Medical Conditions May Be Related to Behavioral Issues in Children with Autism

A new study, published this May in Autism Research, suggests that medical conditions like seizures, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems may be connected to behavioural issues in children with autism. The medical profession has a tendency to focus on symptoms rather than investigating possible underlying causes.

“The researchers found that in several cases, having one medical condition increases the odds that one or two others will also occur. Children with gastrointestinal conditions are more likely to have sleep disorders or seizures than are those without gut problems, they found. Conversely, having a sleep disorder also raises the chances of having gastrointestinal troubles.

All three health problems are more prevalent in children with autism than they are in their unaffected family members, suggesting the problems are linked to autism. Allergies and asthma, in contrast, are equally common in their unaffected siblings, indicating no connection between these conditions and autism.”

What is also revealing in this study was children with more than one co-occurring condition tend to be less socially engaged, have more behavioral problems and struggle more with everyday life skills than those who have autism alone or have only one co-occurring condition. Treat the underlying conditions and there is a likelihood of the behavior improving.

Related to this study just discussed, there is a study published in the upcoming August edition of the journal Psychiatry Research about decreased social anxiety in young adults with autism who ate fermented foods such as sauerkraut. Fermented foods have probiotics which change the environment in the gut.

The secondary finding in this study was that more exercise was related to reduced social anxiety. “Although the researchers were pleased to see the findings so clearly support their hypothesis, the study is just the first in a series they have planned to continue exploring the mind-gut connection, including another examination of the data to see whether a correlation exists between fermented food intake and autism symptoms.”

Many parents have observed informally that when they treat gastrointestinal symptoms, their child’s life improves so both of these findings do support the importance of gut health and well-being.

If you are interested in more information on the subject, check out these two great books:  Autism and Gastrointestinal Complaints by Rosemary Kessick, and Autism: Exploring the Benefits of a Gluten- and Casein-Free Diet by Paul Whiteley, Mark Earnden, Elouise Robinson.

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