Autism and gastro-intestinal issues

Something that a lot of people don’t talk about or skirt around the issues is gastro-intestinal (GI) problems in people with Autism. No one really likes talking about this kind of stuff but it is something to be aware of. I never knew that the digestive issues I have suffered my whole life are linked to being autistic, I just thought I was unlucky and doctors were always stumped. I’ll try and not be too direct with my wording and use more polite terms but we all know the type of thing this blog is about so, if you’re really squeamish or don’t want to read about this type of thing you may want to just leave it here.
I decided to write this as I am currently sitting on the freezing cold floor of my bathroom in pain. I’m wearing a onesie and a fleecy pj jacket to keep warm and I have a fleece blanket round my mid-section to try and ease the pain. I’m mainly sitting on the bathroom floor as it provides a strange sort of comfort and safety, should anything happen I’m close by to where I need to be. There are a few things that seem to cause GI issues for me. I’m lactose-intolerant so accidental ingestion is a big one, germs entering my body because I bite my nails, not drinking enough fluids and doing too much in one day and exhausting myself are the main ones. Today I think it’s a mixture of over doing it yesterday and not having enough fluids the past couple of days. The pain started not long after I had a large dinner (I really need to cut down my portions as I’m eating nearly the same amount as my 6 foot+ partner) and I’m now into the second hour. I tried getting into bed and the pain increased when I tried to lie down. So I find myself, once again, camping out in the bathroom until it eases enough that I think I could sit up in bed without making things worse.

I suppose I should talk about the more sciences stuff and why this has anything to do with my autism. While there has been many studies on the link between Autism and GI problems there seems to be no definitive answer but, in the science community, it appears to be accepted that there is a link there they just haven’t done enough research to find the definitive answers on why and how. The studies that have been done have had different research criteria, such as what they’re classing as a GI issue, and that is why there appears to be quite differing answers. In all the studies done, with all the subjects being children, the conclusion has always been that there is a significantly higher percentage of subjects with GI issues (anything from constipation, bloating or diarrhoea to Crohn’s disease and other serious GI conditions) within the ASD diagnosed groups than the neurotypical ‘control’ groups. Some have cited that there is a difference or lack of certain bacteria’s in the guts of those with ASD than those without as being the cause, others haven’t cited a reason why as they couldn’t find the answer based on the tests they conducted. Maybe this is one of the reasons why people with ASD have such an issue with food and can be so picky? We find a food we like that doesn’t cause us issues so we stick to it. Personally, I’ve always preferred bland food but my list of food issues include allergies to yoghurt and peaches  and being lactose-intolerant. Foods I am unable to eat or have to limit the amount I have because they cause me issues, mainly GI ones, are spices, most sauces, cooked veg, fatty foods, frozen food, pork and tomato. I am such a hoot when eating out!

While the answers on why there is a link between Autism and GI issues aren’t  quite there yet at least we know there is a link and we can be pro active about it and use this information when seeking help. As much as most people don’t want to talk about this kind of stuff (apart from me because I’m not bothered about talking about it, especially if it’s to a professional who’s going to help me) if you have any issues of this type then it is worth a trip to the doctors, especially if they end up being able to do something about it or provide some relief from the symptoms. There’s no point suffering in silence.

Its now 10:20pm (this is a scheduled post, it’s also Sunday as I write) and I feel better for sharing some of this with you so I’m going to see if I can sit up in bed for a bit and, eventually, I may be able to lie down and get some sleep.


Author: AdultsWithAustism

I decided I wanted to do something positive with my life and speak out about what it feels like to be an adult with autism.

4 thoughts on “Autism and gastro-intestinal issues”

  1. I’m a psych student with a sibling who is on the Autism spectrum. I love your blog because it helps me understand her a little better. She also had gastrointestinal issues growing up and we put her on at least 5 diets (no gluten, no dairy, etc.) to try to figure out what was wrong. How did you finally figure out what you can and cannot eat?


    1. A lot of trial and error. I always knew lactose was a problem because it made me ill as a baby but it went from just causing me to be bloated to crippling pain quite a few years ago and I felt a lot better as soon as I cut it out.
      There are gut conditions that people with autism appear to be more likely to suffer from so any ongoing problems should be investigated by a dr as well even if it’s just to rule them out, always better to err on the side of caution.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That makes sense. Do you have sensory sensitivities related to food? For example, she hates the smell of many foods, even food that doesn’t smell strong, like raw cauliflower. How would you recommend I help her with that?


      2. It’s a lot easier for me because I’m older and rent my own place so I don’t have anything in the house that causes those kinds of issues. So beyond distancing her from them I don’t really know what to suggest.


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