Stress may cause gastrointestinal issues in autistic kids

Experts have found a relationship between gastrointestinal symptoms and the immune markers responsible for stress response.

Washington: Stress may cause kids with autism to develop gastrointestinal issues, according to a new study that may pave the way for therapies to treat the condition.

"We know that it is common for individuals with autism to have a more intense reaction to stress and some of these patients seem to experience frequent constipation, abdominal pain or other gastrointestinal issues," said David Beversdorf, associate professor from the University of Missouri in the US. "To better understand why, we looked for a relationship between gastrointestinal symptoms and the immune markers responsible for stress response," said Beversdorf.

"We found a relationship between increased cortisol response to stress and these symptoms," he said. Cortisol is a hormone released by the body in times of
stress and one of its functions is to prevent the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation. These inflammatory substances - known as cytokines - have been associated with autism, gastrointestinal issues and stress.

Researchers studied 120 individuals with autism who were treated at MU and Vanderbilt University in the US. The individuals' parents completed a questionnaire to assess their children's gastrointestinal symptoms, resulting
in 51 patients with symptoms and 69 without gastrointestinal symptoms. To elicit a stress response, individuals took a 30-second stress test.

Cortisol samples were gathered through participants' saliva before and after the test. The researchers found that the individuals with gastrointestinal symptoms had greater cortisol in response to the stress than the participants without gastrointestinal symptoms. "When treating a patient with autism who has constipation and other lower gastrointestinal issues, physicians may give them a laxative to address these issues," said Beversdorf.

"Our findings suggest there may be a subset of patients for which there may be other contributing factors," he said. "More research is needed, but anxiety and stress reactivity may be an important factor when treating these patients," Beversdorf added. The study appears in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity.

( Source : PTI )
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