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

Is Constipation a Trait of Autism?

Published May 13, 2024

share this article

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal issue that affects people of all ages, but emerging research suggests a potential association between constipation and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Understanding whether constipation is a trait of autism is crucial for identifying and addressing the unique needs of kiddos on the autism spectrum. In this article, we’ll review the scientific evidence and explore the potential connection between autism and constipation. 

1. Prevalence of Constipation in Kids with Autism

Numerous studies have reported a higher prevalence of constipation in kiddos with autism compared to neurotypical peers. Research published in theJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that constipation affects up to 85% of children with autism, highlighting the significance of this issue within the ASD community [1].

2. Potential Contributing Factors

Several factors may contribute to the increased prevalence of constipation in kiddos with autism. Sensory sensitivities, dietary restrictions, limited food preferences, medication side effects, and behavioral factors such as toileting difficulties or anxiety may all play a role in the development of constipation [2].

3. Impact on Quality of Life

Constipation can significantly impact the quality of life of kiddos with autism and their families. Chronic constipation can lead to discomfort, pain, irritability, disrupted sleep, and behavioral challenges in little ones, exacerbating existing symptoms associated with autism [3].

4. Shared Biological Mechanisms

Emerging research suggests that constipation and autism may share common biological mechanisms. Studies have found alterations in gut microbiota composition, gastrointestinal motility, and neurotransmitter signaling pathways in both conditions, indicating a potential link between gut health and neurodevelopmental disorders [4].

5. Importance of Early Intervention

Early recognition and management of constipation in kiddos with autism are essential for preventing long-term complications and improving overall well-being. Healthcare providers should screen for constipation during routine check-ups and provide appropriate interventions, including dietary modifications, behavioral strategies, and medical treatments when necessary [5].

Summary 

While constipation is not considered a diagnostic trait of autism, research indicates a higher prevalence of constipation in kiddos with autism compared to their neurotypical peers. Factors such as sensory sensitivities, dietary restrictions, and shared biological mechanisms may contribute to the association between constipation and autism. Early recognition and intervention are crucial for addressing constipation-related issues and improving the quality of life for little ones on the autism spectrum.

References

  • Mazurek, M. O., Vasa, R. A., Kalb, L. G., Kanne, S. M., Rosenberg, D., Keefer, A., & Murray, D. S. (2013). Anxiety, sensory over-responsivity, and gastrointestinal problems in children with autism spectrum disorders.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(1), 165–176.
  • Adams, J. B., Johansen, L. J., Powell, L. D., Quig, D., & Rubin, R. A. (2011). Gastrointestinal flora and gastrointestinal status in children with autism - comparisons to typical children and correlation with autism severity.BMC Gastroenterology, 11(1), 22.
  • Buie, T., Campbell, D. B., Fuchs, G. J., Furuta, G. T., Levy, J., Vandewater, J., Whitaker, A. H., Atkins, D., Bauman, M. L., Beaudet, A. L., Carr, E. G., Gershon, M. D., Hyman, S. L., Jirapinyo, P., Jyonouchi, H., Kooros, K., Kushak, R., Levitt, P., Levy, S. E., ... Winter, H. (2010). Evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders in individuals with ASDs: a consensus report.Pediatrics, 125(Supplement_1), S1–S18.
  • Kushak, R. I., Winter, H. S., Buie, T. M., & Cox, S. B. (2010). Gastrointestinal conditions in children with autism spectrum disorder: developing a research agenda.Pediatrics, 125(1), S1–S8.
  • Zwaigenbaum, L., Bauman, M. L., Fein, D., Pierce, K., Buie, T., Davis, P. A., ... & Sigman, M. (2015). Early screening of autism spectrum disorder: recommendations for practice and research.Pediatrics, 136(Supplement 1), S41-S59.
Reviews