Describing the Primary Ecology of Gastrointestinal Dysfunction in Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is behaviorally defined by impairments in communication, social interactions, and repetitive stereotypic behaviors. Many children with ASD also experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as irregular bowel movements. A number of studies have described the presence of GI inflammation and altered immune function in children with ASD and GI symptoms. In these children, the presence of GI symptoms is often associated with increased irritability, tantrums, aggressive behavior, and sleep disturbance. In known diseases that affect the gut such as celiac disease, changes in behavior are also seen and support a link between GI function/symptoms and behavioral changes in ASD.

There is also evidence that the bacteria in the gut of children with ASD are different relative to typically developing children. Elimination of these gut bacteria with antibiotics in some individuals can lead to a temporary improvement in some behavioral symptoms.

In addition, based on beneficial reports on behaviors and GI symptoms, dietary and Probiotic interventions such as Healthy Probiotic are commonly used in ASD. These probiotics and diets may change the bacterial composition and also remove substances that could provoke GI inflammation.

Collectively, these findings suggest that GI symptoms may define a unique subgroup of individuals with ASD. Healthy probiotic therapy restores barrier function and improves GI symptoms, immune activation, and abnormal behavior.

Finding gut health solutions for autistic children can help with their behavior and ability to learn. Typical strategies for constipation include increasing fiber in their diets while diarrhea typically requires us to look at food allergies and intolerances to wheat and dairy. In Global Transformation Longevity, we also look at ways that we can help heal gut permeability rather than just the symptoms it causes.

In addition, recent information suggests that probiotics also help the body to detoxify. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 90 percent of methylmercury is excreted through the bile in feces and scientist believe that with a large number of probiotic bacteria, mercury can effectively be driven towards expulsion and prevent any recycling of toxic mercury.

According to the Journal of Gastroenterology Research and Practice, it is well established that there is bidirectional communication between the gut, the immune system, and the brain. Therefore, helping to heal the gut can help improve behaviors in children and can help them with cognitive functioning.

Researchers at Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine reviewed and analyzed all published, peer-reviewed research relating to eating problems and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They found that children with ASD are five times more likely to have mealtime challenges such as tantrums, extreme
food selectivity and ritualistic eating behaviors. They also found inadequate nutrition to be more common among children with autism than in those unaffected by the disorder. In particular, they found an overall low intake of calcium and protein. Calcium is crucial for building strong bones. Adequate protein is important for growth, mental development and health.

Chronic eating problems also increase a child’s risk for social difficulties and poor academic achievement, the researchers note. This may also increase risk for diet-related diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease in adolescence and adulthood.

The researchers expressed additional concern about alternative diets. Many parents report that their children’s autism symptoms and related medical issues improve when they remove casein (milk protein) and gluten (wheat protein) from their diets. However, casein/gluten-free diets can increase the challenge of ensuring adequate nutrition. Gastrointestinal dysfunction reported in children on the autism spectrum includes altered intestinal permeability, deficient enzyme activity, and hyperacidity of the intestinal lumen. Collectively, these intestinal pathophysiologies interfere with the absorption and transport of nutrients and contribute to
the common vitamin and mineral deficiencies documented in children with ASD.

It is also possible that the underlying biology of autism may cause deficiencies in the digestion of certain foods, which could affect vitamin intake. For example, a recent study documented that some children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances have impaired carbohydrate digestion. Normal growth and good health depend on the body absorbing and metabolizing the vitamins and minerals that are part of a well-rounded diet. In recent years, researchers have looked deeper into how well particular vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements such as Vital Nutrients lessen the severity or intensity of core autism symptoms – namely communication difficulties, social challenges, and repetitive behavior.

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