Children with autism are commonly affected by gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the use of probiotics in this population, as it hypothetically may help to improve bowel habits and the behavioral and social functioning of these individuals. The gut microbiome plays an important role in the pathophysiology of organic as well as functional gastrointestinal disorders. Microbial modification with the use of antibiotics, probiotics, and fecal transplantation have been effective in the treatment of conditions such as recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, pouchitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. The present review presents a number of reported clinical, immunological and microbiome-related changes seen in children with autism compared to normally developed children. It also discusses gut inflammation, permeability concerns, and absorption abnormalities that may contribute to these problems. Most importantly, it discusses evidence, from human and animal studies, of a potential role of probiotics in the treatment of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism.
Keywords: Autism; Functional bowel disease; Gastrointestinal; Inflammation; Microbiome; Probiotics.