Autism and gastrointestinal symptoms

Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2002 Jun;4(3):251-8. doi: 10.1007/s11894-002-0071-6.


Autism is a collection of behavioral symptoms characterized by dysfunction in social interaction and communication in affected children. It is typically associated with restrictive, repetitive, and stereotypic behavior and manifests within the first 3 years of life. The cause of this disorder is not known. Over the past decade, a significant upswing in research has occurred to examine the biologic basis of autism. Recent clinical studies have revealed a high prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms, inflammation, and dysfunction in children with autism. Mild to moderate degrees of inflammation were found in both the upper and lower intestinal tract. In addition, decreased sulfation capacity of the liver, pathologic intestinal permeability, increased secretory response to intravenous secretin injection, and decreased digestive enzyme activities were reported in many children with autism. Treatment of digestive problems appears to have positive effects on autistic behavior. These new observations represent only a piece of the unsolved autism "puzzle" and should stimulate more research into the brain-gut connection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / metabolism
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Autistic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy
  • Child
  • Gastritis / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Function Tests


  • Acetaminophen