Amino Acids and Autism

by Dr Chun Wong

Research has shown that some children with autism spectrum disorders have amino acid deficiencies and have increased amino acid requirements than other children because their bodies have problems metabolizing
amino acids.

An ARI (Autism Research Institute)
study found that 42% of children taking dimethylglycine (DMG) amino acid supplements showed significant improvements, including:-

  • Improved sleep
  • Better eye contact
  • Increased shows of affection
  • Improved social interaction
  • Better verbal communication
  • Reduction in seizures

But what are amino acids?

Amino Acids
Amino acids are essential nutrients which have been nicknamed "the building blocks of life" because they are the building blocks of protein, play a big part in metabolism in the body, control cellular processes and cause
reactions in the body's cells.

The body needs 22 different amino acids in order to manufacture about 50,000 proteins to keep the body functioning properly. The body can manufacture 14 of these amino acids but there are 8 "essential amino acids" that the body cannot produce and these need to be provided by our diets on a daily basis, as they cannot be stored.

Children are growing and developing all the time, and also use more energy, so they require more amino acids than the average adult. Autistic children need even more amino acids because of their problems metabolizing them, so it is vital that their diet meets their requirements. Here are the amino acids that are essential to autistic children:-

  • Glutamine - An amino acid that is needed for fuel for the brain, for a healthy immune system and for a healthy gut. Many autistic children have gut problems, so this is a great amino acid for them.
  • Glycine - Glycine is essential  because it provides dimethylglycine (DMG) - DMG which the body uses as a building block for DNA, hormones and neurotransmitters. It is also needed for healthy immune and nervous systems.
  • Taurine - Taurine is an "anti-epileptic" and an anti-oxidant which is required for fat absorption and for the production of bile, which is used in digestion.
  • Arginine - This amino acid is required for wound healing, nitric acid metabolism, hormone release, cell division and for a healthy immune system. Nitric acid metabolism problems can cause reflux and vomiting.

How to Increase Your Child's Intake of Amino Acids
A child's amino acid levels can be tested using a blood test and if they are too low you can increase amino acid intake in the following ways:-

  • Through diet - Protein rich foods, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs, fish, meat and poultry, nuts, soy beans, cheese and peanut butter, will help to provide essential amino acids. Give your child at least two servings of 40z of protein rich foods per day.
  • Supplements - Consider giving your child amino acid supplements.
  • Digestive enzymes - These do not give your child amino acids, but they help the child's body to digest proteins. Give enzymes at the start of a meal.

Ask your therapist or DAN! physician about amino acid testing.