Gastro-intestinal disease in Autism

The treatment of gastro-intestinal disease can have a determining impact on behaviour in children on the Autism spectrum, therefore is a starting block for effective management.

Looking at the history of the diagnosis of autism, it becomes clear that the fact that children with autism present with gastro-intestinal disease has been known from the days when Kanner described his first cases in 1943. To be able to understand the impact of gastro-intestinal dysfunction in patients on the Autism Spectrum, it is important to understand healthy gastro-intestinal function, as well as how the immune system functions. The presentation of gastro-intestinal disease in children who have compromised communication skills is different to that of the neuro-typical population, while the disease itself may also be unique.

To try and determine the underlying pathology, each case needs to be evaluated individually and testing can be very important to be able to manage the disease. Underlying pathology can range from dysbiosis with fungal overgrowth, bacterial dysbiosis and parasitic infestation to inflammatory bowel disease, and all of these pathological processes should be treated specifically.

Baseline treatment includes the use of probiotics and Omega 3, dietary intervention and improvement of digestion. Symptomatic management of constipation, colic and reflux may be indicated while the treatment of pathology develops.

Extensive research and evidence regarding this exists in literature and can guide our process in improving the outcome for patients who present with a diagnosis within the Autism spectrum.

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders November 2013

"Gastrointestinal Problems in Children with Autism, Developmental Delays or Typical Development -Virginia Chaidez, Robin L. Hansen, Irva Hertz-Picciotto

Study aim: To compare Gastrointestinal (GI) problems among children with: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Developmental Delay (DD) and Typical Development (TD) – 960 children were tested. Compared to TD children, those with ASD were more likely to have at least one frequent GI symptom. Restricting to ASD children, those with frequent abdominal pain, gaseousness, diarrhea, constipation or pain on stooling scored worse on irritability, social withdrawal, stereotypy, and hyperactivity compared with children having no frequent GI symptoms. Frequent GI problems affect young children with ASD and DD more commonly than those with TD. Maladaptive behaviors correlate with GI problems, suggesting these comorbidities require attention."