Skip to navigation menu Skip to content
Please click here to read our COVID-19 policies and resources before your visit or appointment. X
Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

How Stress and Gastro Issues Affect Kids With Autism

How Stress and Gastro Issues Affect Kids With Autism

TUESDAY, May 3, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- For some children with autism, there's a connection between gastrointestinal problems and stress, anxiety and social withdrawal, a new study suggests.

The findings could help efforts to develop personalized treatments for autism patients with gastrointestinal problems such as stomach pain and constipation, the University of Missouri researchers suggested.

Such problems tend to occur more often in children with autism than in those without the disorder.

"Research has shown gastrointestinal issues are associated with an increased stress response as well as aggression and irritability in some children with autism," said Brad Ferguson, an assistant research professor at the university's Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

"This likely happens because some kids with autism are unable to verbally communicate their gastrointestinal discomfort as well as how they feel in general, which can be extremely frustrating," Ferguson said in a university news release. "The goal of our research is to find out what factors are associated with gastrointestinal problems in individuals with autism so we can design treatments to help these individuals feel better."

In the study, Ferguson and colleagues analyzed health data from more than 600 young patients who have autism with gastrointestinal issues. They found more evidence that the connection between the brain and the digestive tract -- the gut-brain axis -- plays an important role in gastrointestinal problems in people with autism.

"Stress signals from the brain can alter the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine in the gut, which control gastrointestinal motility, or the movement of stool through the intestines. Stress also impacts the balance of bacteria living in the gut, called the microbiota, which can alter gastrointestinal functioning," Ferguson explained.

"The gut then sends signals back to the brain, and that can, in turn, lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and social withdrawal," he added. "The cycle then repeats, so novel treatments addressing signals from both the brain and the gut may provide the most benefit for some kids with gastrointestinal disorders and autism."

Solving this complex problem and developing treatments requires an interdisciplinary team of specialists, according to Ferguson.

He's now involved in a clinical trial to assess how a stress-reducing medication affects gastrointestinal issues.

The new findings were recently published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

More information

For more on autism, go to the Autism Society.

SOURCE: University of Missouri, news release, April 26, 2022

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition
Dr. Rana Ammoury
Dr. Orhan Atay
Dr. Michael Konikoff
Dr. Sameer Lapsia
Dr. Michael Mendoza
Dr. Nancy Yokois
Health Tips
Abuse of Prescription ADHD Medicines Rising on College Campuses
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
Parenting Déjà vu: Raising Your Grandchildren
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Talking About Sex with Your Teen
Talking With Your Kids About Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco
When Can a Child Wear Contact Lenses
Quizzes
Autism Quiz
NewsLetters
Are You a Tired Mom? 4 Tips to Sleep Better
Diseases & Conditions
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma in Children Index
Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Discipline
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Firearms
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Children
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Meningitis in Children
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Television and Children
Thalassemia
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Heart
The Kidneys
Your Child's Asthma
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.