A nutritional supplement is also known as a food supplement, it is defined as a form of food supplement which is prepared with the intention of providing nutrients for people who for what ever reason are found to have a nutritional supplement deficiency, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids,amino acids, etc. Many countries define nutritional supplements as foods, while in others they are defined as drugs.
II. Types of nutritional supplement and how they help to treat autism
a) Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps to prevent the forming of free radical and improve immune function. It is an important vitamin, because most children with autism have weakened immune system, it is said that vitamin A helps to support immune memory and improve eye contact and behaviour of children with autism, if taking together with vitamin D.
b) Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex is a family vitamin, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6) , folic acid (B9) cyanocobalamin (B12) and choline. They work together to enhance function of the others, therefore deficiency of one B vitamin may reduce the effectiveness of the others. Vitamin B complex helps to improve function of nervous system and glands by creating enzymes needed by the brain.
i) Vitamin B1
Besides assisting the proper functioning of the heart, it also helps to improve the brain and central nerve system cells’ function in transmitting information. Study shows that vitamins B1 helps to improve test scores for children with autism. It can be found in Green, leafy vegetables, including spinach and peas.
ii) Vitamin B2
Besides it is important for helps for building healthy DNA, it also helps to improve mental function and control stress by increasing the production of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase which is a rare genetic defect in some children with autism.
iii) Vitamin B3
Besides it is important for the production energy metabolism, it also helps to increases cerebral blood flow, thereby decreasing the risks of nervous symptoms such as emotional problems, irritability, memory loss, etc.
iv) Vitamin B6
It is said that vitamin B6 decreases behavioural problems, improves eye contact and attention span, and learning ability for children with autism, if working together with magnesium.
v) Folic acid
Folic acid also known as vitamin B9, it is vital in maintaining healthy brain, cell production and DNA duplication. Most children with autism are found to have folic acid deficiency, resulting in neurological problems, including slow thinking, depression, memory loss and digestive disorder.
vi) Vitamin B 12
Besides helping to improve the absorption of all essential nutrients into the body, it also enhances the proper function of the nervous system and the brain to work as they should, thereby decreasing the risks of nervous symptoms, including developmental regression, memory problems, slow thinking, anxiety and depression.
c) Vitamin C
Besides best known for its antioxidant in fighting against the forming of free radicals and bacteria and virus, it is also crucial to brain function. Some studies show that vitamin C helps to remove toxins from our body as well as heavy metals accumulated in the brain. In some studies vitamin C increases the IQ scores in normal and Down’s children and decreases confusion and depression for children with autism.
d) Vitamin E
Study shows that vitamin E helps to improve verbal speech for children with autism, if taking together with Omega 3 fatty acid.
Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of brain and muscle cells. Study shows that magnesium has a significant positive effects on behavior in children with autism if taking together with vitamin B6. Magnesium can be found abundantly green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
b) Zinc picolinate
Zinc is not only important for lower elevated levels of other minerals such as copper, it also helps to improve the function of nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, thereby decreasing the risk of nervous tension and increasing the digestive system in absorbing vital vitamins and minerals.
It besides is a very important mineral for strong bone, it also plays an important role in neurological function in transmitting messages. Deficiency of calcium causes nervous tension, resulting in unpleasant dispositions, temper tantrums, muscles twitch and spasms, restless and insomnia.
Selenium besides is one of essential enzymes, preventing the forming of free radical in the brain cells, it also is vital for for the production of glutathione which helps to eliminate the toxic metals and other harmful man made chemicals in our body.
Most children with autism have low or no ability to convert compounds to sulfate, leading to inability of the body in protect itself against environmental chemicals and some chemicals produced within the body, leading to nervous tension as resulting of environment toxins accumulated in some parts of the body.
Iodine is vital for regulating the normal function of thyroid gland and preventing mental retardation. Most children with autism are found to have iodine deficiency, leading to behaviour problems.
Some children with autism may experience low muscle tone as resulting of deficiency of low levels of potassium in the body, or inability of the body in absorbing potassium because of low levels of magnesium.
C. Other supplements
Taurine is one amino acid which not only helps to calm the brain and inhibits the excitation of nerve cells, it also helps to blocks the excito-toxic effects of glutamate and aspartate, resulting in lessening the risk of extremely hyperactive and regression.
It is a precursor to the antioxidant glutathoine. Besides helping to prevent excessive cells oxidation, thus decreasing the risk of abnormal transmitting information of brain cells due to impaired cellular membranes, it also improves the digestive enzyme and probiotics to the gastrointestinal tract, thereby restoring the integrity of the digestive system.
Glutathione is found in the liver, it helps the liver to detoxify many harmful compounds through the bile secretion. Beside helping to protect our body against cells oxygen oxidation and increase the neorological function, it also replenishes the gastrointestine tract.
It is said that carosine helps to enhance neurological function, including behavior, language, eye contact and speech. Studies shows that intake of carosine helps to improve the brain in controlling emotion, epileptic activity, cognitive, expressive speech, and abstract thinking for some children with autism.
Melatonin is a type of hormone which is produced by our brain to make us falling to sleep and normally used as sleep aid medicine for children. Since most children with autism having behavior problem, including sleep disturbance, melatonin improves the combination of better sleep, better control of biological rhythms and high anti-oxidant effect. No matter how good, it is, it is still a types of hormone, please consult with the children doctors before applying.
DMSA is an oral chelating agent that helps to remove mercury and other metals from the body, including toxic heavy metals in the brain, resulting in improvement in social reciprocity for children with autism.
g) Coenzyme Q 10
Coenzyme Q 10 besides is important in maintaining a healthy immune system, it also helps improve the neurological functions by getting more oxygen to the brain and central nervous system, resulting in increasing energy as resulting of of the ATP energy cycle and improving mental alertness.
h) Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6, besides helping to maintain the normal function of brain cells, and decreasing the cholesterol in the blood stream. it also places an important role in enhancing the attention spans and improving concentration for children with autism. Essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6 can be found in cold water fish, flax seed oil, olive oil and nuts and seeds.