A study reported a contrary results to the earlier findings stating that children with autism are less likely to develop gastrointestinal symptoms than others.
But certain certain symptoms like constipation and feeding issues, are more prevalent in children with autism.
The study involved 121 case subjects and 242 controls to find the gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with autism.
Our study is the first, to our best knowledge, long-term population-based study of the incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism compared to age and gender-matched control subjects, told lead author Dr. Samar H. Ibrahim, from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.
The biggest finding, according to Dr. Ibrahim, was that there was no significant difference in the cumulative incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms between patients with autism and normal controls: 77.2% vs. 72.2%. Most of the case patients at 2 or 3 years began having autism symptoms of age and were then followed through about 18 years of age.
Except from one patient with Crohn’s disease and one with disaccharidase deficiency, none of the autism patients reported specific gastrointestinal diseases. No patient had celiac disease.
As stated, autism patients had higher rates of constipation (33.9% vs. 17.6%) and feeding issues (24.5% vs. 16.1%) than did controls.
The take-home message is that dietary restriction, empirical antibiotics or other popular treatments in autism including dietary supplements should not be provided indiscriminately to children with autism, unless there is evidence of the presence of a gastrointestinal disorder in a specific case, Dr. Ibrahim emphasized.
It would be interesting to compare the incidence of gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with autism to other patients with cognitive impairment without autism, as some of the symptoms that were more prevalent in children with autism in our study may be secondary to a neurobehavioral rather than a primary organic gastrointestinal etiology. This is what we hope to do in the next phase of our project.