Autism, Mercury and Glutathione
One of the most difficult challenges a parent could face is seeing the symptoms and finding out their child has been diagnosed with a developmental condition. Many recent reviews have estimated an occurance of 1.2 per 1,000 for autism and nearly 6 per 1,000 for ASD (autism spectrum disorder), however because of inadequate data, these statistics may in fact underestimate ASD’s true prevalence.
Are you are a concerned parent trying to sift through the hype and panic to work out what the most promising strategies would be to help manage the condition? What I’m going to present here for you is some research published in the peer-viewed scientific journals. Whether the cause is genetic or environmental, through suspects including vaccinations and mercury fillings, there is a common observation across research in the published science. And that is people diagnosed with autisim, or the two other autism spectrum disorders, have low levels of cysteine and glutathione.
Cysteine is a sulfur containing amino acid, which has special and important properties because of it sulfhydryl group. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant which is made up of three amino acids and the most important of the three, which is also the one in the shortest supply, is cysteine. You might not have heard of glutathione, but if you search for it in the main database online for published peer-reviwed health science, www.pubmed.gov, you will get 100,000+ search results, compared to about 45,000 for Vitamin C and 35,000 for Vitamin E. So why is it so unknown? Simply because untill very recently there wasn’t an effective way to raise glutathione levels inside your cells.
First is an article published in the Neuroendocrinology Letters, in October 2005, which is titled Mercury and autism: Accelerating Evidence? (source) The article states:
The process of cysteine and glutathione synthesis, which are crucial for natural mercury detoxification, are reduced in autistic children, possibly due to genetic polymorphisms. Therefore, autistics have 20% lower plasma levels of cysteine and 54% lower levels of glutathione, which, among others, adversely affect their ability to detoxify and excrete metals like mercury.
Next in the Journal Of Neurological Sciences, published in December 2008, is an article titled Biomarkers of environmental toxicity and susceptibility in autism. (source)
Significantly decreased plasma levels of reduced glutathione (GSH), cysteine, and sulfate were observed among study participants relative to controls. The transsulfuration abnormalities observed among study participants indicate that mercury intoxication was associated with increased oxidative stress and decreased detoxification capacity.
Another article, this one in a 2007 publication of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, titled ‘A Case Series of Children with Apparent Mercury Toxic Encephalopathies Manifesting with Clinical Symptoms of Regressive Autistic Disorders‘ (source) had to say:
Eight of nine patients (one patient was found to have an ASD due to Rett’s syndrome) had … (d) had biochemical evidence of decreased function in their glutathione pathways.
In the BioMedCentral Neurology journal the 2011 article titled Novel metabolic biomarkers related to sulfur-dependent detoxification pathways in autistic patients of Saudi Arabia stated in the results:
Reduced glutathione, total glutathione, GSH/GSSG and activity levels of GST were significantly lower … in autistics compared to control subjects.
Published in Alternative Medicine Review is the article Biomarker-guided interventions of clinically relevant conditions associated with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (source) says in the abstract:
Newer evidence, however, reveals that ASDs are associated with: oxidative stress; decreased methylation capacity; limited production of glutathione; mitochondrial dysfunction; intestinal dysbiosis; increased toxic metal burden; immune dysregulation, characterized by a unique inflammatory bowel disease and immune activation of neuroglial cells; and ongoing brain hypoperfusion. Many of these same problems are common features in children with ADHD.
Gastrointestinal disturbances are commonly reported in children with autism
Bowel symptoms are frequently reported in children with ASD and a potential role for gastrointestinal disturbances in ASD has been suggested.
Studies have related autism to chronic inflammation in the intestinal lining and to food allergies
So what does all this science suggest simply? Two common themes I see in the published science is first inflammatory gastrointestinal/bowel issues. Second is low levels of cysteine and glutathione, which is crucial for detoxification of heavy metals, other toxins and neutralizing free radicals to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
How can you best naturally support the your body in these two areas? As a general rule with any gastrointestinal/bowel issue problems a good start is a pro-biotic to replensish the good bacteria to help restore balance in the GI tract. The best pro-biotic I’ve found on the market is Fast-Tract which is a gluten-free certified organic pro-biotic liquid with full spectrum of high concentration Lactobacillus (friendly) bacteria. It’s a big bottle (750mL) so it lasts a while as each dose is only 25mL.
Raising cysteine and glutathione levels is a bit more tricky as direct glutathione supplements don’t really work, and intravenous glutathione is expensive, and can’t get inside the cell. Fortunately thanks to two very brilliant medical researchers, Dr Keller who was voted in to 2000 Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Centry, and Dr Nagasawa, a world renowned medicinal chemist who also developed the new fast acting cyanide antidote, they both cracked the code to glutathione supplementation and made their products available through the company Max International, and is backed by an extremely experienced medical advisory board who volunteer their time for this position because of the phenomenal results they’ve seen with patients across a wide variety of health issues.