Some individuals with autism may experience digestive issues, they tend to have gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea when compared to their peers. Although not all autistic people face these challenges. The reasons for these digestive problems can vary and may include genetic factors, altered gut microbiota, food sensitivities, and anxiety or stress.
- Genetic factors: Research suggests that some genetic factors related to autism might also be associated with gastrointestinal (GI) issues. While the relationship is not yet fully understood, it’s possible that certain genetic variations might contribute to both autism and GI problems.
- Altered gut microbiota: The gut microbiota, the diverse community of microorganisms living in the digestive tract, plays a crucial role in maintaining gut health. Some studies have found differences in the gut microbiota composition between autistic individuals and neurotypical individuals. These alterations may potentially contribute to digestive issues in some autistic people.
- Food sensitivities: Some autistic individuals may have food sensitivities or allergies, such as sensitivity to gluten or casein. These sensitivities can cause digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant dietary changes, as not all autistic individuals will benefit from a specific dietary intervention.
- Anxiety or stress: Many autistic people experience higher levels of anxiety or stress, which can sometimes exacerbate digestive problems. Stress can negatively affect gut health and lead to issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Selective feeding: Many children with ASD eat only a few foods, eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. For this reason, children with ASDs may have a low nutrient diet and may have weight-related health problems that can extend into adulthood. Adults with ASD are at increased risk for obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), and diabetes.
It is often difficult to know how to help a child with ASD and gastrointestinal problems. Deficits in communication with people with ASD often make it difficult to determine if their diet is the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms or if the symptoms are the result of an undiagnosed medical problem. Also, making changes to their diet can be very difficult when a child has become accustomed to selective feeding.
It’s important to remember that not all autistic individuals will experience digestive issues, and the reasons for these problems can differ between individuals. If you suspect that an autistic person is experiencing digestive problems, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for proper assessment, diagnosis, and management of the condition.
Every child with Autism must be provided with adequate consumption of nutrients in order to have a healthy life.