Gastrointestinal distress and Autism – important new research


By Lisa Ackerman

A new study was just published on March 8th highlighting individuals with autism and common issues with their gastrointestinal systems called “Identification of Unique Gene Expression Profile in Children with Regressive Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Ileocolitis (1.)  As with many TACA families, we are so grateful for this research. This research echoes what parents have been telling their doctors for years.

We are grateful to the researchers for the following findings:

“Gastrointestinal symptoms are common in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and are often associated with mucosal inflammatory infiltrates of the small and large intestine. Although distinct histologic and immunohistochemical properties of this inflammatory infiltrate have been previously described in this ASDGI group, molecular characterization of these lesions has not been reported.

In this study we utilize transcriptome profiling of gastrointestinal mucosal biopsy tissue from ASDGI children and three non-ASD control groups (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and histologically normal) in an effort to determine if there is a gene expression profile unique to the ASDGI group. Comparison of differentially expressed transcripts between the groups demonstrated that non-pathologic (normal) tissue segregated almost completely from inflamed tissue in all cases. Gene expression profiles in intestinal biopsy tissue from patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and ASDGI, while having significant overlap with each other, also showed distinctive features for each group. Taken together, these results demonstrate that ASDGI children have a gastrointestinal mucosal molecular profile that overlaps significantly with known inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), yet has distinctive features that further supports the presence of an ASD-associated IBD variant, or, alternatively, a prodromal phase of typical inflammatory bowel disease.”

There is a lot to this study. It is worth the read and to discuss with your physician team. At TACA, we have seen hundreds of children receive proper assessments, testing and treatments yielding amazing results. Some of the results include: children acting better, feeling better and learning happening in typical classroom settings. We want nothing more but THESE types of results for those in need.

We are also grateful for the American Academy of Pediatrics in recognizing the importance of gastrointestinal issues plaguing many that are diagnosed with autism. Their study and consensus report (2) is driving more treatment for individuals suffering with very treatable issues.

As parents, we always want to know: Does the window close? Is it is ever too late? The answer is never (3). Parents can investigate and start these treatments right now.  There is so much good that can come from being healthier, starting with the gut.

TACA provided over 15,000 incidences of support to families living with autism in 2012. It is rare that a conversation doesn’t include a discussion about their kid’s gastrointestinal issues.  Parents can read more about the signs, symptoms, testing and treatments available (4.)

We hope to see many more studies just like this one. Hopefully researchers can utilize the valuable clues provided by families living with autism and their children so no one has to suffer from a treatable condition.



9 thoughts on “Gastrointestinal distress and Autism – important new research

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  1. As an adult on the Spectum I can truly say I’ve always had issues with my stomach and digestion. Appendix was removed before the realized it was my gallbladder but I have a feeling that its going to be never ending. Always having tummy issues 😦

    1. Thanks for note Gretchen. I really appreciate you sharing your story. It helps to know that adults can share this information to help other families that may have the same issues.

      Many families we serve have non verbal / Pre verbal children. Were you able to articulate your needs as a child?

    2. Does your tummy always ache? My son (asd/pdd) would always complain about his tummy every now and then.

  2. I am on the Spectrum, and have always had issues with digestion. I am currently diagnosed with IBS, more just because doctors can’t find a label for it otherwise. My son, also on spectrum, doesn’t metabolize acids well and will have gut bleeds if he eats citrus or other high-acid foods. I am glad to see this sort of research, especially the focus on finding comfort solutions rather than “gee if we just got rid of autism this would go away” nonsense. Thank you!

    1. Michelle! I agree! I just want HAPPY, HEALTHY people regardless of their “label”.
      It makes me sad when folks live in pain.

      Thank you for commenting!! I am curious, when you were younger were you able to articulate your gastro issues?

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