The symptoms of autism can be difficult enough to work with. Puberty brings with it many additional challenges for both parents and their children. Beginning around the age of nine, the body triggers hormones to begin puberty. By the age of fourteen a noticeable change in behavior is happening.
If your child, like mine, has been going along peacefully, but suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to deal with, more aggressive, angry, moody, and loses all motivation, it is likely due to hormonal changes affecting his brain.
The Female Hormonal Cycle and How It Affects Us
From puberty on, estrogen sets up the cycles in the female brain such as sleep, mood, body temperature, and even breathing. We are more relaxed in the first two weeks of our cycle, and have greater social and verbal abilities. Around day fourteen, progesterone begins affecting the brain’s circuitry and girls become more irritable, have less ability to focus, and slow down. Progesterone plummets during the last few days of the menstrual cycle and females can become stressed, aggressive and even hostile right before their period begins. Low progesterone causes lack of energy.
For females whose bodies have a greater ability to make estrogen and progesterone also have a greater ability to handle stress. This is due to their having more serotonin (the feel good neurochemical). Women with low estrogen and progesterone are more easily stressed, depressed, fearful and angry because they have less serotonin. Stabilizing serotonin levels helps to calm the brain. Testosterone, the male dominant hormone, can also be too high in females, causing overly aggressive behavior.
The Effects of Male Hormones
The male hormone testosterone begins flooding into a boy’s brain at puberty. It is responsible for aggression and territorial behavior. Everything will become boring to him. The teen brain, especially in boys, is difficult to stimulate because his reward center has been almost desensitized. Fortunately, both punishment and reward centers are heightened during this time, so they can be used for motivation. More motivation is needed due to testosterone washing out their reward centers.
Testosterone receptors also change the clock schedule in a pubescent boy’s brain. Teens are not lazy. They actually need at least ten hours of sleep per night. They are becoming programmed to stay up later and sleep until noon. If you are homeschooling, your child has the privilege of getting this extra needed sleep. Traditional school schedules do not allow for our kids to properly adjust to their new internal time clocks. For people on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD, getting up in the morning and going to sleep at night can be very challenging. It is difficult for the brain to slow down. Note that girls are effected by testosterone too.
Remove video and computer games at least one hour prior to settling down for the night, as those activities stimulate the brain. In contrast, an electronic reading device like Amazon’s Kindle has a different light source that does not stimulate the part of the brain that keeps you awake. If your child cannot go to sleep, let them read their Kindle or a printed book. Also, see the supplement 5HTP below.
Supplements to Assist Behavior
The supplement 5HTP helps to build serotonin (the king of neurochemicals), which assists in the building of melatonin (the king of sleep hormones). 5HTP also assists with balancing estrogen levels, mood and more. Adults may benefit from 100mg, twice per day, away from food, children half that.
Vagus Signaling Control Elixir is excellent for calming anxious feelings.
Stress increases the release of cortisol, which fatigues the adrenals. Symptoms are headache, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, and weight gain, especially around the belly. Imbalanced cortisol affects the sleep/wake cycle. The product Drenamin from Standard Process is excellent for adrenal support. Drenamin is a natural glandular supplement. It can be found in some health food stores and is carried by many natural practitioners such as chiropractors.
Low estrogen can cause brain fog and memory lapses. The natural herb gingko biloba is safe and has been used for centuries to assist with brain fog.
You can use Dandelion, 100-200 mg or ½ teaspoon of tincture, to minimize bloating and help the liver eliminate excess hormones.
The amino acid L-tyrosine is beneficial for issues with focus. This supplement is best taken away from food in the morning and early afternoon. Do not take at night as it may keep your child alert and cause difficulty getting to sleep. Watch for signs of hyperactivity with L-tyrosine as it affects dopamine production which some people have too much of.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Take 1000-2000 mg fish oil per day to reduce inflammation, cortisol demand, and to assist mood and energy. There is a liquid Omega 3 product by Pharmax that comes in a base of oil of orange. Pharmax is of the highest quality and it is sold in most health food stores and online.
Learn about brain balancing therapies that can be of assistance in my post, Autism and Anger.
The Liver’s Effect on Hormones
Most children on the autism spectrum have congested livers and weak detoxification abilities. When the liver is congested, hormones such as estrogen and progesterone cannot be properly broken down and detoxified. This increases
their concentration in the blood and it results in water retention or bloating. Increased estrogen levels have also been linked to breast cancer. Without proper detoxification these and other toxins accumulate in the blood.
Oral contraception and hormone replacement increase a woman’s chance of developing gallstones because estrogen has a negative effect on the gallbladder’s ability to function properly. Menopausal women are greatly benefited by doing liver cleanses, and by taking supplements to assist the health of the liver.
There are a couple of supplements that can be very helpful for the health of the liver. Liver Detox Pathway Elixir from Get Healthy Again is very helpful for the health of the liver, and assists both Phase I and phase II of liver detoxification. Another good product is Liver Life by Bioray. Liver Life contains milk thistle with a couple of additionally beneficial ingredients. It is a daily liver and kidney decongestant. It facilitates detoxification and has been shown in laboratory tests to normalize liver enzymes. It also helps to restore pH in the body, improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, and helps with bowel function. This is a liquid so it can be easily added to any beverage. For links and options on liver support see my healthy products page.
Heavy metals can increase problems with hormones, especially mercury. See my podcast interview with expert Eddie Stone on Natural Intracellular Heavy Metal Detoxification.
Additionally, don’t overeat, keep alcohol intake low, eat enough protein but do not eat excessive amounts of protein or any bad fats, and eat organic, because pesticides and toxins will congest the liver.
The surge in hormones makes the teen brain more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals. Monosodium glutamate effects hormones and increases episodes of anger and rage. This is true for all ages, but is especially true for those on the autism spectrum and is heightened during puberty. Take care to feed your child healthy foods without dangerous food dyes, chemicals, and bad fats. Raspberries and raspberry teas help to balance hormone levels as well.
Hormone levels can be tested by health care practitioners. Ask yours if it would be helpful for your child.
Join our Free Autism Recovery Workshop, The 4 Stages to Naturally Recover from the Symptoms of Autism. Stage 1: Healing the gut, Stage 2: Natural heavy metal detoxification, Stage 3: Clearing the Co-infections, Stage 4: Brain support and repair. Reserve your online seat here.
Help your child get the optimum results in Karen’s step-by-step online program, The Autism Moms Mentor, working to improve the biological health aspects for better focus and concentration, improved sleep, calmer moods, and a lot more. Already in over 35 countries, this program offers you the natural resources I used to recover my own son. It is unique in that it walks you through not only gut healing and detoxification, but also the co-infections often left out of a recovery program. It also includes additional components such as muscle testing and emotional clearing to empower you to get the best possible outcome with support from a mom who has done it!
Know that you’re not alone!
Learn more in my book, Naturally Recovering Autism.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please contact your healthcare professional immediately if you experience any unwanted side effects. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. Please be sure to consult your physician before taking this or any other product.