Children with autism spectrum disorder are two to four times more likely than their peers to experience gastrointestinal complaints, such as constipation, diarrhea, or pain, according to research from Emory University School of Medicine. While the correlation between these two conditions isn’t fully understood, researchers are continually looking for ways to improve the quality of life for children who experience them. Most recently, a team from Emory created a set of nutritional guidelines meant to help ensure that children with ASD and GI issues receive the nutrition they need to grow and flourish.
“The ultimate goal of nutrition management in autism is resolution of symptoms, promotion of adequate growth, and assurance of a nutritionally complete diet,” said co-author Rachelle Berry, lead dietitian at Pediatric Feeding Disorders program at Marcus Autism Center, quoted in a release.
Children with autism experience conditions like constipation, food allergy, gastroesophageal reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis at a higher rate than their peers, according to the Autism Research Institute. In some children with ASD, food selectivity may contribute to symptoms, though picky eating can also be a sign of a preexisting digestive issue.
Additionally, some children with autism may be on special gluten- or casein-free diets due to emerging research that suggests these eating plans may reduce symptoms of autism. All of these factors make nutrition a special point of consideration for parents and caregivers. These new guidelines may provide further insight for ensuring proper diet in children with autism, but individualized treatment is always best. If your child is experiencing digestive problems, consult with a gastroenterologist who can help you decide the best course of action for treatment.