Could Treating the Pancreas Help Preschoolers With Autism?

New Research Shows Treating the Pancreas of Children with Autism Could Alleviate Problematic Behaviors Despite Initial Contradiction

Can treating the pancreas improve symptoms of autism in preschoolers?

Could Treating the Pancreas Help Preschoolers With Autism?

It may seem counterintuitive, but recent research suggests that treating the pancreas could potentially help ease problematic behaviors in children with autism. This groundbreaking study highlights the connection between dietary protein intake and crucial brain neurotransmitter chemicals. Let’s dive into the details and explore this fascinating topic!

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston discovered a crucial connection between dietary protein intake and brain neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. When these neurotransmitters are not functioning optimally, they can significantly impact a child’s behavior. Children on the autism spectrum often display a strong preference for carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pasta and bread, while rejecting protein-rich options. Unfortunately, the amino acids necessary for neurotransmitter production can only be obtained from protein.

To address this issue, the researchers theorized that supplementing with pancreatic enzyme replacement, which boosts amino acid production by the pancreas, could help improve brain function and alleviate problem behaviors associated with neurotransmitter deficiencies.

The Impact of Pancreatic Enzyme Replacement

Under the leadership of Deborah Pearson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, the study involved 190 children, aged 3 to 6, living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

During the initial three-month phase, 92 of the children received a special pancreatic enzyme replacement supplement sprinkled on their food three times a day, while the other 98 received a placebo supplement. Neither the researchers nor the children’s parents knew who received the active supplement or the placebo.

Remarkably, parents whose children received the pancreatic enzyme replacement reported significant decreases in symptoms of irritability, hyperactivity/noncompliance, and inappropriate speech. Unfortunately, these improvements were not observed in children who received the placebo.

In the subsequent six-month phase, all children received the active pancreatic enzyme replacement daily. During this period, parents reported substantial reductions in irritability, hyperactivity, inappropriate speech, lethargy, and social withdrawal.

The results of this study suggest that pancreatic enzymatic replacement, which enhances the supply of essential amino acids for neurotransmitter synthesis, can improve behavioral function in preschoolers with ASD, while minimizing side effects.

Addressing Co-occurring Behaviors

Children with autism often experience a range of co-occurring maladaptive behaviors, such as irritability. This study aimed to explore whether these behaviors can be effectively addressed with an intervention that carries a low risk of side effects. The encouraging findings provide hope for families and healthcare professionals dealing with the challenges associated with autism.

Q&A: Answering Your Burning Questions

Q: How does the pancreatic enzyme replacement supplement work?

A: The supplement enhances the production of essential amino acids by the pancreas. These amino acids are vital for the synthesis of neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in brain function and behavior.

Q: Will this treatment work for all children on the autism spectrum?

A: While this study demonstrated significant improvements in behavioral function among preschoolers with ASD, it is important to remember that every child is unique. Each child may respond differently to various treatments and interventions. Consulting with healthcare professionals specializing in autism is recommended for tailored guidance.

Q: Are there any negative side effects associated with pancreatic enzyme replacement?

A: The study reported minimal side effects associated with the use of pancreatic enzyme replacement. However, it is crucial to consult with a physician or healthcare provider before introducing any new supplements or interventions, especially for children with pre-existing medical conditions.

Seeking Further Knowledge

The research on treating the pancreas as a strategy to alleviate problem behaviors in children with autism brings valuable insights into the field of dietary health and its impact on mental well-being. To dive deeper into the subject, explore the references below:

  1. Autism Speaks: This comprehensive organization provides a wealth of resources and information about autism.

Now it’s your turn! Share this article with friends and family who may find it beneficial. Join the conversation and spread awareness about the potential role of dietary interventions in supporting individuals with autism. Remember, knowledge combined with action creates positive change!

References: 1. UTHealth Houston, news release, Dec. 18, 2023 2. What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?: Learn more about autism spectrum disorder and gain insights into its signs, symptoms, and available treatment options.

How to Spot Autism Signs in Children: Unraveling the Mystery of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Signs in Children: What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Have you ever wondered what autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is and how it affects children? Understanding the signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of ASD is crucial for early intervention and support. Let’s explore this topic further and unravel the mystery of autism.

ASD is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and affects a child’s social interaction, communication, and behavior. While the exact causes of autism remain unknown, both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to its development.

Early recognition of autism signs is key to implementing effective interventions that can significantly improve a child’s quality of life. Some common signs and symptoms of ASD include:

  • Difficulty with social interactions and communication skills
  • Repetitive behaviors or restricted interests
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Delayed speech and language development
  • Challenges with nonverbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact or understanding gestures
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or transitions

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it presents in a wide range of ways and severity levels. Each individual with autism is unique, and their experiences may differ significantly from one another. Some individuals with ASD may demonstrate exceptional abilities or talents, often referred to as “autistic savants.”

Early intervention and support are critical for children with autism. If you suspect that your child or a loved one might be showing signs of ASD, it is essential to seek a comprehensive evaluation from healthcare professionals and specialists in autism.

Remember, a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder doesn’t define a person, but it can provide valuable insights and support that can make a world of difference.


  1. Could Treating the Pancreas Help Preschoolers With Autism?
  2. Autism Speaks
  3. Autism Signs in Children: What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Join the conversation and share your thoughts on autism and its impact on individuals and families. Together, we can promote understanding, acceptance, and support for everyone affected by autism spectrum disorder.