So how about some good news for a change?!
How about something that has nothing to do with the great mask debate?
Something that can possibly radically improve the lives of some of our children.
Yes.. it’s that great!
During the past 4 months, my daughter has been taking the herb mucuna puriens and the results have been amazingly transformative!
Before shouting from the rooftops, I asked some others to try it for their children who are also on the spectrum.
Based on the research, I suspected their outcomes might also be dramatic.. and they have been too!
- Elevated mood
- Higher energy / less fatigue
- Improved behavior
- Noticeably greater socialization
- Increased coordination & motor planning
- Elimination of tremors
- Stronger muscle tone
- More speech
- Decreased anxiety
- Reduction of many core autism symptoms
So here I am, suggesting this ‘dopamine herb’ is one to consider – in earnest – if your child could benefit from the above and you suspect low dopamine to be a cause.
According to Research..
Dopamine plays an important role in controlling motor behavior, emotional reward, and behavior motivation mechanisms.
Dopamine influences multiple brain functions – including concentration, learning, memory, mood, motor control, and sleep.
Low dopamine levels often impact all of these cognitive processes.
People who are deficient in dopamine often lack motivation and drive. They can also become fatigued, apathetic, and possibly depressed.
They may suffer from mood issues and develop an addictive personality (to boost dopamine levels in the short-term). Dopamine deficiencies can lead to resting tremors and Parkinson’s Disease.
Other possible symptoms of dopamine deficiency include:
- difficulty eating and swallowing
- feelings of sadness or tearfulness
- inability to focus
- loss of balance
- loss of motivation
- low energy
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- muscle aches and pains
- muscle stiffness
- sudden weight loss or weight gain
- trouble sleeping or disturbed sleep
- and more
Diverse Dopamine defects found in people with Autism -Spectrum News
“Several different mutations in the dopamine transporter, a protein that shuttles the chemical messenger dopamine into neurons, occur in people with autism.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that neurons release into synapses, the tiny spaces between them.
It regulates movement and feelings of pleasure and motivation. Defects in dopamine circuits have been implicated in a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, drug addiction and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.”
“Dopamine dysfunction may start to explain why some kids with autism are hyperactive, have tremors, motor deficits and these kinds of things.”
The researchers showed that several variants in dopamine transporters lower the available amounts.
One such variant, T356M reverses the function of the protein: Instead of taking dopamine into cells, it spews dopamine out…. “It’s like turning a vacuum cleaner into a leaf blower.”
A Dopamine Hypothesis of Autism Spectrum disorder -Developmental Neuroscience
The proposal of this paper is that “autistic behavior arises from dysfunctions in the midbrain dopaminergic system.”
They hypothesize that “a dysfunction of the mesocorticolimbic circuit leads to social deficits, while a dysfunction of the nigrostriatal circuit leads to stereotyped behaviors.“
“We discuss the case of PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections) which displays behaviors similar to those of ASD, presumed to arise from dopaminergic dysfunctions.”
They proposed the following mechanism through which dysfunctions of the dopaminergic modulatory system of the midbrain could lead to autistic core features:
And finally, they find that providing dopamine modulators to autistic subjects leads to behavioral improvement.
Brain Serotonin and Dopamine Transporter Bindings in Adults With High-Functioning Autism – JAMA Psychiatry
“Conclusions: The brains of autistic individuals have abnormalities in both serotonin transporter and dopamine transporter binding.
The present findings indicate that the gross abnormalities in these neurotransmitter systems may underpin the neurophysiologic mechanism of autism.“
Note: My daughter has also been taking Saw palmetto and St. John’s Wort (past 3 years) which can increase serotonin and also brought notable improvements.
Regarding both dopamine and serotonin, it’s important to go slow and not increase levels too high.
Too much dopamine can increase obesssive thoughts for some people. If you see that, it’s important to lower the dose.
In my daughter’s case, St. John’s wort dramatically decreases the amount of obsessing on a topic.
Dopamine and the Development of Executive Dysfunction in Autism Spectrum Disorders
“Dopamine may play a broader role in the development of ASD than has been previously imagined, providing a novel explanation of how patterns of ED may emerge in autism via disturbed PFC/DA interactions.”
For much more, please click on any of the above linked reference articles, or internet search “dopamine and autism.” The scientific studies are abundant.
Overlapping symptoms between Parkinson’s and autism
- The short video by Parkinson’s News Today at this link explains that Parkinson’s disease develops in the substantia nigra part of the brain when the cells begin to die.
- These cells produce dopamine and the loss of dopamine in the brain leads to issues with movement and much more:
From reader questions, updated to add:
There is no reliable way to directly measure levels of dopamine in a person’s brain. There are some indirect ways to determine a dopamine level imbalance in the brain. Doctors can measure the density of dopamine transporters that correlate positively with nerve cells that use dopamine. From: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320637
Why did I suspect low dopamine and how to treat?
I noticed this past spring that my daughter had almost all of the same symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and asked her doctor if that could be a clue to help treat her.
She mentioned mucuna pruriens as an herb used to increase dopamine in Parkinson’s patients.
Mucuna pruriens, also called velvet bean, is a tropical legume with mature seeds containing 4-7% L-dopa, the precursor to dopamine.
It’s effectiveness is very impressive. See, “The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens”
As I learned more, it became clear that increasing dopamine could treat so many symptoms commonly associated with autism.
I wondered why this ‘magic velvet bean’ wasn’t a household name in our community too.
Other considerations to increase dopamine
Because we don’t want to leave any stone unturned, a helpful article is, “5 Reasons for Low Dopamine Levels”
“Dopamine is produced through an essential amino acid called phenylalanine. We consume it through diet or supplements.
Phenylalanine is converted into tyrosine – a non-essential amino acid – in the liver.
Tyrosine, with the help of insulin, crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and is converted into DOPA, which is then converted into dopamine, provided that there are sufficient vitamin B6 levels in the brain.”
Additional considerations are presented in this graphic:
“Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson’s” provides an in depth review of safety, efficacy and dosing used for Parkinson’s.
Dosing from their study:
- High dose MP: 17.5mg/kg
- Low dose MP: 12.5 mg/kg
My daughter (45kg / 100lbs), takes 2 caps per day – one before / with breakfast and another at 3 pm.
If a dose is late or missed, it shows in her mood, so I stay precisely on schedule!
We began with 1/3 of a cap, twice a day and gradually increased the dose over about 10 days.
The brand I chose is Himalaya. There are many other brands available (this post has no sponsors).
*Because the taste is strong, I put the caplet into an empty ’00’ capsule (see pic). You may prefer to select a brand that comes in a capsule.
Please ask your doctor for personalized dosage and research side effects / possible interactions before using it. I can’t provide medical advice.
In addition to mucuna, also among her daily supplements are:
• Essential Aminos – 1 cap (Pure Encapsulations) provides 115 mg L-phenylalanine
• N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT) – 100mg (Bulk Supplements brand)
• Pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (active vitamin B6) – 10mg (Thorne)
As you recall from above, these supplements may aid the production of dopamine.
The immediate difference that couldn’t be missed was her happier disposition, increased sociability and desire to communicate with others.
She gained eye contact and shared affect and began genuinely wanting hugs for the first time, ever.
Over a period of days and weeks, her resting tremors (in arms and legs) noticeably faded and then disappeared and coordination began to improve.
She exhibits a much greater willingness to do activities she formerly refused and has less OCD.
Her hunched posture has straightened gradually and muscle tightness is diminishing.
Earlier this year she was so ill, she was bedridden for two months and couldn’t walk unassisted. She is now walking for miles!
Her swallowing issues are improving and she’s eating much better.
Overall, for her, mucuna pruriens has been surprisingly restorative and responsible for an incredible surge of healing in the last 4 months.
I’m excited for some of you to consider it and ecstatic about the results she’s having… it’s evident she is too!
Update 9/2021 – Over time the remaining physical issues completely resolved. Recently, I found that reducing the dose (and increasing St John’s wort) decreased obsessive thinking but removing it completely resulted in some tremors returning within a week.
The dopamine / serotonin balance is something to be mindful of and to adjust as needed. When you get it right, the payoff is well worth the effort!
Hello, Have you heard of vagus nerve massage to reduce autism symptoms? I enjoy your posts. Thank you, Karen
Thank you! We we tried Vagus nerve stimulation years ago and it seemed great for a few days but then it wasn’t great anymore. I can’t recall the specifics. I’m sorry. At recovering kids Facebook group you can search for it and there are several people with good experience.
Thank you for the wonderful article! Question: Does your daughter take it continuously, or does she take occasional breaks from it? Some online sources say it should not be taken for more than 20 weeks, or “not on a regular basis,” but I’m wondering if that applies to those of us with ASD.
I’ve only just found out about Mucuna pruriens, as lately I’ve been struggling with low dopamine, which led me to your article. I’m hoping it will help with my Asperger’s.
Hi and thank you! She’s been taking it continuously I also saw things about it’s effectiveness potentially reducing over time, but I haven’t witnessed that so we are going to keep it!