly micro-organisms which promote optimal digestion and protect the intestinal tract from microbial and parasitic attack.

Billions of bacteria, more than 500 species, inhabit the healthy human gut and form a vital part of our immune system they make vitamins, produce ammunition against unfriendly organisms and keep our gut membranes in good condition.

Bio-Kult contains 14 strains of well-researched beneficial bacteria and is specially formulated to improve digestive and immune function in children and adults.

Dr Campbell-McBride believes that autistic children develop imbalanced bacterial flora in which opportunistic microbes start to dominate.

She says these produce toxic substances capable of infiltrating the blood stream via a "leaky" gut and, quite literally, poison the body.

The degree of damage in autism may depend largely on the degree of imbalance and the individual's ability to detoxify harmful substances.

Brain chemistry is known to be particularly sensitive to toxins, with various nutritional deficiencies compounding the problem.

Drugs and vaccines may well be suitable for healthy children but could add further insult to an immune system already in distress.

The huge increase in autism is worrying and Dr Campbell-McBride suggests that all babies undergo proper immunological testing before they are vaccinated.

Perhaps money could be spent in developing such tests rather than on MMR publicity campaigns.

For more details of Dr Campbell-McBride's method of treatment, telephone 01353 723234 or visit www.bio-kult.com