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Gastrointestinal Problems and Autism Spectrum Disorders

written by: Jennifer Fidalgo • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/23/2010

Researchers have confirmed that there is a growing epidemic of gastrointestinal autism spectrum disorders. Although, specialists have not drawn any direct conclusions, many parents of autistic children are turning to alternative treatments to cure gastrointestinal problems.

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    The Link Between Gastrointestinal Problems and Autism

    Gastrointestinal autism spectrum disorders have been studied by researchers and findings show that there is a growing prevalence in the number of cases of autistic children who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders. In fact, in nearly half the cases of children with autism suffer from stomach pains, diarrhea and constipation. In addition to these symptoms, those autistic children who had GI problems also had more difficulties with sleeping patterns, behavior and had an overall lower quality of life. There does not appear to be a direct link to gastrointestinal orders and the severity of the autism, gender of the individual afflicted, intelligence or nationality. These findings show that specialist and pediatricians should ask about GI issues and offer treatments which can benefit these children. gastrointestinal disorders should be considered as part of an overall plan when planning for the management of the autistic child.

    Reasons for gastrointestinal autism spectrum disorders remain unclear. However, some specialists believe that it may have to do with infections, immune systems that are compromised or sensory processing issues. A study at Vanderbilt University showed that there is a gene that appears to mutate more in autistic children. This gene not only affects brain development but also is involved in protecting the digestive system.

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    Alternative Treatment

    According to the website Health.USNews.com, "Of 1,212 children with an autism spectrum disorder included in the study, about 17 percent were on special diets. More than half of those were on a gluten-free, casein-free diet, which eliminates wheat and dairy products."

    Many children who have autism also have trouble digesting wheat and milk products. This has led many parents to avoid foods that contain these products. Parents that choose to follow this plan will need to look at food labels closely and avoid anything with wheat, spelt, barley, milk, rye, high fructose corn syrup and sugar. Parents who choose to use this diet should also discuss using vitamins, minerals and supplements to make sure that their autistic children get nutrition which is adequate. Those who feel that their autistic child has a gastrointestinal problem should talk to a specialist who can do tests to determine if a gluten-free casein-free diet is needed.

    Autistic children with GI problems also respond well to probiotic treatment. In fact, according to Nutraingredients.com "Children who take these supplements showed better concentration and improved behavior in addition to relief from digestive issues." In this treatment friendly bacteria is introduced into the child's diet.

    Removing toxins from the diet is the first step in treating gastrointestinal disorders in children. It is important to find supplements that are beneficial as well.

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    References

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100502080234.htm : Gastrointestinal Problems Common in Children With Autism

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/PAS/19856 : PAS - GI Problems Common in Those With Autism

    http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/05/02/parents-of-autistic-children-turning-to-alternative-treatments.html : Parents of Autistic Children Turning to Alternative Treatments

    http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Tackling-autism-with-probiotics : Tackling Autism With Probiotics