What is meant by Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complicated mental developmental disorder that affects a child’s communication and comprehensive abilities. ‘Autism’ is derived from a Greek word, ‘autos’ meaning ‘self’. This indicates the condition where a person is disconnected from social interaction and becomes an isolated self. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning the range of symptoms differs from individual to individual. Every patient faces different challenges and secures different strengths.
ASD is identified by the age of two or three and is a life-long disorder. Individuals with autism have trouble communicating and learning. They cannot understand what others feel and might be thinking as ordinary people can. Every 1 of 59 children are affected by this disorder. GABA is a neurotransmitter that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain; gaba for autism is used to help decrease anxiety, aggression and stress, all of which autistic individuals are vulnerable to.
What causes ASD?
We know that there is no actual cause of ASD, though researches have found some genetic and non-genetic factors, that may increase the risk factors of a child developing ASD. Some of the factors that increase risk include, advanced parent age, very premature birth or pregnancies spaced less than a year apart. Genetic factors and different brain biology are some other factors.
Symptoms of ASD?
Symptoms are variable from mild to severe and are different in every child. Some children start showing signs as at a very young age, and some develop the symptoms after two years of age. Some of these symptoms are:
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Showing no interest in social interaction
- Not recognizing common gestures
- Either robotic or singsong voice
- Repetitive behaviour
- Echolalia that is, repeating the same phrase over and over again.
ASD is not a curable disorder, but patients show improvement with the help of considerate care and love. Several special applications help autistic children and their parents. GABA supplements are one of the widely used medicines for ASD patients.
What is GABA?
Before understanding why GABA supplements are essential for ASD, it’s important to know what GABA is.
GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, is an amino acid present in the central nervous system, acting as an inhibitory neuro-transmitter. Its crucial function is to facilitate communication between neurons in the brain. It reduces the excited activity of the neurons, which immensely affects the body and mind.
GABA’s function is to relax the body, improves and balances mood, calming the mind and boosts sleep. Anaesthetics, anti-depressants, anti-seizure are some of the medications that activate the production of GABA. Although the body itself produces GABA, people who have special conditions like autism usually have low levels of GABA, which are linked to anxiety or mood disorders, epilepsy and chronic pain.
GABA Supplements and their Importance
To eliminate the deficiency of GABA, supplements are used. These supplements are taken by people to improve mood, relieve anxiety, improve sleep and several other reasons. There are no known natural sources of GABA to date, so there is no natural alternative to the GABA supplement. However, some certain activities and practices have shown to elevate GABA levels. Relaxing activities like yoga and meditation are linked to higher GABA levels.
The importance of GABA supplements to autistic individuals cannot be stressed upon enough. Despite the disorder being an incurable one, GABA supplements suppress the symptoms of autism effectively. In the matured adult brain, GABA acts as an inhibitory, and acts to switch nerve cells off. However, during early postnatal and fetal development, GABA mostly serves as an excitatory, triggering nerve cells to fire, and playing an essential role in nerve cell development and maturation of the central nervous system. Changes in the GABA-switch (from excitatory to inhibitory) that cause an E-I imbalance may delay the development of functional maturity in the neural operation. This has consequences on the network activity, meaning that intervention at a young age can help to decrease or even eliminate some of the symptoms associated with ASD. Studies have shown that ASD may be a consequence of alteration in the brain development process during the early years, such as the E-I imbalance in the brain of autistic children can affect the sensory, memory, and emotional systems indicating the necessity of early intervention.
Even if GABA treatment was not given at a young age, GABA is still a beneficial treatment for the older autistic individuals as it helps to significantly relieve many of the symptoms. Although the exact way how GABA works to reduce these systems is still undiscovered and researchers are trying to figure out what role the substance correctly plays, there is no doubt that children and adults are benefitting from the supplement. It has become a staple in their treatment. As GABA relaxes the central nervous system, some children who have autism show other benefits that result from the use of GABA. They experience improved socialization skills (due to decreased anxiety) and better performance at school (to a reduction in symptoms of ADHD). While every child is different and every child has a different response to GABA supplementation, research is still going on to figure out how GABA supplementation works in children with autism.
Although the USFDA has not tested GABA as a drug, the actual side effects of the drug are not known. GABA supplement is generally well tolerated by healthy adults and show very little or no side effects; some people may experience adverse side effects such as Gastric distress, nausea, diminished appetite, constipation, burning throat, drowsiness and fatigue, muscle weakness and shortness of breath, at very high doses. These are all common side effects and are only found in a tiny percentage of people who consume GABA supplements. While the majority of the patients do not experience any side effects and benefit from the supplement fully.