Probiotics are good bacteria (yes, not all types of bacteria are harmful) that are helpful for our health. They are known for restoring the natural balance of gut bacteria, preventing and treating diarrhea, and they are even able to treat mental conditions like autism. In this article, we are going to talk about the benefits of using probiotics in autism, and how you can incorporate them into the diet of a child with autism.
Benefits of using probiotics for autism
- It is able to fight the gastrointestinal issues that kids with autism commonly experience.
- Ensures that they have good absorption of nutrients.
- Boost the immune system.
- It helps to prevent leaky gut syndrome which a syndrome that kid with autism commonly experience and includes symptoms of constipation, inflammatory bowel diseases, and an increase in picky eating.
- It is effective to reduce anxiety and other behavioral problems.
Best probiotic supplements and foods for kids with autism.
- Supplements of Lactobacillus, this is a good bacteria that normally live in our digestive, urinary and genital system.
- Supplements of Bifidobacterium, this is a group of bacteria that live in the intestine.
- Kombucha, a fermented tea that is formed with SCOBY (a fermented ingredient that contains symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast).
- Aged cheeses like cheddar or mozzarella.
- Kefir, a fermented drink that tastes like yogurt, contains a combination of yeast, milk proteins, and bacteria.
- Miso, a Japanese condiment that includes fermented soybeans with salt and koji starter. The last ingredient contains the probiotic strain of Aspergillus oryzae.
- Kimchi, a spicy dish that contains fermented vegetables.
- Tempeh, a fermented soybean product.
Studies on the effectiveness of probiotic supplements for kids with autism.
Autism is a neurological disorder that involves symptoms like behavioral problems, social anxiety and lack of communication. They often suffer digestive health conditions, according to certain studies kids with autism have a high amount of Clostridia, a pathogenic bacteria. They often have gut problems which are a risk factor for the leaky gut syndrome which includes symptoms like constipation, bloating and diarrhea.
In a study performed in 2017, 30 autistic children from 5 to 9 years old received a nutritional supplement of lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus rhamnosus, and bifidobacteria. The kids experienced an improvement in the severity of autism and gastrointestinal symptoms.
In another study performed in Singapore, including six trials of the use of probiotics in children with autism, the results showed limited evidence on the GI and behavioral symptoms.
In another study performed in 2012 with children with autism, it was reported that probiotics reduce the levels of arabitol, a type of sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols and other types of artificial sweeteners are contraindicated for kids with autism because it can exacerbate the GI conditions.
Tips on how to feed your children with probiotics.
Most of the liquid supplements of probiotics don’t have the best taste so it might be a hard job to make your child like it. In those cases mix the supplement with fruit juice, yogurt, or milk to make it more attractive to children.
The capsules supplement is also a great flavorless choice if your child is old enough to take them.
Another option is to feed children with foods that are rich in probiotics, you can even prepare your own fermented foods with your child, but keep in mind that it might get some time for the child to adjust to the flavor and be willing to eat them.
Children with autism tend to experience behavioral problems, anxiety and are more prone to developing gastrointestinal issues and the growth of pathogen bacteria. Currently, there are different ways to take probiotics, you can either choose to take supplements or add rich-probiotics foods in your diet. Probiotics have proven in different studies that they are able to improve GI issues and behavioral problems.
To start feeding your children with probiotics you need to have patience and consistency so they can adapt to the taste.
Probiotics are a helpful ingredient that you can add to the diet of a child with autism. The best to feed a child with probiotics is with supplements, either in liquid or capsule form. that way you assure the child takes the right dosage of probiotics. The capsules are flavorless and you can add a good taste to the liquid form if you mix it with juice or milk. It is hard to calculate the exact amount of probiotics that a certain food contains, and even knowing it the dosage you give the child might be not enough to provide benefits.
Ava Wadaby is a contributing writer for Autism Parenting Magazine. She researches and writes about autism as she works to understand the challenges of her son who was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD. She also regularly conducts activities with children in her neighborhood, focusing on their learning and development.