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How do you know if your child with autism has a redox problem?

Theresa Lyons 08/29/2017
This week's Ask Dr. Lyons answers the question "How do you know if your child with autism has a redox problem?" Redox problems are a known comorbidity with autism and if you're healing autism you want to heal all your child's comorbidities as well.

Comorbidities

Comorbidity is defined as the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. There is evidence of an association between various pathophysiological abnormalities and autism but the exact relationship has not been defined yet. Treatments for some of the comorbidities are well known therefore there is no reason for your child to suffer with certain comorbidities. This post deals with redox comorbidity.

What is redox?

A little chemistry…very reactive molecules possess an unpaired electron. Reactive species will readily attract an electron from another molecule causing it to become unstable in turn. The most common reactive species are molecules with oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Cellular reactive species can either be good or bad mainly depending on the exposure level. A low level of reactive species is necessary to stimulate normal cellular metabolism and function. However, high levels can cause cellular damage to cellular membranes, lipids, proteins and DNA.

Importantly, our cells have redundancy…a set of protective enzyme systems designed to control the amount of reactive species. When high levels of reactive species overwhelm these systems, a state of oxidative stress is induced.

Low Level Reactive Species

Subtle changes in redox status are essential for:
  • Cell signaling
  • Cell differentiation
  • Enzyme activity regulation
  • Transcription factor binding and gene expression
  • Immune system activation
  • Regulation of mitochondrial function
  • Neurodevelopment
    • stimulate pathways responsible for increasing synaptic strength as well as synaptic vesicle recycling

Indications of Need

Clinically measured low levels of:
  • Glutathione or oxidized (inactive) glutathione
  • Vitamin C or Vitamin E
  • Abnormal amino acids levels
  • Magnesium
  • Inflammation
  • Exposure to toxins, especially mercury

Glutathione and Autism

Glutathione metabolism is important for maintaining redox homeostasis and control of the levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in the cell, and is important for detoxification and elimination of environmental toxins from the cell.
Oxidative damage to proteins has been documented in the brain, plasma, lymphoblastoid cell, and DNA of children with autism.

Redox Treatments

Glutathione metabolism can be improved and clinically monitored with Vitamin B12 injections, coenzyme Q10, other B vitamins, tetrahydrobiopterin, and N-Acetyl-L-cysteine.

These treatments have been reported to improve core autism symptoms with quantified improvement in oxidative stress: hyperactivity, tantruming, general functioning, language, and irritability.

There are other treatments that improve oxidative stress and autism symptoms but the actual improvement in oxidative stress hasn’t been quantified.
  • phytochemical sulforaphane, flavonoid luteolin, vitamin C

Glutathione & the Microbiota

Many of the treatments for redox should only be done once the gut has healed and the microbiota is rebalanced.

If glutathione is given before the gut is healed, this usually results in a very strong negative reaction! Please work with a skilled healthcare practitioner.

Those with autism are known to have abnormal microbiota…this is why special diets that focus on rebuilding the gut are so efficient in healing autism symptoms and/or comorbidities.


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