“Dr. Bill” Sears, M.D. comments on study that finds soluble guar fiber may improve chronic digestive issues and irritability.
For the 1 in 59 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder1, chronic digestive issues and irritability can be an ongoing problem2 because their good gut bacteria (probiotics) are out of balance. “We don’t know what causes autism, but research indicates that a simple diet change may help manage some of the digestive issues,” comments America’s pediatrician William Sears, M.D.
A recent pilot study3 showed that a modest daily dose of soluble guar fiber helped autistic children go more often. The study also showed that supplementation with this fiber decreased the children’s irritability. “That’s a simple way to help these children live happier more comfortable lives,” says Sears. “I firmly believe that your poop is a window into your health. That’s true for everyone, not just children on the spectrum.”
In the study, researchers supplemented the diets of 13 children diagnosed with ASD with 6 grams of guar fiber each day. This same clinically proven fiber, known as Sunfiber, the prebiotic fiber found in Regular Girl. By the end of the first week, every child in the study experienced some constipation relief. They went from defecating once or twice a week to being able to go two to four times a week.
“Soluble fiber helps with constipation because it absorbs water into the stool, helping it move through the body,” explains Sears. “Soluble fiber is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Scientists are learning more every day about the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome.”
Using a standardized scale, the researchers in this study also found that the children’s irritability also improved significantly. Sears explains why this happens. “Our brain and our gut have a strong connection. I write a lot about this in my book, Dr. Poo, The Scoop on Comfortable Poop. I explain that your gut acts as your body’s second brain. Your vagus nerve is the superhighway that send signals between these brains. Your gut also produces most of the “feel-good” chemicals your body needs to support a good, stable mood. If your gut-brain is struggling, your head-brain may be struggling, too.”
Sears suggests choosing foods with your gut microbiome in mind. “Good sources of soluble fiber are apples, pears, oats, barley and beans. Unfortunately, with the modern diet it can be a challenge to get our daily requirement of soluble fiber, especially for children. You may need to supplement to get the necessary amount.”
For additional comments from Sears about autism and soluble guar fiber, visit AskDrSears.
William Sears, M.D., has been advising parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. A father of 8 children, he and his wife Martha have written more than 45 books and hundreds articles on parenting, childcare, nutrition, and healthy aging. He is the co-founder of the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute for training health coaches, and he runs the health and parenting website AskDrSears.com. Dr. Sears and his contribution to family health were featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.