By Sandra Wood

The term Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) covers a range of disorders including, but not limited to: Sensory Processing Disorder; Autism (Aspergers) and High Functioning Autism. To date there is no recognised single cause of ASD, however genetics and environmental factors have been implicated.

“Surveys published in the gastroenterology literature have stated that gastrointestinal problems, such as chronic constipation or diarrhea, occur in 46% to 85% of children with ASDs.”

Journal of Pediatrics – Scott M. Myers, MD

With such a high percentage of ASD children experiencing gastrointestinal problems including feeding, reflux, bloating, vomiting, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation and belching, relief can be gained by naturopathically addressing these issues. Studies suggest that providing relief to gastrointestinal discomfort can then impact upon: aggressive behaviour; hyperactivity; sleeping and feeding problems.

Reviewing the innate connection between our gut, brain and immune system in the gut-brain-immune axis, (link to previous article) we are beginning to understand the interrelated effects that these disturbances can produce in the body and how addressing these can have a positive influence on some behaviours and other body systems, including skin and immune issues.

Through focusing on gut health to reduce inflammation, promote a healthy gut environment, and repair and maintain gut wall integrity, we begin to heal and re-balance a disturbed gastrointestinal tract, reducing symptoms and nourishing the body through increased absorption of nutrients.

I have experienced first-hand the difficulties of ASD with my ASD daughter, who has since birth had reflux; constipation; aversion to textures, aversion to colours in food, bloating; constant ‘sore belly’, flatulence, eczema; insomnia and earaches. The positive benefit of addressing gut health, to her health, wellbeing and behaviour has been a welcome relief in her every-day life.

While these changes have taken many years, and relapses occur, the severity has been significantly reduced. Utilising techniques learnt through other therapies, we have slowly introduced food, supplements and herbs. The introduction of these therapies can provide relief of symptoms and the healing of the gastrointestinal tract. Most importantly it is important to teach that good nutrition benefits both mental and physical health.

While no singular therapy can provide a simple miracle in the complex picture of an ASD child / person, utilising allied health professionals in a holistic health care plan can address symptoms and behaviours to bring relief and nourish the body and mind for increased wellbeing.