Save 15% + FREE shipping when you Subscribe & Save. SHOP NOW

Benefits of Prebiotics for Kids with Autism

Published May 13, 2024

share this article

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects communication, behavior, and social interaction. Emerging research suggests a potential link between gut health and ASD symptoms, leading to investigations into the use of prebiotics, dietary fibers that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, as a potential intervention. In this article we will review what parents need to know about the benefits of prebiotics for kids with autism.

Gut-Brain Connection

The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in regulating brain function and behavior through the gut-brain axis. Research indicates that alterations in the gut microbiota composition are associated with ASD and may contribute to behavioral symptoms. Prebiotics, such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), can selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to improvements in gut barrier function and neurotransmitter synthesis.

Improved Gut Health

Studies have shown that kids with ASD often have imbalances in their gut microbiota, which can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Prebiotic supplementation can modulate the gut microbiota composition and improve gut barrier function in individuals with ASD, leading to reduced gastrointestinal symptoms. By promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, prebiotics help create a more favorable gut environment for overall health.

Behavioral Benefits

Emerging evidence suggests that improving gut health through prebiotic supplementation may also have positive effects on behavioral symptoms associated with ASD. Studies suggest that prebiotic supplementation led to improvements in social behavior, repetitive behaviors, and anxiety-like behaviors in a mouse model of ASD. While more research is needed in human trials, these findings provide promising insights into the potential therapeutic effects of prebiotics on behavioral symptoms in kids with autism.

Cognitive Function

Prebiotics have also been studied for their potential to enhance cognitive function and reduce cognitive deficits associated with ASD. Prebiotic supplementation can improve cognitive flexibility and reduce anxiety-like behaviors in mice with ASD-like features. These findings highlight the potential of prebiotics to support cognitive development and mental well-being in kids with autism.

Safety and Tolerance

Prebiotics are generally safe and well-tolerated, with minimal side effects reported in clinical studies. However, individual responses may vary, and some kids may experience mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating or gas initially. It's essential to start with a low dose of prebiotics and gradually increase intake to assess tolerance levels in kiddos with ASD.

Summary

Prebiotics offer promising benefits for kiddos with autism by promoting gut health, improving behavioral symptoms, and supporting cognitive function through the gut-brain axis. Incorporating prebiotic-rich foods or supplements into their diet may help alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms and enhance overall well-being in kids with ASD. However, further research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential and optimal dosing of prebiotics for children with autism.

References

  • Li, Q., et al. (2017). Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 11, 120.
  • Grimaldi, R., et al. (2019). Nutritional Neuroscience, 22(11), 750-761.
  • Sgritta, M., et al. (2019). Molecular Autism, 10, 51.
  • Hsiao, E. Y., et al. (2013). Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 35, 164-171.
  • Slavin, J. (2013). Advances in Nutrition, 4(6), 731-734.


View Citation

  • Li, Q., et al. (2017). Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 11, 120.
  • Grimaldi, R., et al. (2019). Nutritional Neuroscience, 22(11), 750-761.
  • Sgritta, M., et al. (2019). Molecular Autism, 10, 51.
  • Hsiao, E. Y., et al. (2013). Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 35, 164-171.
  • Slavin, J. (2013). Advances in Nutrition, 4(6), 731-734.
Reviews