A recent study conducted in Italy found that certain strains of probiotics can have a positive effect on some individuals with autism.
People found to be within the Autism Spectrum Disorder range tend to have various issues with communication, behaviors, and sensory experiences. One of the issues that could trigger problem behaviors or become sources of frustration or distress for autistic people could be digestion related. The study found that the use of probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genus (typically found in yogurt), can help relieve digestive discomforts. As a result, some behaviors that are caused by digestive problems, that an autistic person may not have the communication skills to describe, can be reduced or eliminated.
Autistics often have specific and very limited dietary preferences, which can in turn create some problems when it comes to the stomach and intestines. Picky eaters might only rotate four or five meals, and be generally unwilling to eat other foods. In addition to this, many autistic people have trouble communicating verbally, making it difficult to make others aware that they are having stomach upset. Problems such as constipation or painful bowel movements, gastric upset, diarrhea, heartburn, and indigestion may cause outbursts, anger, aggression, and other disruptive behaviors in certain individuals. Adding probiotics as a regular part of an autistic person’s diet could cause them to be more physically comfortable, and therefore more cooperative, less irritable and more at ease.
Registered dietitian Karen Mountjoy, from New Hampshire, confirms that a majority of children with autism have issues with diet or digestion in some way. Reactions to these problems may be misinterpreted as poor behavior, when the child is actually trying to express that they are not feeling well. Because of limited food intake and low strength in the abdominals, a diet that includes probiotics as well as peaches, plums, pears, and lots of vegetables is recommended. Strengthening the health of your child’s gut can make them more comfortable, according to Mountjoy, and that can make them behave better.
The best sources of probiotics are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimichi, miso, kombucha, pickles, natto, and some cheeses (cheddar, gouda, mozzarella). There is also a wide variety of probiotic supplements available on the market.
Diet is an important factor an ASD symptoms and behaviors. There is other research out there that seems to support that a diet in reduced sugars and reduced or eliminated gluten can help lessen various behavioral issues and other symptoms in autistic people. At the very least, a healthy diet can add comfort to an individual with ASD, making everyday life a little bit easier for them and those that care for them.