Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Increased prevalence of GI symptoms among children with autism, study confirms

Date:
April 29, 2014
Source:
Emory Health Sciences
Summary:
Children with autism spectrum disorder are more than four times more likely to experience general gastrointestinal (GI) complaints compared with peers, are more than three times as prone to experience constipation and diarrhea than peers, and complain twice as much about abdominal pain compared to peers.

A new study conducted by researchers at Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine indicates that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more than four times more likely to experience general gastrointestinal (GI) complaints compared with peers, are more than three times as prone to experience constipation and diarrhea than peers, and complain twice as much about abdominal pain compared to peers.

Related Articles


The results are reported in the April 28, 2014, online early edition of the journal Pediatrics.

While parents frequently express concern regarding GI symptoms among children with ASD in pediatric settings, this study is the first meta-analysis of all published, peer-reviewed research relating to this topic.

"Our findings corroborate a history of anecdotal reports and case studies suggesting increased risk of GI concerns in autism," says co-author William Sharp, PhD, director of the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program at Marcus Autism Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. "This analysis reinforces the need for greater clinical and research scrutiny in this area to guide best standards of care and to address important questions regarding the detection and treatment of GI symptoms among children with autism."

The process of detecting and studying possible GI concerns in children with ASD is complicated by the unique combination of behavioral, neurological and medical issues associated with the condition. Most notably, limitations in verbal communication in patients with ASD make it difficult for them to communicate information about GI symptoms, making it more challenging for physicians to detect possible underlying GI issues. In such cases, parents and medical professionals must rely on non-verbal signs that fall outside of the routine GI diagnostic evaluation.

"In many cases, the only indication of a possible GI problem in autism may be the emergence or escalation of problem behaviors, such as self-injury, aggression, or irritability, that cannot be otherwise explained," says co-author Barbara McElhanon, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. "Relying on these atypical signs to detect possible GI concerns can be difficult for practitioners because repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior occur so frequently in ASD and no guidelines exist to help parents and clinicians navigate the diagnostic process."

For this reason, McElhanon and her colleagues emphasize the need to develop a standardized screening instrument as well as clinical guidelines for conducting GI examinations among children with ASD, particularly non-verbal children. More detailed, standardized screening procedures would enhance detection, while also increasing awareness in the ASD community regarding what to look for among children suspected of possible GI disorders.

"The important point from this research is that children with autism -- who have difficulties in communicating their symptoms -- need special attention from physicians to determine whether or not a child is experiencing GI distress" says Sharp. "Unfortunately for parents, the unfounded assertion that vaccinations somehow caused an inflammatory GI disease which then caused autism has significantly hindered progress in this field for years. Many studies have now shown no evidence of an association with vaccines, and vaccines are important for child health. That controversy diverted attention from the GI needs of children with ASD, and we hope that our work helps spur renewed investment for addressing these needs."

In addition to more standardized assessment, the authors recommend studying GI symptoms in ASD with consideration to the high rates of feeding problems and related dietary issues, such as food selectivity, in this population. "If food intake becomes highly restricted, a child is likely to experience issues like GI distress and constipation or diarrhea; but for children with autism, they often can't communicate those issues in the same way," says McElhanon. "More research is needed to understand the best means of identifying and treating these special health needs of children with ASD."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Emory Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. O. McElhanon, C. McCracken, S. Karpen, W. G. Sharp. Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Meta-analysis. PEDIATRICS, 2014; 133 (5): 872 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-3995

Cite This Page:

Emory Health Sciences. "Increased prevalence of GI symptoms among children with autism, study confirms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140429184958.htm>.
Emory Health Sciences. (2014, April 29). Increased prevalence of GI symptoms among children with autism, study confirms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140429184958.htm
Emory Health Sciences. "Increased prevalence of GI symptoms among children with autism, study confirms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140429184958.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins