Autism and the Benefit of Soluble Fiber for Digestive Issues
More children than ever before are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)1, a condition known for social, emotional and behavioral challenges. Many of these children also suffer from chronic digestive issues such as constipation and leaky gut.2 We don’t know what causes autism, but research indicates that a simple diet change may help manage some of the digestive issues. A daily dose of soluble guar fiber has been shown to reduce both constipation and irritability in children with ASD. That’s a simple way to help these children live happier more comfortable lives.
I firmly believe that your poop is a window into your health. That’s true for everyone, not just children on the spectrum.
In the pilot study, researchers supplemented the diets of 13 children diagnosed with ASD with 6 grams of guar fiber each day. This same clinically proven fiber, known as Sunfiber, the prebiotic fiber found in Regular Girl. By the end of the first week, every child in the study experienced some constipation relief. They went from defecating once or twice a week to being able to go two to four times a week.
Soluble fiber helps with constipation because it absorbs water into the stool, helping it move through the body. It’s different from insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to the stool. Both are important. Soluble fiber is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Scientists are learning more every day about the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome.
Using a standardized scale, the researchers in this study also found that the children’s irritability also improved significantly. Our brain and our gut have a strong connection. I write a lot about this in my book, Dr. Poo: The Scoop on Comfortable Poop. I explain that your gut acts as your body’s second brain. Your vagus nerve is the superhighway that sends signals between these brains. Your gut also produces most of the “feel-good” chemicals your body needs to maintain a good, stable mood. If your gut-brain is struggling, your head-brain may be struggling, too.
I suggest choosing foods with your gut microbiome in mind! Good sources of soluble fiber are apples, pears, oats, barley, and beans. Unfortunately, with the modern diet, it can be a challenge to get our daily requirement of soluble fiber, especially for children. You may need to supplement to get the necessary amount.
I recommend adults consume 30 to 40 grams of fiber daily. Children should have their age, plus 10. So, a five-year-old should have 15 grams of fiber daily. Studies show most people eat less than half this amount. More is good, too. I tend to eat 50 to 60 grams of fiber daily, around four times the national average of people in our constipated country.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data and Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, developmental delays or typical development
- Dietary supplementation with partially hydrolyzed guar gum helps improve constipation and gut dysbiosis symptoms and behavioral irritability in children with autism spectrum disorder
Dr. Bill Sears
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.