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  • Writer's pictureDr Felecia Sumner

The Gut-Brain connection in Autism

Most conditions that are thought to affect the brain and behavior actually involve many other aspects of physiology—including the gut.

One example is autism spectrum disorders.

Take this recent study.

A graduate student at Ohio State University looked at reports from families of 176 children with autism. Almost all of the children—93%–had at least one gastrointestinal symptom.

She also found an association between gut symptoms and repetitive behaviors, like rocking back and forth or hand flapping. Whether gastrointestinal problems worsen repetitive behaviors or vice versa is not known. It’s possible that repetitive behaviors are a coping mechanism for gut pain. It’s also possible that there are physiological underpinnings to explain them both.

Many other studies have found that supporting gut health and nutrition can be an important addition to psychological and behavioral interventions for autism. Nutrients like…

● Omega-3 fatty acids

● Probiotics

● Vitamins & Minerals

Whether or not you or anybody you know has autism, this study gives us good evidence that the gut and the brain are connected. The gut-brain connection is relevant in depression, anxiety, dementia, and just about any condition that is traditionally thought to only affect the mind.

When we take a holistic approach to health, we look at how all aspects of the body affect one another. This is the best way to get to the root cause and to find solutions that will last. The best approach to medicine addresses the mind and body as one.


Restrepo B, Angkustsiri K, Taylor SL et al. Developmental-behavioral profiles in children with autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring gastrointestinal symptoms. Autism Res. 2020; 13: 1778-1789.

Review of nutrition in autism:

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