Food and Mood: The “Seesaw” of Aggressive Behavior

Many  foods in the standard American diet that children and adults consume daily are very harmful and difficult to tolerate.  For many children, this results in aggressive behavior. Substances found in certain foods, particularly in the protein of wheat called gluten, and the protein in dairy products called casein, can trigger aggressive behaviors. Allergies, which are bodily reactions where the immune system perceives something in the body to be a foreign protein, play a major role in behavior. Common signs and symptoms of a food allergy are nasal congestion, scratchy throat, brain fog, and dark circles under the eyes referred to as “allergy shiners.” Allergies also play a huge role in chronic inflammation. If you induce an excessive inflammatory response by ingesting certain allergenic foods, the body sends signals to the brain that cause lack of focus, concentration, loss of short-term memory, difficulty with speech, and problems with fine motor skills, such as writing.  Furthermore, children can become irritable, hyperactive, and inconsolable.

In addition to food allergy avoidance, children with aggressive behavior must also eliminate excitotoxins which are food ingredients and substances that cause overstimulation of the nerves and nerve damage. To protect itself from excitotoxic damage, the brain releases substances that elevate opiod levels, causing symptoms like aggressive behavior because the brain’s chemistry has been altered. These brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, must remain in balance to calm the brain and balance the mood. Two types of neurotransmitters exist in the human body: excitatory neurotransmitters, such as glutamate which is found in the common food flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG), and the inhibitory neurotransmitters, such as GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) that decreases anxiety, controls aggressive behavior, and improves social interaction. When one or both of these neurotransmitters are out of balance, this imbalance can contribute to symptoms such as mental instability, mood swings, and aggressive behaviors like temper tantrums and self-injurious behaviors.

The delicate act of the balancing of these two neurotransmitters can be thought of as a seesaw, so for example if the dietary intake of MSG is excessively high, and the level of GABA is deficient, the nerves repetitively fire, creating neurological inflammation and damage. Low GABA levels can increase aggressive behaviors, decrease social behavior, contribute to decreased eye contact, difficulties focusing and sluggish bowels. This is why controlling the dietary intake of glutamate and supplementing directly with GABA, as well as other natural minerals like magnesium and zinc, helps to promote consistent and controlled behaviors in children.

Think of it as your brain being over stimulated or maximally stressed-out, creating you brain to  become on fire. This damage produces the aggressive behavior that we see in children, and the common symptoms we observe in children with autism spectrum disorder. Once you are aware of these possible reactions, you can try to identify potentially troublesome foods by observing if there is an immediate negative reaction.  However, for some children, this reaction can be delayed up to several days, making the need to test their neurotransmitter levels essential.

For all of these reasons, it is vital to test a child’s biochemistry, avoid allergenic foods and use high-quality nutritional supplements free of harmful synthetic additives. Common problematic ingredients in both foods and supplements are glutamate, glutamic acid, aspartate/aspartic acid, and cysteine. In particular, both glutamate and aspartate occur naturally in many foods, such as protein-rich foods, milk products, and common wheat containing foods like breads and crackers. It is important to always read labels and try to significantly reduce the intake of these foods. In addition to food avoidance and elimination strategies to balance glutamate and GABA levels, you can also select from a variety of nutritional supplements to promote a healthy balance. It’s common sense that if a child takes nutritional supplements, but continues to consume food allergens, sugary foods, and harmful synthetic food additives, their behavior may still be undesirable.

Transitioning to proper nutrition and getting glutamate under control are foundational to your child’s behavioral and aggression issues. The B vitamins play an integral role in the functioning of the nervous system and help the brain synthesize neurotransmitters that affect the mood and thinking. Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to good health as it is needed for more than three hundred biochemical reactions in the body. It has been shown to be helpful in calming anxiety and balancing the brain’s pleasure centers. Magnesium is also important in energy production and assists with calcium and potassium uptake in the body. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to nervousness and irritability. Supplementing with magnesium can help with mood and muscle weakness. In combination with vitamin B6, it has been shown to reduce the aggressiveness seen in children on the autism spectrum. Vitamin B6 is important in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and GABA. It helps maintain a healthy immune system and calms anxiety.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are an essential part of the structure of the nervous system which is 60-70% fat. The two types of EFAs important in controlling behavior are omega-3 and omega-6. The pattern in children is usually a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, with excessive levels of arachidonic acid and trans fatty acids. Omega-3 is essential for childhood development and symptoms of deficiency are eczema, aggression, hyperactivity, and growth impairment. One of the most popular supplemental sources of omega-3s is taken in liquid or capsule forms of cod liver oil, which is naturally rich in vitamins A and D. Vitamin D is extremely important in mood regulation as it binds onto dopamine receptors in the brain and allows this reward-seeking and mood controlling neurotransmitter to function optimally.

In summary, from a biomedical perspective on behavior and aggression, the delicate balancing of the brain’s chemicals largely depends on dietary triggers such as excitotoxins, vitamin and mineral balancing, and food allergies and sensitivities. Perhaps upon initial view of this topic, it many seem overwhelming, so it’s helpful and reassuring to know that many tests are available to identify which problem your child is suffering from, and identify the pathways to stabilizing mood and behavior through proper diet and nutritional supplementation.

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It’s All in Your Genes, The Genetic Component of Autism

Have you ever heard the statement, “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”? When it comes to the seemingly complicated puzzle of autism, many parents stop and ask, “How did this happen to my child?” Did you ever stop to think that the answer could be in your genes? Your genes are the blueprint of your body’s metabolic factory, and how these genes are expressed greatly influences your health. Have you ever imagined that you could influence or change your genetic predisposition to disease or conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?  Did you know that your genes are controlled or “turned on” and “turned off” by a cycle in your cells known as methylation?  Think of this process as the editing software of your computer which corrects your improper spelling on a document. While it’s true that you can’t pick your parents, by knowing more about your genetics, you can be proactive in controlling the expression of disease and achieving overall health.

So we must ask, “Is there a genetic component of autism?” By close self-examination, the examination of your parents, grandparents and other family members, you may discover traits such as anxiety, depression and OCD. If you inherit the genetic defects in the methylation cycle, you may have mood swings, irritability or aggression. Other common observations in those on the spectrum are behavior and cognitive function abnormalities. You may also discover a family history filled with cancer, heart disease and common mental health problems. The answer lies within the methylation cycle, which happens over a billion times per second in the cells of the human body. A methyl group (CH3) is merely the pairing of a carbon molecule and three hydrogen molecules.  Like water (H2O), its importance cannot be understated. This cycle is dependent on proper genetic regulation, and if defective, your body is greatly impaired in its ability to detoxify heavy metals, fight off infections, and maintain a healthy immune system. Controlling one’s genetic expression is critical to managing disease and optimizing health.

The functioning of this cycle depends on the genetic structure being properly sequenced and in good working order. Understanding the genetic mutations in the methylation pathway and implementing specific nutrients can dramatically change your child’s life. For those of you who are interested in the field of biomedical autism treatments, you are undoubtedly concerned with trying to diagnose, analyze and improve your child’s health through diet, supplementation and medicine. You spend copious amounts of time, energy and money researching various diets, supplements, and the “latest and greatest” biomedical treatments  available.

Would you like to eliminate the guesswork from choosing nutritional supplements, avoid a cookie-cutter, one-size- fits- all nutritional approach, and utilize the cutting- edge field called epigentics?   Epigenetics is the science of using customized nutritional supplements and highly specific diets to get around or “bypass” genetic mutations. Nutrigenomics is the newly- emerging science that describes the use of human genetic testing and the results of nutritional and biochemical tests to thoroughly understand what type of diet and supplements are best for the health of your body. It has great application in both the treatment and the prevention of disease. So what is the connection between genetics and nutrigenomics as it relates to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as ADD, ADHD and Asperger’s?

Perhaps you have heard of a genetic mutation called MTHFr (methyltetrahydrofolate reductase) that influences the risk of having heart and cardiovascular disease. What you probably didn’t know that this gene is also highly correlated to children on the autism spectrum. After more than 10 years of practicing  in the treatment of biomedical autism, I have found that approximately 90% of the children on the spectrum have this mutation. The great benefit of knowing your genetics is that it empowers you by giving you the ability to “bypass” this genetic roadblock just as you would take an alternate route when driving in traffic to bypass an accident.  The solution would be to, for instance, select the appropriate form of folic acid based on your genetic profile. This would allow your body to carry out its proper functions, such as making new and healthy cells. For example, those of you with children with digestive problems like “leaky gut syndrome,” could begin to make new and healthy intestinal cells. In other words, it’s like putting cement between the cracks in the mortar and mending the broken wall.

Upon closer examination of the specific biochemistry of the methlylation cycle, it contributes to maintaining healthy levels of glutathione for detoxification, production of serotonin for mood stabilization, melatonin for sleep, dopamine for speech, and epinephrine (adrenaline) for focus and concentration. Proper methylation helps to regulate all of these pathways, including the balancing of these brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. They function in your brain and body in ways that define your personality and your physical abilities. Low serotonin has been implicated in depression, anxiety, OCD, digestive dysfunction, and perseverative behavior. Dopamine is essential for attention, focus, executive function, and goal motivated behavior. Higher norepinephrine relative to epinephrine has been correlated to ADD/ADHD. Understanding one’s genetics allows one to use specific nutrients, vitamins and minerals, as well as make select dietary choices that help regulate these neurotransmitters.

The take home point is that the science of epigenetics empowers one to take control of their health and implement dietary choices that are customized to their genetics. In my personal practice, Dr. Noah’s ARC, I routinely test a patient’s genetics by using salivary and blood tests. This enables me to implement a customized treatment plan using diet and nutritional supplements which essentially treat the child from the inside- out. It is a natural treatment which does not involve the use of prescription drugs. My personal view of autism is that it is a multi-factorial condition involving a compromised immune system, infectious organisms, brain chemical imbalances, as well as heavy metal toxicity with an underlying genetic predisposition, all of which contribute to a neurological inflammatory condition. This condition is also provoked by  excessive levels of glutamate, a stimulatory brain chemical that is found in abundance in the typical American diet. This trigger for behavior is also regulated by genetic control, and when out of balance, causes nerve destruction known as exocitotoxin damage.

My personal passion as a biomedical autism practitioner is to identify the unique biological factors affecting each child.  Making the connection between genetic mutations and autism spectrum disorder has completely revolutionized the methods I now utilize when implementing  the customized nutritional programs.  In summary, knowing your child’s genetic profile is absolutely critical, and, with valuable information,  will enable you to accurately implement the proper forms of vitamins,  and give you the knowledge to make ideal dietary choices to maximize your child’s potential.

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Epigenetics, Nutrigenomics & Autism.

DNA Blog Oct 2014   – Genetics and our Health:  Have you heard recently how the study of genetics is playing such a significant role in the future of medicine and wellness?  Knowing your genetics is the key to understanding and taking control of the future of your health and your child’s health.    Nutrigenomics is the term used to describe the new and exciting study of blending genetic predisposition and health with the growing field of nutrition. We are proud to announce at Dr. Noah’s Autism Recovery Center (ARC) that we offer personalized nutritional plans that implement this cutting-edge style of medicine. We also offer RNA-based supplements and custom drugless nutritional prescriptions.  We recognize that every child is completely unique with their very own individual genetic background.  Each child with autism spectrum disorder has a very unique history and requires a highly specialized diet and nutritional plan. When it comes to your child’s health, a one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter approach will not be effective.  That’s why we offer a fully-customized plan that is exclusively designed for your child.  One of the most notable benefits of nutrigenomics is that it is 100% specific – it eliminates the need for guesswork. Each supplement and diet plan is custom designed based on each patient’s particular genetic and nutritional test results. This equates to less time wasted on implementing diets that don’t work for your child and less money spent on supplements that weren’t appropriate for your child or compatible with their genetics in the first place.  Instead of throwing a dart at the dart board with our eyes closed and hoping for a good outcome,  we’re walking up to the proverbial dart board and placing the dart, with precision, on the bulls eye.

The individualized protocols that Dr. Erickson offers are based on scientific data which he acquires from various tests that we have available at the office for the testing of brain chemicals, food allergies, vitamin deficiencies and mineral imbalances.  Because excellent nutrition serves as the basis that allows your body to function properly, at Dr. Noah’s ARC, we focus on nutritional and genetic testing. It is imperative. These two forms of testing allow is to provide your child with a highly individualized dietary plan. Many children with autism spectrum disorder have tried a gluten or dairy free diet, often known as the GF/CF diet, with little or no success. Others have used omega-3 fish oils, methyl B12 injections and diets such as GAPS and experienced undesirable effects. The average diet and supplement plans for children with autism spectrum disorder are based on very general recommendations and dietary guidelines.  To detect crucial biochemical imbalances, we must utilize genetic and nutrigenomic testing, implement personalized nutrition plans, and use compounded supplements and RNA mutation-specific formulas to bypass the inborn genetic errors.

Our assessment of your child includes a genetic analysis which investigates the inherited predisposition to autism spectrum disorder.  Epigenetics is the science of detecting errors in the human genetic coding that affects the expression of illness and disease.  At Dr. Noah’s ARC, we believe that ASD is multi-factorial and is strongly influenced by genetic predisposition.  We are able to turn “on” and “off” genes by utilizing nutritional supplements that positively affect the functioning of your child’s organs and brain.  I believe that nutrigenomics and epigenetics are the most accurate sciences available today that can be implemented with a biomedical autism plan.  Genetics is the way of the future.  And, thankfully, our genes can tell us something very profound about our children on the spectrum.

If you would like more information about what we offer at Dr. Noah’s ARC, you may visit our website or call our office.  We’re always happy to help…

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