Decoding My Autism

For a long time, I've tried to understand what goes on in my brain. Along the way, I've learned some things and made discoveries that have helped me live a better life.

  • Dan Bell

Magnesium: Another Powerful Autism Ally

I've taken magnesium supplements for years before bed to help me sleep. I have restless leg syndrome, which gets bad enough at night that it will keep me awake. Magnesium helps with muscle relaxation, stopping the muscle spasms that would otherwise keep me awake at night.

It turns out that magnesium does quite a few other things in the body as well, some of which make a big difference in autism.

Autistics tend to be low in magnesium, due to a tendency to be low in vitamin D, because the body needs D to help it absorb magnesium.

As I've talked about before when I introduced the Autism Dynamic Duo, autism tends to come with trouble sleeping, because the fight-or-flight response suppresses the production of melatonin.

Magnesium, along with zinc, helps the body make melatonin, by helping the enzyme that turns serotonin into melatonin. So, zinc and magnesium deficiencies make it harder for the body to make melatonin. Taken at night, magnesium and zinc can help with melatonin production, making it easier to sleep.

Side note: vitamin D also helps the body absorb zinc as well, so vitamin D deficiency also cause a zinc deficiency. Zinc corrects a common genetic defect in autism that lets too much dopamine in the system, resulting in too much norepinephrine and adrenaline, which are made from dopamine (see my article about Fixation for more details of why this is).

Magnesium also does something even more powerful to help with sleep. When learned what I am about to share, it was an epiphany moment, that lead me to "Okay, I have to write an article about magnesium".

As I've talked about before, the fight-or-flight response is overactive in autism, leading to a number of challenges. This is because the body has too much of the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) dopamine, norephinephrine, and adrenaline in the system.

The body's way of getting rid of these neurotransmitters when they are not needed is through an enzyme known as COMT. It breaks them down into other chemicals that don't affect fight-or-flight response.

Magnesium is the cofactor for the COMT enzyme, meaning COMT needs magnesium in order to function properly.

So, magnesium deficiency (again caused in part by vitamin D deficiency) means that the body can't effectively break down the fight-or-flight neurotransmitters. So these remain active in the body, keeping the body stimulated and amped up.

And magnesium deficiency also means that the body has trouble making making melatonin.

As an aside, I recently found out through a genetic report that in my case, the gene that makes COMT is mutated, reducing its effectiveness. Researching COMT to understand it better was what lead to the epiphany moment.

I call Vitamin D and zinc the Autism Dynamic Duo, because of what a powerful combination they are in helping with autism symptoms. Due to its role in working alongside D and zinc to help with the same issues, it seems magnesium is an equally important member of that team. So perhaps the Dynamic Duo is really the Dynamic Trio.

So, to summarize the Dynamic Trio's effects:

  1. Vitamin D helps the body absorb magnesium and zinc.

  2. All three work together to calm down an overanxious, nervous body. D makes serotonin, helping regulate mood and reducing anxiety. Meanwhile, magnesium and zinc help remove the excess dopamine, norephinephrine and adrenaline from the system, calming down an overactive fight-or-flight response.

  3. Magnesium and zinc help make serotonin into melatonin, making it easier to sleep.

  4. Vitamin D also makes oxytocin and vasopressin, two neurotransmitters that help in social learning.

Because of their powerful effects, I take vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium all on a daily basis. If you're interested in trying them, I recommend talking to your doctor about proper dosage.

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