The comments in her notebook tell the story best…
“Very motivated and ‘chatty’ at school today!!”
“No hesitation on anything, on task all day!”
“Therapist: Best day ever!”
“Teacher: Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it!!”
“Huge improvements on the ice, skating teacher can’t believe it!”
“7pm, wants more homework!”
The week we began Galantamine was one of those weeks everyone noticed a difference.
You couldn’t miss it.
Unbelievable changes, overnight.
It was dreamlike… a week you imagine might be possible when reading about the benefits of a supplement, but would never dare think could actually occur in reality.
And yet, they did.
“Chatty!?” My quiet child? Pinch me!
Known as the learning neurotransmitter, acetylcholine improves mental function including memory storage and recall, attention control, social interaction, language abilities, reasoning, logic and creative thoughts.
It regulates digestion and mood and acts in both the brain and the peripheral nervous system. Increasing it can increase plasticity, cognition, and do some very heavy lifting in a fitness regime for the brain.
Enter the bad-guy
Like a box of donuts to a workout, an enzyme in our bodies called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) breaks down acetylcholine and prevents it from supporting the brain.
Luckily there are AChE inhibitors we can take to block the enzyme and preserve acetylcholine.
Two common inhibitors are Galantamine and Huperzine A.
It’s in the alzheimer’s community that you’ll find the most research on these supplements because levels of acetylcholine decline with age and it was found that boosting the levels could slow dementia and boost cognition.
It has also been found that they can help children with neurological challenges and studies have shown them to be “a relatively effective and safe augmentative strategy for alleviating some of the autism-related symptoms.”
In addition to blocking AChE, galantamine has a second benefit, unique to it over all other inhibitors which can have decreased efficacy over time.
Galantamine can also mimic the effects of Acetylcholine by acting directly on and modulating nicotinic receptors. This interaction allows it to maintain it’s effectiveness long term.
You can find it available both as an over the counter supplement —derived from plant sources (snowdrop and daffodil) and as a prescription — a chemical synthesized to match the molecular structure of the natural source.
Caroline’s gains from galantamine have been quite possibly the greatest we’ve seen from any treatment and can best be summarized by an across the board lessening of brain fog type behaviors.
More engaged / present, clearer thinking, additional language, calmer, happier, better motor planning… the list goes on! It was truly remarkable to see how much it helped her.
We began with a prescription and started slowly with 2 mg per day. After several days of amazing gains, we changed to the supplement version. She immediately slid back to where she was before we started. After 4 days, we switched back to the prescription and the gains returned and have lasted.
We very gradually increased the dose to 8mg (divided throughout the morning and afternoon).
*The brand we use is Mylan and I carefully wash the blue coating off the pills and dissolve them into a small amount of water. (Some other brands manufacture white pills)
Her current dose is 6mg/ day. I have tried stopping it a few times, but each time she loses ground. The gains return quickly upon restarting.
*The over the counter version we tried was purchased from Smart Nutrition. (all supplements mentioned in this blog are also available on amazon)
All children are different and you may see different things than we did, but because of it’s ease to try, I highly recommend it. I only wish we did much, much sooner!
A compound extracted from the herbs of the huperziceae family, huperzine A is another acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor.
The neuroprotective nature of Huperzine A protects the brain damage from glutamate, peroxides, beta amyloids and other harmful chemicals.
“When acetylcholine is higher in the brain, the neurotransmission to the cortex of the brain is the most efficient.
The net effect is a quick response which ensures the signal is transferred correctly via synaptic motion.” (R)
When we added it, our excitement was reflected in the Facebook posts:
“Adding Huperzine A (50 mcg) has brought amazing awareness, focus, clear language, motor planning improvements and almost zero OCD for Caroline this week!”
“Her dose is now 200mcg. Seeing slightly more benefit than at 50 and the gains are holding. The biggest change is the improvement in motor planning.. which affects mostly everything! And complete drop off in OCD, which is glorious!”
*Huperzine A is sold over the counter. We use Life Extension brand capsules and settled at an ongoing dose of 100 mcg/ day.
Unlike galantamine, this supplement may need to be pulsed to maintain effectiveness over time.
While supplementing with galantamine or huperzine A, we find it helpful to stack nootropics that can increase choline (an acetylcholine precursor) and stimulate acetylcholine receptors.
To increase choline we use:
To stimulate acetylcholine receptors we use:
- Piracetam 400mg
- Aniracetam 400mg
- Centrophenoxine 200mg
- Oxiracetam 100mg
- All from Smart Nutrition – for more on these, and a combo supplement ‘Get Smart’ that we like and alternate with this list, you can read our blog post about nootropics.
There are also foods and other supplements that can increase choline, but to make a noticeable difference in mental functioning, inhibiting AChE and optionally stimulating the receptors and supplementing with highly bio-available choline is likely to be required.
* Please note, we did not see any of the benefits in this blog when we used choline supplements alone. It was galantamine and huperzine A that allowed for a true increase in acetylcholine by blocking the enzyme that breaks it down.
For Caroline, finding the right combination has been more of an art than a science. Especially because sometimes nootropics work best when rotated. My advice is research the benefits of each, match them to your child’s needs, take note of what you see, and adjust accordingly.
We have not yet found a negative result from any specific nootropic and are happy to report that as a group, they have delivered some of the most significant gains we’ve seen on this journey.
Update for followers of Regarding Caroline Blog
I plan to continue to blog about what’s worked for us, as well as our recent developments, at this new site and am excited to add contributors who are fellow admins at the Recovering Kids group.
We hope to present a variety of helpful ideas and topics, so please sign up to follow this blog if you’re interested. Looking forward sharing more! ~Rebecca
For additional blog posts by Rebecca Ferguson – Regarding Caroline • click here