Autism and Tummy Troubles

New study finds no link between disorder and stomach problems in children.

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Special diets for development and learning disabilities have been controversial for decades—especially when it comes to dealing with autism in children. Many parents try gluten- or casein-free diets in hopes that their kids will fare better. However, new research finds that autism is not linked to stomach problems, despite a common theory that there is a tie between the two, The New York Times reports.

A new Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Pediatrics reports that the frequency of gastrointestinal issues is no more likely in autistic children than in those without the disorder. (See one expert discuss the new findings.) However, the study does note that autistic patients have higher rates of constipation and feeding issues than those without autism, but not significant enough gaps to cite a link.

Previous studies suggested that the MMR vaccine causes problems for the stomach as well as the mind in some children. However, this research has since been discredited.

Decoding autism has proven tricky. Experts seem to agree that autism is largely genetic, but evidence also points to triggers in the prenatal environment, not to mention exposure to external environmental factors. But there is hope: early detection. Researchers who specialize in early intervention can recognize clues of the syndrome in high-risk babies as young as 3-4 months.