GI Problems and Autism
Did you know that kids with autism are 3 times more likely than neurotypical kids to have chronic constipation or diarrhea? This isn’t just your gut (no pun-intended) telling you this. A study done by the National Health Institute confirmed it. Many studies have also shown a significant correlation between gastro-intestinal imbalances and the severity of autism symptoms.
Connections between the gut and the brain are only now being discovered.
Suffice it to say, we are constantly learning more about the relationship between the gut and the brain. To put it simply, imbalances and inflammation in the gut can cause imbalances and inflammation in the brain.
Most kids on the spectrum will battle with constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, or general abdominal pain. Of these, constipation is the most common, and is often also accompanied with bloating and abdominal pain. There are many causes that can account for these symptoms including low fiber intake due to restricted diet, food allergies, dysbiosis, slow motility, and medication side effects.
But what do we do about it?
Sure, you could give and hope they provide temporary relief for your child. But what happens when the meds become less effective (because doesn’t that always seem to happen)? There’s a reason for this. Chronic use of laxatives changes bowel function and actually makes constipation worse! Not to mention that laxatives also strip nutrients out of the gut and can lead to even more dietary problems and dehydration. Most importantly, by using laxatives to treat a symptom you run a high chance of missing or misdiagnosing causative factors that also contribute to your child missing developmental milestones.
Let’s look at this from a naturopathic perspective.
Naturopathic medicine by its very nature is the search and treatment of the underlying cause of a medical challenge. Because of this our treatment plans vary per individual and their unique needs. Some common interventions include removing food allergies from the diet, increasing fluid and fiber intake, fixing nutrient deficiencies, and improving overall gut health. Regardless of the intervention we always operate with the same end goal in mind, heal the patient and treat the cause.
Magnesium is a common nutrient deficiency we see and it can lead to or worsen constipation. By replacing magnesium through diet and supplementation, we can often quickly and dramatically lessen the severity of their constipation.
Probiotic supplementation can also be very helpful in these children, as they tend to have abnormal microflora in their guts. Tending to the microbiome is important because it helps absorb and even produce nutrients that we need, and helps with neurotransmitter production as well. And those laxatives we talked about before – they can actually cause even more imbalance in the microbiome than was already there to start.
Herbs can also be a great option to help with constipation. Remember though – herbs work in the body like drugs, and many of them are also pushing the detox pathways, so it is advised to consult a medical professional when using them. Some of the gentler herbs you can try in tea form include: chamomile, lemon balm, and dandelion root. But be forewarned – they aren’t super tasty, so you might get some push back.
In my practice, I find that homeopathy is often the most effective tool for improving gastrointestinal health in these kids. Homeopathy is a great treatment option for children because it’s 100% safe, gentle, and highly effective. And it comes coated on sugar pills, so even the pickiest of kids won’t say no to getting their medicine!
Homeopathy stimulates the body to do what it wants to do: Heal.
Homeopathy is a very individualized form of medicine. This means that to have truly profound healing results that last, it needs to be prescribed based off of your child’s unique symptoms. People generally see the best results when working with a trained professional. That being said, let’s explore a few common remedies that treat constipation – Calcarea carbonica, Lycopodium clavatum, and Silicea terra.
Calcarea carbonica is a common remedy for constipation in kids when the stool is very hard and has undigested food in it. Your child might complain about feeling like their rectum is tight or cramping. Oddly enough, you might notice that other symptoms seem to get better when he is constipated! Children that need calcarea carbonica tend to be chilly, crave eggs and indigestible foods, and perspire profusely on their heads and feet.
Lycopodium is another great remedy for constipation and GI issues in kids. The stool that is most characteristic of Lycopodium is one that has a single bowel movement with lumps of stool on the first part but smooth through the second part. This remedy is indicated in children who are gassy, bloated, and constipated. These children may also be intolerant to clothing around their waist and may tend to be bossy and maybe a little on the jealous side.
Silica is also a great remedy for constipation. A unique presentation of the silica picture is a stool that is difficult to pass and often recedes back inside the rectum. The stool itself may actually look soft, even though it is very hard to pass. Other indications for this remedy, are children that are very shy, chilly, and have sweaty feet (can look similar to the calcarea carbonica presentation).
There are lots of natural options out there. Talk to your doctor about which ones are the best for you.
Ultimately, regardless of the option you choose, there are a lot of natural therapies that can help your kiddo get some relief from his gut problems, and maybe even help his brain heal at the same time!