If your child has autism, he or she may be suffering from chronic constipation. While you may think the answer is a laxative, that may be a dangerous solution. And it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
So what does?
What Causes Constipation In Children On The Autism Spectrum?
Constipation as a sign that the body is not working properly. Like so many symptoms that are experienced by kids on the autism spectrum, the trick is finding the cause and then healing it, an approach that has worked well for my children.
Wouldn’t you rather fix what’s broken in your child’s system? TACA Now has an excellent “poop page” on their site “poop page”. It explains why kids on the spectrum may have loose stools that should be easy to release but still suffer from constipation. This is called “soft stool constipation.”
That’s not all.
Dr. Alessio Fassano, founder of the Center for Celiac Research and one of the leading experts on Celiac disease and leaky gut, goes further. In a July 2014 study done at Seattle Children’s Hospital, it showed a subgroup of individuals with autism and constipation and/or GI symptoms as a result of a gene mutation. Check out Dr. Fasano’s presentation about autism, the gut and the brain here:
Constipation & Other Gut Issues
In addition, there is a high correlation with food allergies and sensitivities in children on the spectrum. You should seriously consider gut issues at work if you haven’t already. Kids who are not high functioning or are nonverbal have trouble communicating their discomfort. They may not even be aware of it if they’ve had the problem their entire lives.
Common Causes of Constipation
Some other issues that might cause chronic constipation in kids with autism as a result of gastrointestinal problems include:
- dairy allergy, gluten sensitivity, and other similar autoimmune issues
- reaction to certain medications that are regularly taken
- birth from C-section
- GMO food
- environmental toxins
Read more about digestive issues in autism at TreatAutism.ca.
“What Other Solution Do I Have?”
This may be a problem that your child has suffered with for a long time and possibly in conjunction with autism. In my opinion, you should be very careful with medications of any sort. This is especially true if you are taking one designed for temporary relief for an extended period of time.
I don’t write this article to judge anyone. My own daughter was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. It took many years to understand the medical and biochemical consequences of autism on her body.
Constipation is unhealthy and painful. I understand that need to give your child relief right now. However, as parents, we need to take the long view. Detoxing is painful for a child but the rewards of good health are well worth it.
And maybe a temporary fix is necessary, but there are other options besides risking the dangers of MiraLAX. First, I’m going to recommend you check with your doctor.
If your doctor is strictly adhering to a lifetime of MiraLAX and feels that no other health issues are in play for your autistic child, you may want to look into another doctor who understands the brain-gut connection particularly in kids with autism.
Alternate Solutions for Constipation In Kids With Autism
Meanwhile, here is a list of alternatives to MiraLAX:
1. Homeopathy for Detoxifying
Now, I’m not talking about using homeopathy as a temporary remedy or short-term fix, but as an active program, you engage for a longer period of time for curing basic issues. For us, homeopathy has been key to so many issues – and this certainly was a problem! This is a whole body treatment. I saw loose stools as a roadblock to potty training and, in fact, after this issue went away, we started our potty training journey.
We had healed many of her issues with homeopathy. When she is constipated now, we know she is truly sick. If you are already using this sort of treatment, I recommend you mention loose stools to your practitioner.
2. Epsom Salt & Magnesium Salts
Epsom salt is a detoxifying agent that’s readily available, affordable and easy to add to bath water, making it a fuss-free solution. My husband uses Epsom salt to destress and finds it very useful.
As part of a detox plan, Epsom salt and magnesium can both be very effective for kids on the autism spectrum who have constipation. However, remember that Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate – a supplement – and is absorbed through the skin. Keep in mind this is a detox protocol and you might see symptoms.
But be careful!
If you or your child has challenges with magnesium, you may want to avoid this or check in with your healthcare provider. Additionally, you can buy medicine-grade Epsom salt, which can be too strong for your system. (I know someone who used this and believes it had a negative effect on his bowels as too strong a laxative.) Here is my affiliate link to my favorite brands:
3. Senna Tea
Senna is an herb that acts as a laxative and is FDA approved for such use. WebMD states that it is “likely safe for most adults and children over the age of 2 when taken by mouth.”
You should be careful if pregnant or if you have certain GI issues, electrolyte disturbances or potassium deficiency, are on certain medications, and like anything else, overuse can cause problems. (Read the detailed list of side effects and interactions.)
Seems like a temporary measure, not unlike MiraLAX. Try Traditional Medicinals Organic Smooth Move Herbal Tea 2-pack 32 Count 1.13 OZ, one of my favorite brands, senna tea that is certified USDA Organic.
4. Fix The Gut
Very likely, your child is suffering from gut imbalance issues. In the past, I would just recommend probiotic or the GAPS diet. GAPS, however, can cause or worsen constipation for kids with autism since there is no fiber in the diet at the intro.
You can also try a different diet or other food solutions as well as probiotics. Here are a few more tips on constipation and GAPS from “GAPSDiet.com.” My favorite GAPS cookbook can be found at my affiliate link, “The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet”
Learn everything you need to know about GAPS in ‘Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia.’
5. More Solutions for Constipation and Autism
I recommend you check out TACA Now’s poop page. It has a list of 28 suggestions for constipation and autism. It’s interesting to note that MiraLAX is suggestion #26 and comes with a warning, unlike Milk of Magnesia and Ducolax suggestions.
(Ducolax, however, is a stimulant laxative and can cause dizziness, diarrhea, and nausea.) They even recommend specialists to visit if your child is having a long-term issue. Finally, “Natural Alternatives to MiraLAX” provides even more choices for your family.
You can also do an elimination diet to see what is affecting your child, but a test is spot on. However, insurance coverage may be difficult. According to Great Plains, the OAT test is more likely to get coverage with the insurances they accept, but you can combo it with the candida test to help that.
7. Detox Your Family
A clean gut can be created by removing toxins from your food and home! Everything you put in and on your body matters. Detoxing your family help with gut issues especially for kids with autism. It may help improve a whole host of issues, from skin irritations to negative behaviors.
For a really great post on how to help your toddler, check out “Naturally Easing Constipation in Toddlers” by Kitchen Stewardship, one of my favorite healthy cooking blogs! (Here is her post on constipation cures for adults.)
That’s a lot of information to take in! Kids with constipation and autism both relief and real solutions that get at the heart of their gut issue. I hope these resources help you and convince you that a life on MiraLAX is not your only option.
Has your child on the autism spectrum had chronic constipation? Has he recovered? I’d love to hear from you! What tips can you share with my readers?
Disclaimer: I’m not a trained medical provider. You should always check with your healthcare provider when you are changing care for your child or considering treatments.