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Autism: Is aggressive behavior a symptom of gastrointestinal pain?

Theresa Lyons 10/11/2017

No, that's NOT just autism

Many people and health care providers wrongly often say "That's just part of autism." Aggressive behavior can be a sign of gastrointestinal pain but often it is disregarded as "just part of autism." Gastrointestinal disorders are commonly comorbid with autism. In fact, up to 91% of those with autism also have gastrointestinal disorders.

But things are different with autism

Behaviors, including problem behavior, may be markers of abdominal pain or GI discomfort in those with autism. Children with autism might present with behavioral symptoms rather than more typical GI symptoms…your child’s behavior MATTERS!!! Here's a table from a consensus report, a very respected journal article that outlines guidelines for how doctors should be treating your child with autism. This lists behaviors that may be markers of abdominal pain or discomfort to individuals with ADSs:

GI Treatments

It is sad to read but in that consensus report they actually had to state that children with autism deserve the same standard of care addressing GI symptoms as those without autism. Your child's behavior is NOT JUST AUTISM. Children with autism might present with behavioral symptoms rather than more typical GI symptoms…your child’s behavior MATTERS!!!

Diet is a common and effective way to treat GI symptoms. Studies have been inconsistent mainly due to clinical trial design. Each diet specifically targets certain symptoms so for success it is vital to match diet to all symptoms.

Microbiota & Autism

Many studies show that the gut microbiota is atypical in those with autism:
  • Decreased species diversity
  • Overrepresentation of certain species

Many use special diets and probiotics to rebalance the microbiota. An open label study using probiotics with those with autism reported improvements in concentration and following directions.

In a double blind placebo controlled crossover study, improvements in stool consistency, autism behaviors, as well as a reduction in Clostridium species was seen.

Unfortunately, the reality is that most children with autism are not getting the right probiotic. If you're giving your child a probiotic and not seeing improvements, check out my mini-course Probiotics To Heal AWEtism.

Digestive Enzymes & Autism

Some children with autism have shown to have deficient levels of digestive enzymes to properly digest their food. A 3 month double blind placebo controlled clinical trial of 101 children with autism reported significant improvements in autistic behaviors, emotional response, and GI symptoms with digestive enzyme treatment. This research was worked on with scientists from Egypt, USA, Saudi Arabia, and Norway so it's great that children all over the world can get don't have to live in one particular country for your child to improve.

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