Turmeric, green tea top natural remedies for autism
In recent times, several studies have indicated rise in cases of autism worldwide.
The situation has been associated a combination of genetic and environmental factors including consumption of processed foods during pregnancy; expectant women not getting enough sunshine or rather vitamin D; and ladies exposed to solvent chemicals at work.
Other reported risk factors during pregnancy include certain infections, such as rubella, toxins including valproic acid, alcohol, cocaine, pesticides and air pollution, foetal growth restriction, and autoimmune diseases.
Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
According to reports, parents usually notice signs during the first three years of their child’s life. These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace before worsening.
Controversies surround other proposed environmental causes; for example, the vaccine hypothesis, which has been disproven.
Specific signs and symptoms of autism include: reactions to smell, taste, look, feel or sound are unusual; difficulty adapting to changes in routine; unable to repeat or echo what is said to them; difficulty expressing desires using words or motions; unable to discuss their own feelings or other people’s; difficulty with acts of affection like hugging; prefer to be alone and avoid eye contact; difficulty relating to other people; and unable to point at objects or look at objects when others point to them.
Several studies have shown that early speech therapy or behavioral interventions can help children with autism gain self-care, social, and communication skills.
Although there is no known cure, there have been cases of children who recovered. According to reports, not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some are successful.
Indeed, an autistic culture has developed; with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be accepted as a difference and not treated as a disorder.
However, scientists have validated the healing benefits of many psycho-pharmaco-therapeutic plant-based drugs to ameliorate psychiatric disorders. Specific compounds from plants have been used to treat ASDs and its clinical features may contribute to improve the quality of life of many patients.
Researches have shown that herbal pharmacological treatments could improve the core symptoms of autism with fewer side effects.
Several reviews have focused on the uses and actions of phyto-pharmaceuticals in the behavioral conditions of ASDs. A large number of natural compound-based plant drugs have been tested in murine models of autism and in clinical trials with remarkable success in reversing the core and associated behaviors with autism such as flavonoids, cannabinoids, curcuminoids, piperine, resveratrol, and bacosides.
It was found that this plant-based drug alternative is safer given that many psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative pathologies do not often respond well to currently prescribed medications or have significant side effects.
However, it is noteworthy to consider the need for large clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy. Many results are based on case reports or small size samples, and often the studies are open label. Critics insist that standardization of procedures (that is, purity and concentrations) and quality controls are strictly required to ensure the absence of side effects.
The study published in GEN: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News has identified curcumin in turmeric, piperine in black pepper, flavonoids in green and cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa to have preventive properties against autism and developmental disorders. The study is titled “Plant-Based Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorders.”
Indian spice turmeric (Curcuma longa) is well known for its protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders, in which the major curcuminoid is curcumin (diferuloyl methane), a nontoxic molecule, able to cross blood–brain barrier.
Also, it is reported to have positive effects on the treatment of autism as curcumin targets several cell signaling pathways, and its effects are as follows: increasing intracellular levels of glutathione, reducing inflammatory components, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative/nitrosative stress, and protein aggregation, counteracting the damage caused by heavy metals, and supporting liver detoxification.
Signs of brain toxicity and delayed maturation of brain have been studied in induced autism animal models; curcumin can ameliorate these alterations and is able to improve abnormal brain weight and delayed maturation.
Pharmacokinetic assessments have showed that curcumin bioavailability is high and plasma levels of it increased to their highest levels (184 ng/mL) 80 min after oral administration; amorphous solid dispersion of curcumin has demonstrated enhanced bio-efficiency in 10-fold lower dose.
Daily doses of 50/100/200 mg/kg of curcumin regularly given over a period of four weeks were discovered to restore neurological, behavioral, biochemical, and molecular changes related to the ASD phenotype in murine in a dose-dependent manner. As such, curcumin can be developed as a neuro-psychopharmaco-therapeutical drug due to its characteristics and potential effects for ASD treatment.
Curcumin shows ambivalent effects of genotoxicity and anti-genotoxicity, endothelial growth, and development in tissue alterations. Concentration-dependent effects, as low as 0.1 μM of curcumin, lead to disproportionate Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material segregation, karyorrhexis, and micro-nucleation in proliferating endothelial cells.
The major alkaloid commonly used for seizure disorders present in Piper longum and black pepper Piper nigrum is piperine. It has been shown to own antioxidant, neuro-protective, anxiolytic, and cognition enhancing effects.
A study reports amelioration effects of piperine on behavioral alterations and oxidative stress markers in autism induced murine model, revealing that piperine treatment restored the motor deficits and decreased the reorientation time, due to its capability to struggle with the induced cerebellar damage by sodium valproate.
Piperine also has neuro-protective effects on glutamate at concentration of 20 mg/kg, which induced cell viability restoration. Oxidative stress alterations might be meaningfully reversed by treatment with piperine; besides, a neurobiological finding in ASD is the restoration of the integrity of the cerebellum by a decrease in number of Purkinje cells, which are connected with cerebral cortex and limbic system. Therefore, autism could be a pharmacological condition for biomedical treatment with piperine.
Some individuals with ASDs have been exposed to environmental pro-oxidant factors such as heavy metals, pharmaceutical compounds (thalidomide, valproic acid, and retinoic acid), air pollutants, chemical and toxins, and bacterial and viral infections; those might be the triggering of oxidative stress in autism. To decrease levels of oxidative stress, green tea therapy using Camellia sinensis extract has been proposed. This plant is an important dietary source of polyphenols, specifically flavonoids. The main flavonoids present in C. sinensis extract include catechins (flavan-3-ols) such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, and epicatechin; it also contains gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and flavonol derivatives such as kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin, which are other constituents of green tea.
The chemical structure of the polyphenols allows them to cross through the blood–brain barrier, and its intake has been associated with neuronal protection against toxicant agents’ impact. Green tea research shows an amelioration of behavioral aberrations by a daily intake dose of the extract; doses range from 75 to 300 mg/kg after postnatal day 14 up to day 40 in animals with valproate induced autism. Green tea effects have been well documented; due to upregulation mechanism of inhibitory neurotransmitters, it shows anxiolytic and sedative effects; this might be possible by neuromodulation of dopamine and serotonin in specific brain areas, increase in N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-independent CA1-LTP (cornu Ammo 1 Pyramidal Neuro- long-term potentiation), and decrease in NMDA-dependent CA1-LPT. Besides, green tea extract decreases tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and C-reactive protein, both active cytokines in the acute-phase inflammatory process; this strongly suggests an anti-inflammatory mechanism of action.
A green tea study using mice pups performed behavioral tests to assess nociception activity, motor coordination, exploratory activity, anxiety disorders, and cognitive skills, in which human doses are based in body surface area calculation, with doses from 6.08 mg to 24.32 mg/kg. Green tea doses might be used as dietary supplement due to its clinical recommendation as preventive. This study shows significant results in the improvement of behavioral assessments especially with 300 mg/kg of green tea extract; histological findings reveal the presence of a distinct Purkinje layer and cells after treatment with green tea, and this confirms that green tea at that dose has neuro-protective effects.
The famous phytocannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive extract constituent from Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, could trigger persistent alterations in the still-maturing brain. Moreover, the non-psychoactive phyto-cannabinoid Cannabidiol (CBD) could promise therapeutic options as immunomodulation, antioxidant defense, neuro-protection, and with no side effects. CBD has low affinity for CB1 and CB2, but at different concentrations it is able to activate a plethora of cellular processes. Some autism specialized physicians report CBD oil use to decrease ASD symptoms.
The use of cannabis-derived compounds for ASD treatment has been hypothesized some years ago and gave much attention also in general media. Indeed, the study to assess efficacy and safety of cannabinoids with a 20:1 ratio of CBD and THC in amelioration of behavioral alterations in children and youth with ASD has been approved; other trials aim to study the safety and efficacy of cannabidivarin (CBDV) (weight-based dosing of 10 mg/(kg·d) of CBDV for 12 weeks) in children with autism. CBDV, homolog to CBD, is another non-psychoactive compound found in Cannabis; it differs from this by the side-chain shortened by two methylene bridges (Clinicaltrials.gov). Before recommending the use for the amelioration of core ASD symptoms, clinical trials need to be performed to establish safety, tolerability, and beneficial effects.
Links with processed foods, lack of vitamin D and solvent chemicals
Meanwhile, for the first time, scientists have found a molecular connection between a common food preservative, neuronal disruption, and ASD. The findings suggest that there may be a link between the consumption of processed foods during pregnancy and the rise of autism.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2000, one in 150 children had ASD, but by 2012, that number had risen to one in 68. As of 2018, 1 in 59 children have ASD.
Although researchers do not yet know exactly what causes ASD, they think that a combination of genes, environmental influences, and issues with the maternal immune system in the early stages of pregnancy may contribute to its development.
Recently, some studies have pointed to the gut microbiome as a potential key player in the development of ASD.
For instance, some researchers found that the microbiota of autistic children lacked the beneficial strains of bacteria Bifidobacteria and Prevotella, while other studies found “a significant increase in the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio” and higher levels of the bacterial taxa Escherichia/Shigella and Clostridium cluster XVIII.
Also, autistic children tend to experience gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
So, researchers Prof. Saleh Naser and Latifa Abdelli — together with undergraduate research assistant Aseela Samsam, from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, United States — set out to further examine the link between gut bacteria and ASD.
Specifically, the team focused on the link between propionic acid (PPA) and autism.
“Studies have shown a higher level of PPA in stool samples from [autistic children] and the gut microbiome in autistic children is different,” explains Prof. Naser, also of the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences at UCF. “I wanted to know what the underlying cause was,” he added.
PPA is a naturally occurring short-chain saturated fatty acid with antifungal properties. Also, many manufacturers use it as a food preservative and flavoring agent for packaged and processed products.
In the new study, Naser and colleagues exposed neural stem cells to abnormally high PPA levels.
What is the link between PPA and autism? Experiments with cultured neural stem cells have revealed that very high PPA levels reduce the number of cells that go on to differentiate into neurons and increase the number of cells that go on to become glial cells.
Although glial cells can support neuronal function, an excessive buildup of glial cells (gliosis) can lead to inflammation in the brain and disrupt the connectivity between neurons.
In the new study, too much PPA also damaged the molecular pathways that normally enable neurons to send information to the rest of the body.
The researchers suggest that such disruption in the brain’s ability to communicate may explain ASD-related characteristics such as repetitive behavior and difficulties with social interaction.
They also suggest that eating processed foods likely to have high levels of PPA during pregnancy may increase PPA levels in the maternal gut, which could then transfer to the fetus.
“In the current study,” write the authors, “we are linking maternal PPA exposure to disturbed neural patterning during early stages of embryonic neural development leading to over-proliferation of glial cells, abnormal neural architecture, and increased inflammatory profile; possible precursors for autism.”
Also, a major study suggest that pregnant women who do not get enough sunshine are more likely to have children with dyslexia, autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Researchers found 21 per cent of children conceived during the winter months of February, March and April had a learning disability.
In comparison, the figure was just 16.5 per cent for youngsters conceived in June and July.
The findings come from a major investigation using United States National Aeronautic Space Agency (NASA) satellite data and records of more than 400,000 youngsters living in Scotland.
Experts believe a lack of sunlight in pregnancy, which means lower levels of vitamin D, could be to blame.
Glasgow University’s Professor Jill Pell, lead author of the study, said: “Learning disabilities can have profound lifelong effects on the affected child and their family.
“The importance of our study is that it suggests a possible way to prevent learning disabilities in some children.
“Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive are already recommended to take vitamin D supplements because it is important for the development of the baby’s brain.”
Professor Pell added: “Clinical trials are needed to confirm whether taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy could reduce the risk.”
The researchers found 20 per cent of babies conceived in January and May and 19 per cent of those conceived in December had learning difficulties.
This was higher than the Scottish average of 18.8 per cent, according to the results published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The new study adds more weight to the theory that sunlight and vitamin D play a role, as well as other factors, such as family history, in the development of intellectual disabilities. Vitamin D is considered crucial for a baby’s development; meaning low levels in early pregnancy could affect their brain.
The results show a ‘statistically significant’ relationship between lower UVB exposure over the whole of pregnancy and the risk of learning disabilities.
The academics also found a slightly stronger relationship with low UVB exposure in the first trimester, suggesting that early pregnancy may be the most vulnerable to the effects of insufficient UVB.
Also, a new study suggests women who are exposed to solvents at work are 1.5 times more likely to have a child with autism.
The recent surge in cases of autism suggests that something more than genetic inheritance is at play.
New US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research uncovered a strong link between autistic children and mothers who work industrial jobs that expose them to potent chemicals.
The study authors think that, while these children are still in the womb, they get exposed to the same toxins their mothers are, and it may alter their brain development.
In less than 20 years, the number of eight-year-olds who are on the autism spectrum has more than doubled.
Scientists are fairly certain that genetics have something to do with autism, which is more likely to affect a child who has a sibling on the spectrum.
From there, risk factors are a loose, disjointed network. Autism is more common in boys, children of older parents, and children with intellectual disabilities and most children don’t get diagnosed until after age four, but there’s no cut-off age.
After much controversy, the scientific community has ruled out the notion that vaccines are a risk factor much less a cause for autism.
Some attribute the rapid increase in cases to simple awareness. Kids are more likely to get diagnosed with autism if their parents or health providers know about the disorder.
But most experts suspect there are environmental factors at play.
Studies suggest that pollution and other toxins may cause epigenetic or even gut microbiome changes that raise autism risks.
The NIOSH team decided to look at solvents, a wide and potent class of chemicals used in many industries, running the gambit from food manufacturing to plastic, engineering to dry cleaning and printing to pharmaceuticals.
Proper protective gear is crucial when working with solvents, which can be carcinogenic, toxic to the brain, and contribute to infertility.
According to NIOSH, ‘millions of US workers’ are exposed to them.
The powerful chemicals can get into anyone’s system via skin contact; inhalation and can linger in the body a long time.
We already know that solvents have been linked to reproductive disruption, and it may be that they impact a baby developing in the womb.
So the increase seen in the last 20 years may be happening as women who were exposed to these chemicals decades prior – before tighter regulations – were having children.
The new study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at data on the chemical and environmental exposures affecting 750 US mothers and 891 US fathers.
Although they took into account asphalt, metal, pesticide, plastics, radiation, disinfectants and more, solvents had the most significant effect on mothers, whose exposures were most closely connected their children’s autism risks.
The mothers of children on the autism spectrum had been exposed to more solvents than had women with children who didn’t have autism.
And those who had been exposed to higher levels of solvents at work were 1.5 times more likely to have children with autism.
Women who faced ‘moderate intensity’ levels of exposure were nearly twice as likely to have a child on the spectrum.
The researchers merely monitored their subjects, so their findings do not explain why these women might be more likely to have children with autism.