GI Issues Caused by Autism
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tend to experience more gastrointestinal (GI) issues than their peers. Symptoms include abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea.
Many children with ASD eat very selectively: most prefer highly processed foods and eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Therefore, children with ASD may have nutritionally lacking diets and weight-related health issues. These can be prolonged into adulthood, causing an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Communication difficulties associated with ASD make it difficult to pinpoint if a child's diet is the cause of uncomfortable GI symptoms or if the symptoms are the result of an underlying medical condition. If the diet is the issue, selective eating is extremely hard to correct. Caregivers may try restrictive or elimination-type diets to manage symptoms. However, restrictive diets increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies so they must be thoughtfully planned.
If the affected child does not have underlying health conditions causing GI issues, promoting lifelong health for children with ASD is crucial. Establishing healthy eating habits and a balance of nutrition is key. There should be a family effort to eat balanced meals and ease the diet changes for the affected child. Nutrition coaches can help guide families to provide their child with any nutrients they may be lacking, and strategies to ease selective eating.
“Autism and Food Aversions: 7 Ways to Help a Picky Eater.” Autism Speaks, www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/autism-and-food-aversions#:~:text=If%20you%20have%20a%20picky,)%20and%20meal%2Drelated%20tantrums.