Tummy Troubles in Kids with Autism

Gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism appear common

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's often thought that children with autism also tend to have more stomach trouble than other children. But is that really the case?

A recent study found that it appeared so. The study reviewed past research to learn whether children with autism really do have more gastrointestinal concerns.

The results revealed that kids with autism spectrum disorders tended to be more likely to have gastrointestinal issues than other children.

Children with autism also appeared to experience diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain at higher rates, though the reasons for this finding are not clear.

"Ask your child's pediatrician about addressing stomach troubles."

This study, led by Barbara McElhanon, MD, aimed to learn more about gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism spectrum disorders.

The researchers looked through three major medical research databases for all studies involving gastrointestinal issues and children with autism.

They identified 15 studies and then calculated the extent to which children with autism appeared to experience more gastrointestinal symptoms than children without autism.

The results showed that children with autism spectrum disorders experienced gastrointestinal problems at a rate just over four times greater than that of other children without autism.

Children with autism were also more than three times more likely to experience diarrhea and constipation than other children and a little over twice as likely to experience abdominal pain.

Although the link between gastrointestinal problems and autism appeared clear in the studies these researchers reviewed, the papers did not contain enough information to get a sense of what might be the cause of the stomach troubles.

There was also too little information to determine whether the gastrointestinal symptoms were actually related to autism or whether there might be other factors common to children with autism that could contribute to them.

More research is needed to get a better understanding of these issues and what screening and treatment might be appropriate for children with autism.

This study was published April 28 in the journal Pediatrics. The research did not use external funding.

One author is a member of the Nutricia Advisory Board on GI Concerns in Children with ASD. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
April 29, 2014
Last Updated:
April 29, 2014