It’s well documented that many children on the Autism spectrum can have a broad range of digestive struggles. For some it can manifest as constipation, diarrhea, bloating or abdominal pain. Until recently, my child’s bathroom “sessions” would typically last 45 minutes or more, and he would have myriad accidents because he simply did not look forward to the painful experience.
Other children may have no outward appearance of symptoms but within their digestive tract there is disorder in the form of inflammation, leaky gut and food intolerances or sensitivities.
I recently started my son on a digestive enzyme, specifically formulated to aid in the digestion of gluten and casein. Our bodies already contain enzymes that break down our food when we eat. It’s imperative that by the time food reaches our intestines it is broken down properly, allowing nutrients to be absorbed into our bloodstream and taken to the cells around the body where they are needed most. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates are broken down by enzymes, but for many children with Autism they seem to have problems breaking down and digesting their food properly.
Intolerances to certain foods, particularly wheat and dairy, are a common issue. The proteins in these foods are not broken down properly and can cause damage to the intestinal lining and cross – undigested – into the blood, where they can cause many symptoms including behavioral problems. Also what happens for many children is that during the process of attempting to break down these proteins, opiate-like substances are formed which can cross into the bloodstream and reach the brain. As a result, children may enter a drug-like state and can experience symptoms such as poor communication, lack of eye contact, drowsiness and exacerbated spatial issues.
Poor Digestion of Sugars and Fats
Many children with Autism have also been found unable to break down sugars, which can feed unwanted gut bacteria. When the digestive tract is overgrown with unwanted bacteria this can increase intestinal inflammation and can lead to a leaky gut, which allows undigested food to pass into the bloodstream and can aggravate many of their symptoms.
In addition to the Gluten Defense, I also began my child on Reuteri powdered probiotic to give him additional support for this bacteria overgrowth. Both of these products have no odor or taste, making it seamless and effortless to hide in his food. Other supplements I have tried have been instantly detected and rejected due to texture, odor, color, or taste, despite my best sneaky efforts. So far, so good!
Poor absorption of fats is also common, and it’s important for health that fats are broken down properly so that essential fatty acids can be used in the body. These essential fats are vital for digestive and immune health, as well as cognitive function.
To top off this super trio of support, I also added Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend, an Omega Fatty Acid DHA supplement. I add this to applesauce, smoothies, and sometimes even in his morning cereal.
It’s important to remember that digestive enzymes are not a substitute for a gluten/casein elimination diet, but should be seen as one tool in a complete strategy. There are no reported side effects of these natural products; however, as with any treatment, you may first observe worsening behavior, as unwanted gut bacteria may be dying off. Any time toxins are released from the body a small “healing crisis” may be experienced temporarily. It’s important to stick to your supplement plan, unless your child is experiencing an extreme negative symptom. You know your child best.
We just started our supplements, so I will report back our progress each week. I’d love to hear others’ experience with digestive enzymes, probiotics, and omega fatty acid supplements as well! Please comment below, or leave me some feedback on Facebook or Twitter!