researchA 2015 study published online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that children with autism tend to have more gastrointestinal problems early in life compared to other children.

Researchers compared incidents of diarrhea, constipation and food allergy/intolerance during the first three years of life among three groups of Norwegian children. One group included 195 children with autism, another included more than 4,600 children with developmental delays, and the third group included more than 40,000 children who developed typically.

The findings showed that children with autism were more likely to have constipation and diarrhea when they were ages 6 months to 18 months, and more likely to have diarrhea, constipation and food allergy/intolerance when they were ages 18 months to 36 months, the researchers said.

Children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have one or more GI symptoms in both age ranges, and more than twice as likely to have at least one GI symptom in both age ranges, compared to those with a developmental delay or with typical development, the researchers said.

“Even though GI symptoms are common in early childhood, physicians should be mindful that children with ASD may be experiencing more GI difficulties in the first three years of life than

[typically developing] children,” wrote a team led by researcher Michaeline Bresnahan of Columbia University in New York City.

“Furthermore, the GI symptoms may be more persistent in children with ASD,” the researchers wrote.

However, “under-recognition and under-treatment” of these gastrointestinal issues is possible, they add, and treatment “may significantly contribute to the well-being of children with ASD and may be useful in reducing difficult behaviors.”