Bowel Health Problems – and Special Needs Kids

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Now this is going to get a little messy, talking about bowel health problems, but this is just one more thing that our special needs children and adolescents need.  To have good colon health could mean less distractions, even less pain so they can focus on what is necessary.  In fact one physician, Dr. Nancy O’Hara has seen stimming behaviors improve or resolve once gut health has been restored.  That fascinates me and saddens me that a child’s gastrointestinal discomfort or pain is one of the contributing factors behind stimming.

What have you found?  Does your child eat well?  I know mine doesn’t and it’s a constant worry for me. She’s a gassy little girl which is an indication that her gut isn’t functioning correctly.  But the biggest indicator of a bowel problem is that our child has either diarrhea or may be constantly constipated.  So, yes, this is going to get a little messy.

Healthy Bowels Means a Well-Functioning Immune System


The Gastro-intestinal System – filled with nerves, ensures we gain access to the nutrition provided by the foods we eat.  Not so pretty but oh so important!

But, the fact of the matter is that the health of one’s gut, that gastrointestinal system that handles what our ‘special’ person eats, affects their immune system, too.

Did you know that?

Regularity affects your immune system and the ability your body has to fight off infection!

Yup, if we want to ratchet up our children’s ability to return to health or we just want them to have the best possible chances for keeping the measure of health they may have, the key is to not just feed them good food, a variety of food, but we absolutely need to establish a healthy digestive system. This is the name of the game.

There is an understanding among medical professionals that the disabled child, like a cerebral palsy child, who struggles with the proper swallow reflex is all too often at risk for choking and that turns into fear of eating and can cycle into malnutrition.  Those of you reading this who have the awesome responsibility of caring for their CP loved one knows exactly what I’m talking about.  But now there is very strong evidence that kids struggling with neurodevelopmental challenges are prone to bowel health problems, too.  In fact, up to 49% of children on the autism spectrum have been determined to have this health challenge.

This article in the Science Daily highlights some of the concerns and the need for more substantive study regarding this problem.

And here is an article from Autism Speaks that is summarizing a study that was done through the support of their organization.

Sharing good food, is caring for each other

Sharing good food, is caring for each other

Open air market on my island home of 30 years ago.

Open air market on my island home of 30 years ago.

Good Food = Good Health

Good Food = Good Health

What’s a poor mom and dad to do anyway?

Many, many children who struggle with proprioceptive and sensory perception concerns have issues with eating.  It’s like their mouth isn’t ready for food even when it’s a food that they like. Getting them to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits is difficult enough and becomes a dramatically compounded problem when their mouth isn’t functioning correctly, their tongue doesn’t do what it should be doing to hold and move around food in the mouth for chewing, and they respond with a gag reflex when you offer them food.  REALLY!  What’s a good parent supposed to do?

Well, here is where we can take some of that information from the understanding we have about nutrition and micro-nutrients and plug in the all-important actions for establishing a healthy gut.

One thing that I have known and have tried to consistently practice over the years is to keep everyone‘s gut healthy in my family.  I strive to serve only organic foods, have greatly reduced the consumption of meats, and as my budget allows I include two important supplements; enzymes and probiotics.

Bacteria Living in Your Belly – YIPES

I want you to get cozy with the idea that as an adult you can have three to four pounds of bacteria in your gut.  Okay, I know that does sound pretty gross.  I mean come on, bugs living in my insides, in our children’s insides.  YIPES!  But the fact of the matter is that these are bacteria that keep our gut in good balance.

You ever experience the nasty case of diarrhea that happens after you take a course of antibiotics for some infection you are trying to heal?  That uncomfortable end result was due to an imbalance in the good bacteria of the gut and the bad bacteria that can get there.

Here’s another interesting fact: Probiotics can be eaten as a capsule and the colonies of these good bacteria go to work at eliminating the bad bacteria. One of the ways it does this is by the natural by-product of their production activity. These little buggers, especially acidophilus produce hydrogen peroxide.  Yes, that’s right, hydrogen peroxide and it does wonders in keeping down intruders and bowel health problems at bay.

Acidophilus is one of many, many probiotics.  I want you to consider doing this for your family, especially the little ones that are struggling with imbalanced digestive tracts.  I did when the youngest of my five children was suffering from a persistent series of ear infections.  It was horrible, to the point that he needed to get tubes in his ears as a baby.  But even into his adolescence he was still struggling with ear infections.  I started him on a course of acidophilus for 4 weeks.  He had one more ear infection after starting that course of probiotics and then these troublesome infections just ceased to be a bother ever again. Both he and I were amazed and ever so grateful.

Knowledge is Power – We Parents KNOW When Our Kids Aren’t ‘Going’

I highly recommend reading this article I found in the Autism Speaks website.  It gives you great information and some other references that are worth looking at too. a little effort you can find allot of reliable information.

What do you look for?  What DO you do?

Here are a few things you want to keep in mind:
• Be sure that it is a product that has been kept refrigerated. You want the bacteria colonies to be viable, not exhausted from sitting on a shelf waiting for you to finally buy it.
• The colony size should be in the billions
• Start slowly, gradually adding the probiotic into their food
• Consider introducing the probiotic first with a probiotic yogurt
• Talk to your doc about what you are planning to do but please keep in mind that if the doctor is a traditional M.D. they may not be familiar enough with the benefits.

I recommend seeing a wholistic physician.  There are more and more of them out there, like Joel Fuhrman and Mark Hyman and the above mentioned physician, Dr. Nancy O’Hara. Here is one reliable source for locating a functional/holistic health practitioner: 

Be sure to read the entire ‘Agreement’ for this locator which explains what else you should be doing when looking for a doctor or health practitioner, like a nutritional consultant.  This recommendation would be true of any choice we make to engage a professional.  We should do our homework, check to see if there are any complaints against them with your state’s Medical Examiner’s Board, that sort of thing.  If you feel a little lost about that, contact me here and I will check into it for your locality.

“It is, therefore, very important for patients to realize that selecting a practitioner from this database does not substitute for a thorough investigation of your chosen clinician’s professional degree and training, clinical experience, scope of practice, participation (or not) in the reimbursement system, malpractice coverage, and other similar criteria. – See more at:”  

This entire site is chock full of great information but I especially appreciate this above resource for finding a local doctor who follows the principles of what Dr, Hyman calls “functional medicine”.

And here is a YouTube presentation of Dr. Nancy O’Hara where she makes very clear that if your child has any gastrointestinal symptoms  they could and have been shown to be at the root of many autistic and ADHD behaviors.   It is certainly worth watching.  I have included it in my video library as well.

You can find a wholistic physician in your community.   The good news?  There is growing trend of M.D.s who embrace wholistic/functional medicine and its very good to see.  By all means consult a physician if you are concerned.  One thing I know from my years of studying nutrition is that the body may respond with what is called a ‘healing crisis’ when we introduce a more cleaner way of eating.  There may be some diarrhea or a headache.  When symptoms surface that is more likely related to the body’s efforts to ‘cleanse’ than it is a negative reaction.  But be certain by consulting a physician.  Either way, going slowly is a good practice when introducing new food items into our diet.  It’s just good practice.

Another Thing to Definitely Keep in Mind

One thing I know from my years of studying nutrition is that the body may respond with what is called a ‘healing crisis’ when we introduce a dietary change, a more cleaner way of eating.  When the symptoms surface that is more likely related to the body’s efforts to ‘cleanse’ than it is a negative reaction.  Cleansing is a good response in our bodies, one that may be uncomfortable and is important to see the benefits of the change we are making.  But ertain by consulting a physician.  Either way, going slowly is a good practice when introducing new food items into our diet.  It’s just good practice.

This below quote is taken from an article in the “NOW” supplement website and makes a few good points.  I am not a fan of the freshness packets it refers to in this quote, but it does make the point about refrigeration (which is the best way to preserve the bacteria, in my opinion).

“Probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU). CFUs are generally measured in the millions or billions per serving. Probiotics  are beneficial bacteria, but can also be friendly fungal or other organisms, that are typically freeze dried to stabilize them in an inert state during storage and production. Then their continued stability and viability, as measured by CFU counts when cultured, is dependent on limiting their exposure to stimulating environmental conditions such as warmth and moisture. Besides refrigeration, this protection can be done by packaging in glass, as well as by adding freshness packets that help to absorb and reduce moisture in the package.”

What’s The Bottom Line?

You can increase your child’s health by gradually introducing a probiotic into their meals.  Acidophilus was the most gentle for my son and daughter to start out on.  Don’t despair if there is an adjustment time frame to this new addition to their diet. Keep at it and you will find that their bowel health will improve, their overall health will improve, they are going to have a happier gut AND be a happier child.   What more could we ask?

If you have already explored this subject and benefited from it or have an experience that will help others, why not share it here in the comment section.

Drop Us a Comment and Share What Your Experience Has Been with improving bowel health for your children.

Drop Us a Comment and Share What Your Experience Has Been with improving bowel health for your children.


NOTE:  Updated February 17, 2016.  Includes additional information about wholistic/functional medicine and a physician locator.  Also, a related YouTube a presentation by Dr. Nancy O’Hara has been added.

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