The Autism Parenting Magazine article went straight to the point: “Most children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also have chronic digestive issues – such as leaky gut and constipation – because their gut bacteria (microbiome) are out of balance. As parents know, these gut disorders often lead to a child’s irritability.”

Thankfully, the article’s author, Shawn Talbot, Ph.D, offered a solution to parents: “The good news is that scientists are now finding that simply increasing soluble fiber intake may improve both constipation and irritability in children diagnosed with ASD.”

Talbott explained that autism is a gut/brain dysfunction disease. “When the gut has an imbalance of the wrong kinds of bacteria, it sends improper signals to the brain.” This can affect more than digestion. It  may show up as irritability and behavior issues. “The good bacteria in your gut create most of the serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters responsible for your mood,” Talbott elaborated. Serotonin and dopamine, often referred to as the happy hormones, play a role in your overall well being. 

He referenced a pilot study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemical Nutrition which looked at consumption of partially hydrolyzed guar fiber — sold as the fiber supplement Sunfiber — and its effect on children with ASD. 

“The children – one girl and 12 boys – ranged from four to nine years old. By the end of the first week, all the children experienced some constipation relief. They went from defecating once or twice a week to being able to go two to four times a week. Their irritability – measured on a standardized scale – also improved significantly.

“These researchers found that this modest dose of guar fiber reduced what’s called serum inflammatory cytokines, which are one way the gut signals the brain to influence mood and behavior.”

Talbott suggested not only adding more fiber to a child’s diet, but increasing the entire family’s consumption. Most people get far less than they need. The average 6 to 11 year-old consumes just 11 grams of dietary fiber per day. That is just half the recommended daily amount. These tips can help even the pickiest eaters boost their intake.

Children’s daily recommended fiber requirement

1 to 3 years 19 grams
4 to 8 years 25 grams 
9 to 13 years 26 to 31 grams
14 to 19 years 26 to 39 grams

 

Talbott said adults should aim for at least 28 grams per day, and probably more for optimal health.