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Autism Bowel Issues

It is important for all of us to have daily, regular bowel movements in order to clean out the junk we have inside of us and maintain our health. It is a measurement of the regularity in which we make bowel movements and the solidity of the stool which describes how effective our digestive tracks are operating. Unfortunately, it is commonly known that many of those who are affected by autism lack a strong digestive system, and because of that, many have a number of bowel issues (indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, chronic upset stomach, and inflammation). Not only do these bowel issues cause much discomfort, but they also have a strong effect on how children with autism think and behave as well.


Constipation and diarrhea are both very common in children with autism, and these two bowel issues are probably the two most obvious indicators of digestion problems. Parents should show concern if their children are having two or more day delay gaps in between their bowel movements, because this means that their children are not stooling enough. Constipation can be very painful for a child, and if the stool is very impacted, a lot of the times a child may need medical attention. Children who are strongly affected by constipation may have bloated bellies, may wake up at night because of stomach pains, and have dramatic change in behaviors. Parents should keep their eye out for the signs, and if any of them occur often, then the child should be taken to see a gastroentologist. And on the other hand, parents also have issues to address if their children are having bowel movements to soon after they eat (loose stools within an hour after eating). It is common for children to alternate between constipation and diarrhea, and due to the weak digestive system, parents may often find undigested food particles within their child’s diaper or in the toilet. A bloated belly is usually a sign of inflammation and can cause chronic upset stomachs and much discomfort for a child (autism digestion).


If a child’s bowels are not moving in the way that they should, then this can lead to further problems, because of the toxic overgrowth that occurs inside the gut of the child, as a result of the bowel issues. If bowel issues are common, it is necessary that the child be taken to see a doctor for assistance. Eating healthy, well balanced meals which include much water, fiber, fruits, and vegetables does not only promote quality eating, but it also provides the foundation for a healthy gut. Meals that consist of food types from only one part of the food pyramid should be avoided, as well as, fast food, sugary foods, and foods that contain little or no nutritional value.  


There are number of strategies parents can test out to improve or attempt to rid their child’s constipation. Drinking water is key, and it is important for the child to keep drinking glass after glass to flush their gut out. Epsom salt may do the trick, and we encourage caretakers to try adding 1 cup of Epsom salt to their child’s bath water to see if that will loosen anything up (the child is expected to drink the bath water under these circumstances). The child should consume a lot of fruit, and maintain a good level of physical exercise to keep the body functions and operations active. Magnesium is a good source of constipation relief, and parents should purchase Milk of Magnesia over the counter to see if it will bring their child any benefit. There are also a number of magnesium supplements provided by nutritional companies that have an even greater effect. Parents should have their child tested for allergies, because many a times, this is the start of autism gastrointestinal issues, and the issues can be resolved by avoiding these allergens and foods that host them.  


Smooth move tea, which is available in Health Food stores, is known to loosen up bowels, and Ducolax is a tiny pill that you can get over the counter, as well, and is known to be quite effective for constipation. One of the last resorts is every person’s favorite, an enema! Most drug stores provide the child size enemas, but if the store doesn’t, parents should only give half of the adult dose to their child. It is important to speak to a doctor before even thinking of using an enema. Products that are high in calcium can also be very problematic, because too much calcium can lead to constipation or worse constipation. Chronic diarrhea that occurs multiple times a day is just as serious of a medical issue as constipation. If diarrhea occurs for four days or more, it is necessary for a parent to contact their child’s doctor. We mentioned earlier that it is common for children to go back and forth from constipation to diarrhea, and the best approach here is for caretakers to find a balance between natural and prescribed remedies that have been proven to help their child during their periods of constipation and diarrhea. Possible causes that can fuel diarrhea are: too much fruit consumption, too much magnesium consumption, food allergies, too much fatty acids or fiber consumption, parasites or bacteria in the gut, etc.


[[Ackerman, Lisa. Families with Autism Journey Guide 4th. Edition. 2008. pgs. 234-236]