Published December 17, 2015 in Current Biology, a new study finds and association between Autism and decreased action of GABA in the brain.
GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is calming to the brain.
It helps to down regulate brain activity and it’s absence has long been associated with seizure disorders.
After noting that a striking number of patients with autism have seizures, researchers looked into GABA activity in autistic individuals.
Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, researchers found an absence of inhibitory signaling in the brain while participating in activities that normally activate GABA pathways.
The severity of the deficit in inhibitory signaling was corollary with the severity of autism symptoms.
It is still unknown if supplementing with GABA (or L-theanine, known to boost GABA levels in the brain with a superior ability to cross the blood brain barrier) is an effective treatment for autism, but these studies will hopefully follow soon and I will be sure to keep you posted.
Meanwhile, here are 6 additional holistic ways to help support individuals with autism:
1 Eat broccoli
A small but important study showed that a component of broccoli and broccoli sprouts (sulforaphane) can help give autistic patients a significant boost to social skills and verbal communication… naturally!
Published Oct 13, 2014, researchers studied 40 males between the ages of 13 and 27… all who had moderate to severe autism. 26 received broccoli sprout extract (50 to 150 umol daily) and 14 received placebo and measured the results after 18 weeks.
The results were impressive — almost half showed measurable improvement in several different areas including social and verbal skills.
46 % of participants had measurably improved social and verbal skills after taking broccoli-sprout extract for over 4 months, compared to only 3% of the placebo group. Benefits included: improved social interactions, improved eye contact, improved verbal communication, decreased repetitive movements, decreased irritability and decreased hyperactivity
Dietary sulforaphane (found in both broccoli and broccoli sprouts) is healthy and has a recognized low toxicity profile, so it appears to be very safe to recommend a broccoli rich diet to patients with Autism. Hopefully this positive and encouraging but small study will be repeated on a larger scale, for a longer period of time, and with female autistic patients as well!
2. Broccoli sprout supplements
If you can’t routinely get broccoli into your diet but you want to increase your intake of sulforaphane, consider broccoli sprout supplements like these.
As I talk about in this radio interview on Q104.3 in Jan 2014 (when the film The Grounded hit theaters in New York) Earthing has shown promising results with autistic patients.
There are two pathways in which Earthing might help…
- first by reducing the negative effects of EMF exposure (to which autistic patients are exquisitely sensitive)
- and second, by increasing restorative sleep (sleep disturbances are well-known to exacerbate autistic symptoms).
Want to introduce Earthing to your child?
My children’s book From The Ground Up visually introduces the concept of Earthing and gives parents tons of ideas on how to earth with their child to support their health!
Sleep is a time to integrate, process, repair, release and grow.
Autistic folks need this down time to regroup as much or more than anybody else. Be sure to focus on getting deep restorative sleep — ideally for 9 + hours a night. Yet sleep disturbances are a hallmark of autism and autistic spectrum disorders.
As I mentioned in tip #1, Earthing can help with this. For more tips on getting a good nights sleep, head here.
5. Fish oil
Omega 3s are essential to support our nervous system (as well as many other organ systems in our body.) Autism is a very complex condition that is primarily considered a neurological condition that affects communication.
From treating depression to preserving brain volume to reducing symptoms of ADHD, fish oil has been shown to be incredibly helpful in stabilizing brain function. More on that here.
6. Eat organic
As I blog about here, pesticide exposure is directly linked to autism.
I will continue to scour the medical literature to bring you holistic, healthy things you can do to optimize brain function — and Well Being in general — and I will share it with you here on my blog!
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