Autistic children are more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal troubles than normally growing peers, researchers have found.

According to the findings of a new study, children with autism are six to eight times more likely to suffer from the neurological disorder than non-autistic peers.

Furthermore, symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) upsets such as constipation, diarrhea and food sensitivity are themselves related to autistic symptoms like behavioral problems, including social withdrawal, irritability and repetitive behaviors, the researchers highlighted.

The study

For the purpose of the study, the researchers looked at nearly 1,000 autistic children enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study in Northern California between April 2003 and May 2011.

At the time of enrollment, the age of the children varied between 24 and 60 months.

For the current trial, researchers asked the parents of the children to fill in two questionnaires, the CHARGE Gastrointestinal History Questionnaire (GIH) and the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC).

While the GIH questionnaire looked at disorders like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and difficulty swallowing, the ABC questionnaire focused at the behavioral problems like irritability, lethargy/social withdrawal, repetitive behaviors (stereotypes), hyperactivity and inappropriate speech.

The researchers observed that parents of children with autism were six-to-eight times more likely to report GI troubles among their kids than parents of children who were developing typically.

Likewise, parents of children with autism were five times more likely to report GI troubles among their kids compared to parents of typically developing children.

“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’s lead researcher, Virginia Chaidez, of the UC Davis MIND Institute said.

“The GI problems they experience may be bidirectional,” Chaidez said. “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.”

The findings of the study are reported online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

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