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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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Stomach Troubles Common for Kids With Autism

Digestive distress often accompanied by irritability, social withdrawal

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism are far more likely to have digestive problems than those without the neurodevelopmental disorder, a new study finds.

The gastrointestinal issues (GI) appear linked to autism-related behavioral problems, such as social withdrawal, irritability and repetitive behaviors, according to the research team at the University of California, Davis.

"Parents of children with autism have long said that their kids endure more GI problems, but little has been known about the true prevalence of these complications or their underlying causes," study lead author Virginia Chaidez said in a university news release.

For the study, published online Nov. 6 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the researchers looked at nearly 1,000 children in California between 2 and 5 years of age and found that gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea and sensitivity to food occurred six to eight times more often in those with autism than in other children.

"The GI problems they experience may be bidirectional," Chaidez noted. "GI problems may create behavior problems, and those behavior problems may create or exacerbate GI problems. One way to try to tease this out would be to begin investigating the effects of various treatments and their effects on both GI symptoms and problem behaviors."

Understanding the impact of gastrointestinal problems in children with autism could provide new insight into appropriate treatments that may have the potential to decrease their tummy-related problem behaviors, the researchers said.

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