Research from the UC Davis MIND Institute showing that children with autism are six to eight times more likely to experience gastrointestinal upsets has been named one of the top 10 scientific advances of 2013 by the organization Autism Speaks.
Published online Nov. 6 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study found that children with autism experience constipation, diarrhea and sensitivity to foods far more often than children who are developing typically.
It also linked those symptoms to behavioral problems in autistic children — including the social withdrawal, irritability and repetitive behaviors that are hallmarks of the condition.
Virginia Chaidez led the study. She was a postdoctoral trainee in the department of public health sciences when the investigation was conducted. She is now is an analyst for UC Cal Fresh Nutrition Education Program state office.
Chaidez worked with Irva Hertz-Picciotto, chief of the division of environmental and occupational health in the department of public health sciences, and Robin Hansen, director of the Center of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities at the MIND Institute.
Said Hansen, the study’s senior author, in a news release, “Although we don’t know why so many children with autism spectrum disorder have GI disturbances, it is important that health-care professionals not write off these symptoms as ‘just part of autism.’
“They should instead investigate potential causes and treatments, as they would with any child, since these symptoms cause pain, alter behavior and create stress for both the child and their family.”