Autism Spectrum Disorder (more commonly known as ASD) effects more than 70 million people worldwide. Commonly misunderstood, ASD is a spectrum of disorders that have different extremes on opposite ends. Despite their differences, the disorders included on the spectrum share three common characteristics: impaired communication, poor social engagement, and repetitive behaviors.

Today, we treat those who fall on the spectrum through behavioral therapy to help them cope with everyday life. Living with a disorder that lies on the spectrum can be extremely stressful­­ – mentally, emotionally, and even physically. More specifically, stress can affect our stomach by creating a butterfly-like feeling, cramps, or grumbling.

Although a cause or cure is not definitively known, great strides are being made in helping children with autism and to help find the answers to these questions.

Recent studies have found correlations between people who fall on the autism spectrum and stomach issues:

  • Arizona State University performed research that compared the fecal samples of children with and without autism. Participants with autism had fewer types of bacteria found in their sample, which could be a reason as to why the stomach is more prone to disease-causing pathogens.
  • Elaine Hsiao, a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology, engineered female mice with the flu during pregnancy. Previous studies have shown that this doubles the chances of ASD in their children. The young mice developed a “leaky gut,” which is when molecules created by gut accidentally leak into the blood stream, and potentially up to the brain itself (also seen in human children with autism). When treated with probiotics and analyzed five weeks later, the young mice’s stomach condition improved, and they began to resemble healthy mice with less anxiety, improved socialization and less engagement in repetitive behaviors.

Although there are differing estimates across the board, some studies have concluded that up to 90 percent of children with autism suffer from stomach issues. Personally, I have been treating children with ASD for years. I have had a majority of my patients tested for a “leaky gut,” and 95% of these patients had a gut issue.

These numbers that I have encountered, along with the recent research, show a significant relationship between stomach issues and the presence of autism and/or other disorders on the spectrum. Even though nothing can be guaranteed with these findings, it is important to recognize that a relationship does exist, and this creates a strong foundation for future research with human participants. This is the next big step towards finding the origin of these disorders, as well as creating more effective treatments with the use of probiotics.

If you are interested in extra resources, we recommend: Sesame Street Autism Resources for Parents

References: Autism’s Gut-Brain Connection

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Author Jim West, LMHC, NCC is a National Certified Counselor and is the president of Total Life Counseling Center.  His center helps with vitamins and diet before medication for ASD, Depression, ADHD, Anxiety and Bipolar. Additionally, people travel internationally for his Social Skills Overnight Camps, Groups and Day Camps and has had kids no longer meet the criteria for ASD with the social skills training, diet, vitamins and behavioral coaching. There is help for Autism! Give us a call for a free 15 Phone Consultation (407) 248-0030