Can probiotics benefit children with autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour.
Many parents of children with autism complain about gastrointestinal symptoms and research suggests that nearly 40% of autistic children have gastrointestinal symptoms. Children with autism are often referred to gastroenterologists.
The impact of the intestinal microbiota on the human body has only recently started to be understood.
Increasing evidence shows that the gut microbiota can play a crucial role in the bidirectional communication system between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. There is a relationship, often referred to as the “gut-brain axis”, which is known to have an effect on anxiety, depression, stress, autism, learning and memory.
A wide range of gastrointestinal problems have been reported including feeding abnormalities, gastroesophageal reflux, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, faecal incontinence, constipation and alternating diarrhoea and constipation in one out of three autistic children. These gastrointestinal symptoms are prevalent in children with autism and are often linked to their abnormal behaviour, anxiety, irritability and social withdrawal.
There have been a number of immune system and microbiome changes reported in children with autism compared to normally developed children. The connection between autism and changes in the microbiota has been confirmed by numerous animal and human studies. And probiotics are known to alter the microbial composition in the gut of autistic children.
Parents, doctors and scientists have explored probiotics, prebiotics (food for probiotics) and special diets to modify the gut microbiome. Research has also corroborated the possible role of probiotics in the treatment of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with autism by aiding leaky gut healing and adjusting neuronal functions.
Probiotics are a concoction of living microbial strains that are ingested which colonizes the gut and has a beneficial effect on the individual’s health. The internationally accepted definition of probiotic is “live micro-organisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”.
Treatment with probiotic supplements helps to balance the flora in the gut. This is very important because in the case where the “bad” bacteria are more than the good bacteria you create an environment of dysbiosis. This means an unhealthy change in the normal bacteria ecology of the gastrointestinal tract.
Probiotic supplementation is one of the most popular approaches due to the ease of use, availability and reliability in re-establishing good gut health.
The strategy behind the treatment with probiotics is to flood the intestine with friendly and beneficial bacteria.
In a study  4 probiotic strains showed an improvement in children with IBS, 3 of which are in our probiotic BIOremFERMENT. Lactobacillus rhamnosus (L.rhamnosus), one of the strains in our probiotic BIOremFERMENT, has been shown to positively influence anxiety and depression. It has also been found that by administering a probiotic (L.reuteri – another one of the probiotic strains in our BIOremFERMENT) may improve anti-social behaviour and reverse abnormal neurotransmissions.
In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled trial lactobacillus plantarum  (L.plantarum another strain found in our BIOremFERMENT) showed the following results. After 4 weeks the children treated with L.plantarum showed nominal improvement in several elements including body and object use, anxiety, rule breaking behaviour, hyperactivity and impulsivity, defiance, and in their social responsiveness scale’s total score. This trial also proved the fact that the younger children (aged 7 – 12 years) showed better results.
In a survey  of more than 500 doctors who treated autistic children, 19% reported that they used probiotics. And the majority of autism websites also support the use of probiotics.
Information researched via PUBMED