Home Health Autism Spectrum Disorder And Digestive Symptoms

Autism Spectrum Disorder And Digestive Symptoms

World Autism Awareness Day will be observed on Friday, April 2, which makes this a good time to learn more about the connection between autism spectrum disorder and digestive symptoms.

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that affects how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.

Some children show signs of autism spectrum disorder in early infancy, such as reduced eye contact, lack of response to their name or indifference to caregivers. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life, but then they suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive, or lose language skills they’d already acquired. Signs usually are seen by age 2.

Children with autism spectrum disorder tend to have more medical issues, including gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea, compared with their peers. At the same time, many children with autism spectrum disorder eat only a few foods, a condition known as selective eating. They also may prefer highly processed foods, and eat fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains. For these reasons, children with autism spectrum disorder may have nutritionally poor diets and weight-related health issues that can extend into adulthood. Adults with autism spectrum disorder are at increased risk of obesityhigh blood pressure and diabetes.

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Yes, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend to have more medical issues, including gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea, compared with their peers.

At the same time, many children with ASD eat only a few foods (selective eating), prefer highly processed foods, and eat fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

For these reasons, children with ASD may have nutritionally poor diets and weight-related health issues that can extend into adulthood. Adults with ASD are at increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes.

It can be challenging to know how to help a child with ASD and GI symptoms. Communication deficits associated with ASD often make it difficult to sort out whether a child’s diet is the cause of the GI symptoms or if the symptoms are the result of an underlying medical problem. In addition, making dietary changes can be difficult when a child has become used to selective eating.

Parents and caregivers may try restrictive or elimination-type diets in an effort to manage symptoms or behaviors. Because restrictive diets increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies, they must be thoughtfully planned.

The goal for a child with ASD is the same as for any child — to provide adequate intake of all nutrients and promote lifelong health. To that end, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has made the following recommendations:

  • The child with ASD and the family should work with a dedicated care team that involves a dietitian. The team should assess the nutrient adequacy of the child’s diet, keeping in mind that deficiencies may be present even if growth appears appropriate.
  • The care team should work to address barriers, such as food selectivity, that may interfere with dietary changes to address allergies, constipation or other GI symptoms.
  • Coaching about planning and preparing nutritious meals should involve the whole family.
[vc_message message_box_style=”solid-icon” message_box_color=”blue”]Mayo Clinic, posted on SouthFloridaReporter.comApril 2, 2021

“Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.”[/vc_message]