Are there any vitamins that can be used to treat or alleviate unwanted symptoms of Aspergers and other autistic spectrum disorders?
Behavioral nutrition and alterations to diet have been shown to improve brain function as well as decrease symptoms. While using vitamins can be a sole form of treatment or used in conjunction with prescribed medications and therapy, it is very important to discuss all nutritive considerations with your child’s doctor first.
Vitamin C— Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that has been optimistically regarded for this reason in Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) children and traditional autism. According to Regional Medical Clinic, vitamin C is usually used as a complementary treatment combined with other vitamins and carnosine. The Autism Society of America substantiates these claims while adding that vitamin C has shown marked improvements for kids in clinical trials. Research findings suggest that vitamin C improves brain function, symptoms of confusion and depression and improves the severity of behavioral problems significantly.
There are several theories regarding vitamin C’s benefits for those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs):
- One theory regarding vitamin C’s effects focuses on the benefits of its antioxidant properties. Some researchers believe that those with ASDs have more difficulty in managing free radicals. Free radicals can damage the immune system, the brain and other areas of the body. As an antioxidant, vitamin C provides some protection against the effects of free radicals.
- Children with ASDs are deficient in vitamin C. This theory was supported by a study which found lower levels of vitamin C in Aspergers and Autistic children.
- Vitamin C’s benefits are due to its effects on the brain’s response to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Vitamin C supplementation has a calming effect on people with ASDs and reduces stereotyped behavior.
Of 201 parent ratings of vitamin C provided to the Autism Research Institute, 46% reported improvements using the supplement, 51% saw no change and 2% said that their children grew worse.
B6 with Magnesium— It is believed that those with ASDs may suffer from a deficiency of vitamin B6 and magnesium. Research shows that levels of magnesium in their blood are lower than those of children without ASDs. Magnesium has also proven beneficial for some children with ADHD. Vitamin B6 and magnesium deficiencies are common among both Aspergers and traditional autistics of varying functionality. B6 and magnesium related deficiencies can cause symptoms in this population, manifested through bouts of agitation, aggressive behaviors, irritability and depression.
In a meta-analysis from the Autism Research Institute, 21 of 22 clinical studies from 1965 to 2005 showed that when vitamin B6 with and without magnesium added was given to autistics, major improvements were made. Supplementation was reported as highly beneficial in reducing problem behaviors as well as providing additional benefits to auditory-visual and auditory-tactile pervasive and developmental conditions.
Parents rate vitamin B6 and magnesium highly as a treatment for ASDs. Of 321 parent ratings provided to the Autism Research Institute, 50% saw improvements with vitamin B6 and magnesium supplementation, while 45% saw no effects and 5% said that their kids grew worse. Magnesium on its own was not as effective, with improvements noted in just 16% of cases.
Minor side effects of large doses of vitamin B6 may include nausea, diarrhea or hyperactivity. However, these effects are uncommon and more likely to occur only when the dose is too high or increased too rapidly. Nausea can also result from taking B vitamins on an empty stomach, so kids should take vitamin supplements with meals.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids— Omega-3 makes the cell membrane elastic, allowing nutrients to enter the cell and the waste to exit the cell. In addition, the long omega-3s (EPA and DHA from fatty fish) attach to cell membrane receptors, helping the cells communicate with each other. This is why the benefits of omega-3 fish oil are so diverse – it helps every cell in the body do its best work.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential nutrients that are not produced by the body. Therefore, the only options are to obtain them through a diet rich in leafy greens, oily fish, flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts or canola oil or supplement them. In Aspergers, omega-3 fatty acids play an integral role in countering the effects of a common fatty acid deficiency. Additionally, studies report that eating a diet with considerable fish intake or omega-3 fatty acids can also decrease the depressive symptoms by up to 50 percent and benefit both erratic behaviors and brain function.
Emerging research studies indicate that omega-3 may be beneficial for relieving ASD symptoms. One study conducted on children in the autistic spectrum suggested that omega-3 was helpful in stemming hyperactivity and stereotypy as compared to placebo.
Aspergers can create a lonely world, especially when friendships are difficult to form. Sometimes, the inability to connect with peers can cause the loneliness and frustration to bubble into depression. Omega-3 can help with depression. A study on the impact of omega-3 on children with depression found a significant improvement for the children who were given omega-3 fish oil versus the children who were given placebo. Omega-3 may also have a positive impact on Aspies who struggle with controlling their anger. Eleven studies to date suggest that omega-3 can help regulate and control aggressive behavior and hostility. Although more research is needed, omega-3 could be instrumental in stemming the daily meltdowns and temper tantrums.
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook