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PAS: GI Issues Common in Children With Autism

Complementary and alternative medicine growing more popular as pediatric autism treatment

MONDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms occur in almost half of children with autism spectrum disorders, and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches are becoming more popular for children with autism, including those with GI issues, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 1 to 4 in Vancouver, Canada.

In one study conducted by the Autism Speaks' Autism Treatment Network (ATN), researchers reviewed data from 1,185 children with autism spectrum disorders enrolled in the network, and found that 45 percent of them experienced GI symptoms at the time of enrollment. The most commonly reported symptoms were diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. The prevalence of GI symptoms was higher in older children, with 39 percent of children under 5 years of age reporting GI symptoms, compared to 51 percent of children 7 years of age and older. Behavior problems and sleep problems were more common in those with GI issues, and they had overall lower health-related quality of life.

In another study also conducted by the ATN, researchers surveyed parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (parents of 1,212 children completed the questionnaire) about their children's use of CAM, GI symptoms, demographics and sleep. The researchers found that 17 percent of children were on special diets, with 19, 14, and 7 percent of children with autism, pervasive developmental disorder¬ónot otherwise specified, and Asperger's syndrome, respectively, on special diets. It was also more common for children with GI problems than those without to use CAM treatments.

"Physicians treating children with autism spectrum disorders should be aware of the CAM treatments that their patients may be receiving in order to help families monitor their child's response to treatment, as well as to assure the safety of these treatments in concert with the physician's prescribed treatments," medical director of the ATN, Daniel Coury, M.D., of The Ohio State University in Columbus, said in a statement.

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