Did you know that approximately 90% of your neurotransmitters (mood stabilizers like serotonin) are made in your gut? Therefore, a healthy gut leads to healthy production of the neurotransmitters that in turn leads to healthy communication within the brain. This is why leading scientists and many doctors are now addressing diet when dealing with children who have been labeled as autistic. (See the previous blog for a detailed explanation of autism.)
Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter (on-switch) in the brain. It is essential to the formation of new neurological pathways in the brain. It is also crucial for learning, attention, focus, and memory. When deficient, it can hinder learning and create poor short-term memory. It is also the precursor of GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter (off-switch) in the brain. An imbalance of these two neurotransmitters is caused by different types of toxins (including types of food) and/or lack of enough co-factors (good vitamins and minerals). This imbalance results in many different neurological problems.
Let’s take a closer look at these neurological problems. Sufficient glutamate is necessary to form new pathways in the brain. Hmmm, so that would mean it’s pretty important? Yes! Especially in children, for whom everything is new. Since glutamate is the precursor to GABA, deficiency in it most likely means deficiency in GABA, as well. Low GABA levels can lead to easy sensory overload, speech impairment, and make seizures more likely. Since glutamate is the brain turn-on switch, and GABA is the turn-off switch, too much or too little of one results in too much excitation or too little excitation, which can inhibit learning, focusing, and trying new things.
Basically, it boils down to biochemistry. Is the pathway that converts glutamate to GABA balanced? And what can you do about it? The enzyme that converts glutamate to GABA requires the active form of Vitamin B6 (P5P- Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate), which is not found in food, because it requires a chemical process that takes place in the body or in the laboratory to become active. It comes as no surprise that kids with the autistic label fail to convert glutamate to GABA, and have lab reports that show low Vitamin B6. Direct supplementation of activated B6 has been shown to help in many cases. BUT THERE IS MORE THAT YOU CAN AND SHOULD DO!
Simple supplementation may be part of the solution, but understanding and addressing the whole body is much more important! If the gut isn’t functioning properly, it may not be able to absorb (utilize) the vitamin you’re putting in it.
Simple Steps to Heal Your Gut:
- Clean out all the nasty stuff. This includes parasites, bad bacteria and viruses, mucus build up, heavy metals, chemicals, and much more. Ask your natural holistic doctor (ND, DC, or MD) to recommend supplements to help with this process. Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals, especially meats and green vegetables. Stay away from sugar (sometimes this even includes fruit!) and processed, genetically modified foods.
- Promote healing of the intestinal walls. Green veggies, green veggies! Chlorophyll can be taken in supplement form, but is also found in leafy greens and is fantastic at healing the gut.
- Repopulate it with good bacteria. Ask your holistic doctor about a good probiotic for you.
Foods to Eliminate That Directly Affect the Glutamate to GABA Cascade:
- Casein: found in milk and milk products such as ice cream, cheese, and yogurt.
- Gluten: found in wheat products such as bread, pasta, and cookies.
- Aspartame: an artificial sweetener found in soda pop, chewing gum, some fruit juices, and much more—be careful with this one!
- Hydrolyzed yeast protein: an additive mixed with many types of fast food and processed foods to enrich the taste.
Foods That Contain Vitamins Necessary in this Cascade:
- Zinc: beets, carrots, green peas, lamb, lean beef, liver, poultry, pumpkin seeds, seafood (crab, oysters, shrimp), spinach
- Taurine: beef, organ meats, poultry, seafood, and other kinds of animal protein
- Manganese: beets, broccoli, cloves, liver, raspberries*, spinach, sweet potatoes, walnuts*, pecans*, garbanzo beans*
- Magnesium: artichokes, black beans*, broccoli, cashews*, pumpkin seeds, organ meats, seafood (halibut, salmon, shrimp), spinach, Swiss chard
- Vitamin B3: fish, lamb, mushrooms, organ meats, poultry
- Vitamin B6: (note this is not necessarily the same thing as active B6, so supplementation may still be needed): fish, beef, organ meats, poultry, bananas*, mushrooms
*In our clinical experience, we have found that people who limit their intake of fruit, beans, and nuts respond more quickly to care, and heal at faster rates.
As always, email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good eating! Good thinking!