Zinc-  New study presents a working model that could point to a better understanding of autism’s underpinnings. “The new study, led by Stanford neuroscientists John Huguenard, PhD, and Sally Kim, PhD, and then-graduate student Huong Ha, PhD, showed that zinc is required for the proper behavior of two related proteins, Shank 2 and Shank 3, that hang out at most synapses in the brain. Among their duties, Shank 2 and Shank 3 can reshuffle the subunits of a receptor that dots the receiving end of most nerve cells. This receptor gets tripped off by an incoming chemical signal called glutamate.
In the developing brain, glutamate receptors undergo a process of maturation in the form of internal alterations that are catalyzed by Shank 2 and Shank 3. The substitution of one type of subunit for another type in these receptors endow the receptor with more-prolonged signaling strength, a better “memory” of how often it’s been previously tripped off by the arrival of a glutamate molecule, and a correspondingly more-pronounced propensity to respond heartily to such chemical messages in the future. (This collection of characteristics, which neuroscientists call “plasticity,” is the molecular essence of memory and learning.)
Kim, Huguenard, Ha and their colleagues showed that zinc is absolutely necessary to this development-associated maturation of glutamate receptors by Shank 2 and Shank 3. When triggered by glutamate, a receiving nerve cell opens itself to a temporary but substantial influx of zinc, molecules of which bind to Shank 2 and Shank 3. This, in turn, spurs those two proteins’ active reshuffling of the cell’s glutamate-receptor molecules — an essential and permanent step in the brain circuitry’s development.
Glutamate-receptor maturation is particularly critical in late fetal and early-childhood brain development, when synapses are being formed at an amazing rate. And zinc deficiency is especially pronounced in the very youngest patients diagnosed with ASD. So it’s only natural to ask whether zinc supplementation can stave off the syndrome.” https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2018/11/12/is-zinc-the-link-to-how-we-think-some-evidence-and-a-word-of-warning/

Why Is This Important?

Glutamate is also the most abundant neurotransmitter, responsible for regulating over 50% of the nervous system. It is classified as an excitatory neurotransmitter, which means it excites or stimulates nerve cells located throughout the nervous system. Glutamate also has the ability to regulate other neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin and GABA are great examples. When glutamate is in excess it is extremely toxic to the brain and nervous system. It can become so excitatory, it is considered a excitotoxin, which means that it overstimulates brain cells to the point of killing them or damaging them enough to cause severe mitochondrial dysfunction (associated with low muscle tone) and neurological inflammation. Excess glutamate is believed to be involved in a variety of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders including autism, obsessive compulsive disorders, hyperactivity disorders, complex motor stereotypes, tics, insomnia, anxiety disorders, seizures, sensory processing disorder, addiction, depression, chronic fatigue, PANS, PANDAS, Alzheimers, and so on. Excess glutamate also impairs methylation and depletes glutathione levels, which are vital for detoxification, controlling inflammation and gut health.  Working to lower glutamate/inflammation and balance GABA, is key to improving overall health.

Obviously diet (REID) is one of the most important, if not, the most important step in lowering glutamate. However, this natural option may prove beneficial in helping when experiencing a peak of symptoms related to high glutamate and neurological inflammation, i.e. following consumption of a high glutamate food, trauma or a “flare” from PANS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder) or PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections).  Additionally, working to lower inflammation/glutamate by treating underlying sources inflammation (metals, microbial imbalances, parasites, microglial activation, poor detoxification pathways, various toxins, etc.) will also be hugely beneficial.  We’ve personally found homeopathy to be great for this.

I do not have personal experience with all options mentioned in the “Lowering Glutamate” page, nor would I recommend all of them (especially the pharmaceutical options). You will want to read the comments as some of the items used to temporarily lower glutamate, can actual work to increase glutamate/glutamate sensitivity over time.

The information shared within this blog has been gathered by a mother, not a physician, and should not act as medical advice. Under no circumstances shall I, or any contributors and affiliates of the blog, be responsible for damages arising from use of the blog.