Autism and Digestion

The Enzyme Connection
a young boy on the spectrum, looking concerned about his porridge

Digestive challenges are well known in the autism community. Recognizing sensitivities to certain foods and resulting elimination diets are often core to many treatment protocols to support those on the spectrum.

Why is digestive health so important to these individuals? When we are uncomfortable after eating, be it occasional gas, bloating, indigestion or heartburn, it can be a miserable experience. These triggers can result in sensory overload for those on the spectrum, creating a host of behavioral impacts.

So how does digestion work? We eat food, unlock energy and nutrition, go to the bathroom, get some sleep, and move on to the next day, right? The reality is that the exact mechanisms of our digestive system are quite often a mystery and, at best, are misunderstood. The digestive process is an incredibly complex system that works in harmony to break down our food through mechanical and chemical means.

Digestion begins with the first bite of food. Teeth rip apart the food into smaller chunks, and enzymes secreted in saliva break down the food into smaller molecules. Your body is always at motion, with muscles expanding and contracting to push food through the esophagus, into your stomach where it is exposed to acid, and eventually into the intestines. We may not feel this sensation, except perhaps when we’ve overeaten, but our digestive processes are well at work inside us.

Throughout digestion, enzymes play a crucial role. Different enzymes break down different things. For example, proteases break down protein while lipases break down fat. There are specific enzymes for certain foods, like lactase, that breaks down lactose and dairy sugar.

The challenge happens when your body doesn’t make enough of certain enzymes. For example, if you don’t make enough of the enzyme lactase, the dairy sugar molecules will ferment in the colon, causing uncomfortable gas and bloating. These are known as enzyme deficiencies or, in laypeople’s terms, food intolerances.

What is a food intolerance? A food intolerance is a deficiency of specific enzymes needed to break down certain foods, leading to uncomfortable, gas, bloating, and other discomforts. Unlike a food allergy, which is an immune response to specific triggers in foods, food intolerances can be supported with enzyme supplementation.

Enzymedica is a global leader in enzyme supplements and America’s #1 selling enzyme brand. Early in our history, we received numerous testimonials from families struggling with the autism spectrum who saw results in their children’s behaviors from our digestive enzyme products.

We were so inspired by these families that we have worked tirelessly to raise over a million dollars to support this incredible cause. We also founded one of the first non-profits in the natural products industry for autism, the Autism Hope Alliance (AHA). Today, AHA has garnered support from numerous brands to raise awareness and provide resources for those on the spectrum.

In addition, Enzymedica’s product Digest Spectrum has received numerous awards from the autism community, including the Autism One “Best of Supplements” award. Digest Spectrum is a food intolerance solution like no other, as it contains enzymes for all the typical food intolerances in a single pill. When taken at the beginning of a meal, it helps take the guesswork out of identifying different intolerances, as it takes a scattershot approach in taking on a whole “spectrum” of various intolerances.

Enzymes are one tool in an extensive and ever-growing series of protocols for those on the spectrum, and of course, every individual has unique needs. However, by addressing underlying digestive challenges, a substantial burden can be alleviated in supporting sensory difficulties. To learn more about Enzymedica’s mission to help those on the spectrum, visit


Julia Craven

VP of Education, Enzymedica

Julia has invested her life studying and educating on all modalities of natural healing. You’ll usually find her on the yoga mat or the trail with her pack of rescue dogs.