Diets free from gluten and casein are often recommended as a way to reduce gastrointestinal (GI) problems in children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). GI symptoms are of particular interest in these patients due to the correlation and prevalence with the severity of behavioral traits. But a new study published in Microbiome shows that the prebiotic supplement Bimuno® (GOS) may be an effective alternative to reduce symptoms in autistic children.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behavior. In addition to cognitive aspects, ASD individuals can suffer from GI problems such as abdominal discomfort, pain and gas distension. The causes of these gut problems are unknown but have been suggested to involve gut microbiota, in particular a reduced number of bifidobacteria.
The study is the first of its kind to compare the impact of exclusion diets (mainly gluten and casein free) vs an un-restricted diet in autistic children. Half of the 30 participants received Bimuno® galactooligosaccharide (B-GOS®) for the duration of the 6-week feeding period, while the other half were given a placebo.
The primary outcome was that children on exclusion diets reported significantly lower scores of abdominal pain and bowel movement, as well as lower abundance of Bifidobacterium (linked to bowel health) and Veillonellaceae family. In addition, significant correlations were found between bacterial populations and fecal amino acids in this group, compared to children following an unrestricted diet.
Following B-GOS® intervention, improvements in anti-social behavior and sleep problems were observed. A combined dietary approach resulted in significant changes in gut microbiota composition and metabolism, suggesting that combining B-GOS treatment with other intervention therapies might have a positive impact on reducing GI disturbances.