Can we reduce autism-related gastrointestinal and behavior problems by gut microbiota based dietary modulation? A review

Noğay N. H., Nahikian-Nelms M.

NUTRITIONAL NEUROSCIENCE, vol.24, pp.327-338, 2021 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 24
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/1028415x.2019.1630894
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, CAB Abstracts, CINAHL, EMBASE, Food Science & Technology Abstracts, MEDLINE, SportDiscus, Veterinary Science Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.327-338
  • Keywords: Autism, behavioral problem, diet, gastrointestinal disorder, gut microbiota, gut microbiome, gut bacteria, microbiota, SPECTRUM DISORDER, INTESTINAL MICROBIOTA, SOCIAL-BEHAVIOR, PROPIONIC-ACID, GLUTEN-FREE, BRAIN AXIS, CHILDREN, SYMPTOMS, LIPOPOLYSACCHARIDE, ADOLESCENT
  • Erciyes University Affiliated: Yes


Introduction: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that negatively affects a child's interaction and communication with the environment. The signals between intestine, brain, and microbiota change in autism. Altering the composition of microbiota may contribute to the development of clinical symptoms. Diet is one of the most important factors influencing intestinal microbiota. Aim: This study aimed to investigate the role of intestinal microbiota in gastrointestinal (GI) and behavioral problems seen in children with autism and discuss the potential effect of diet on intestinal microbiota in reducing these problems. Methods: The database Web of Science was searched for relevant studies. The combinations of the following terms were used for the search: 'autism' or 'autistic' and 'microbiome' or 'microbiota' or 'gut bacteria' or 'gut microbiota' or 'gut microbiome.' The analysis included human studies evaluating the relationship between GI problems and/or behavioral problems and intestinal microbiota in autism in the English language with no time limitation. Results: The initial search resulted in 691 studies, with 14 studies fully meeting the inclusion criteria. In these studies, high growth rates of Clostridium histolyticum, C. perfringens, and Sutterella; high ratio of Escherichia/Shigella; and low ratio of Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes were generally related to GI problems, while relative abundance of Desulfovibrio, Clostridium spp., and Bacteroides vulgatus were associated with behavior disorders. Conclusions: Published studies on the relationship of gastrointestinal and behavioral problems with gut microbiota in autism are very limited and contradictory. The fact that the results of the studies are not consistent with each other may be explained by the differences in the age of participants, geographical region, sample size, presence of GI problems in the selected control group, and feces or biopsy samples taken from different regions of GI system. With the available information, it is not yet possible to develop a gut microbiota-based nutritional intervention to treat GI symptoms for people with autism.