Children with autism are not at higher risk for certain digestive system problems than those without the neurodevelopmental disorder, a small study suggests.
The researchers focused on gastrointestinal disorders that previous studies suggested might be linked to autism. These include intestinal inflammation; deficiency of the digestive enzyme lactase, associated with lactose intolerance; and increased intestinal permeability, often called “leaky gut.”
The results showed that the children with autism were no more likely to have these conditions than typically developing kids.
The research was published recently in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.
“The results of this study suggest that common gastrointestinal problems occur in children with autism and should be evaluated,” Dr. Timothy Buie, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Boston, and colleagues wrote in a journal news release.
“There is no evidence to support that gastrointestinal disorders cause autism,” they added.
For the study, researchers examined the results of endoscopy and other tests on 61 children with autism who were being checked for gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain or constipation. They were compared to 50 children without autism who had similar tests.
All the tests were done as part of normal medical care, not specifically for the study.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness has more on autism.