Leaky Gut and Autism Spectrum Disorder
Exploring the link between gut health and ASD
A recent review, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, found that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) were more prone to have certain digestive issues. Author Megan R Santuary and her colleagues are urging researchers to perform more experimental and clinical research on children with these disorders to aid in individual management and solutions that are targeted to their needs.
What is the link
Several of the issues identified were:
- Poor protein digestion; this may occur due to poor levels of digestive juices including stomach acid, pepsin or digestive enzymes. Children (like adults) often eat quickly and do not chew thoroughly, delaying digestion
- Leaky gut, where undigested proteins get through the gut lining and interact with the immune system, often leading to allergic reactions or inflammation. These proteins may then also reach the brain where they, most definitely, do not belong
- Imbalanced gut bacteria, which may be a result of the above two points, but also from antibiotic use, medication, stress, poor diet and much more
You can read the study here.
While research helps direct nutritional guidelines, we already know a lot about how we can improve digestion. Although it may be more of a challenge with children, and even more so with children with ASD, you can try these tips to start:
- Identify how important your mealtimes are: Not only will eating well improve your digestion, but your children will learn by watching you. What do I mean? Ask yourself; do you take time to sit down to eat? How well do you chew your food? Do you take time to think about how your food makes you feel? How satisfied you are?
- Set aside the phone and TV at dinner: play soft music instead, focus on talking about the food you’re eating. Put down your fork between bites and encourage your children to do the same. Make a game of it.
- Chew well: your food should be a paste when you swallow it, no pieces of identifiable food. Not to encourage bad habits, but getting your kids to show the food in their mouth can result in giggles as they compete on grossness – I mean quality of the paste in their mouths. (if you can stomach it!)
- Observe your child: are they experiencing any skin issues? Are they pooping once a day? What is the quality? These things tell you about your child’s health. Start by keeping a diary of what they eat and their bowel movements. You can have them tested for an IgG food intolerance, which may show reactions that may exist due to a leaky gut. You can also test for gut bacteria, parasites, poor digestion etc. Testing is possible via any nutrition professional
- Include beneficial foods: for some people that could be fermented foods, prebiotics or probiotic foods, but for others, that can increase the problem. The best way to find out what is appropriate is to perform a gut test and a breath test, as appropriate.