Excitotoxicity in Children with Autism


Excitotoxicity in Children with Autism

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Excitotoxins such as glutamate (MSG monosodium glutamate) and aspartate (aspartame) are amino acids that can excite and damage neurons to the point of cell death.  Gluten, casein, and hydrolyzed yeast are a few of the many sources of glutamate in foods.  Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is important for learning, memory, focus and attention.  The precursor to glutamate is an inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA).  GABA is important for speech as well as preventing sensory overload and seizure activity.  Children with ASD have difficulty converting glutamate to GABA which requires B6.  Chronic viral infections can also prevent this conversion from taking place.  So the excess glutamate in the brain caused by environmental and dietary glutamate toxicity can trigger excitotoxicity.  Excitotoxicity has a direct effect on the regulation of the immune system which can cause depletion of the glutathione levels, the master antioxidant which excretes heavy metals from the body and prevents oxidative damage to the cells, and also apoptosis which is cell death in the brain.  When children with ASD experience an excitotoxicity reaction they become extremely hyperactive, engage in stemming behaviors, lack focus and concentration, may be self-injurious, are unable to sleep, and may have seizures.

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Related Sites

Excitotoxicity: When Nourishing Foods Do Harm
Description:  Article about glutamates in food and their excitatory effects.

Unblind My Mind
Description:  Dr. Katherine Reid, a biochemist, developed the REID Program. The REID Program is a convenient acronym for “Reduced Excitatory and Inflammatory Diet,” a diet that eliminates excitatory chemicals and other substances known to over-stimulate the nervous system, immune response, and inflammation throughout the body.

MSG Truth
Description:  This website has a lot of information related to MSG, including what MSG is and what foods to avoid.

Autism and Glutamate Dysfunction – Avoid The Cause – Race To The Cure
Description:  Explanation of glutamate dysfunction as it relates to autism.


The Truth About Aspartame, MSG and Excitotoxins by Mike Adams
Description:  This book has an in-depth interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock who describes how the food industry dupes the American people by stimulating their appetite and destroying hunger control by the use of toxic chemicals which can trigger obesity, infertility, migraines, neurological problems and other further health issues.

Autism Current Theories and Evidence by Martin Evers, Eric Hollander
Description:  Chapter 6 (Excitotoxicity in Autism) provides a very extensive explanation on the research and role of excitotoxicity in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health by Randall Fitzgerald
Description:  This book explores excitotoxins as it discusses synthetic chemicals used by processed food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries, and it takes a look at what is in food, water, vitamins, prescription drugs, childhood vaccines, cosmetics, and our homes.

Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD
Description:  This book describes how the current American diet is full of foods and beverages that contain MSG and Aspartame. Glutamates and aspartates can cause excitotoxicity in the brain by over stimulating neurons and triggering apoptosis (cell death). This can eventually lead to neurodegenerative diseases.


Excitotoxins, Neurotoxins & Human Neurological Disease Lecture — Dr. Russell Blaylock
Description:  Dr. Russell Blaylock lectures on the subject of excitoxins and their effects.

Ingredients to Avoid Besides Monosodium Glutamate
Description:  A thorough list of excitotoxins.

Truth in Labeling
Description:  Names of ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid (MSG).

Autism Treatment – Glutamate, Excitotoxicity and Autism
Description:  In this video, Dr. Kurt Woeller explains autism, glutamate, and excitotoxicity and how some children with autism have sensitivity to foods with glutamate.

Parent Forums/Blogs

Some forums require you to sign in to Yahoo or Facebook to locate forum names.

Forum/Blog Name:  Glutamate Free
Description:  We are a community of people who, based on the work of Dr. Katie Reid, are trying to minimize/eliminate the free glutamate (MSG) in our kids’ diets (as well as our own). Most of us have kids that are on the autism spectrum.

Forum/Blog Name:  Excitotoxins: the truth about MSG, Aspartame and High Fructose Corn Syrup
Description:  This group looks at addictive and engineered food products, and provides information to members regarding excitotoxins found in them.

Forum/Blog Name:  Become Free of MSG in Your Diet
Description:  This group is dedicated to the complete elimination of monosodium glutamate and other harmful excitotoxins from your diet.

Forum/Blog Name:  How to Increase GABA and Balance Glutamate
Description:  Amy Yasko, PhD, ND, gives a very comprehensive explanation of the excitotoxicity problem in ASD children and shares her amazing expertise on how to control the glutamate and increase GABA to calm down the brain, increase speech, and reduce hyperactivity and self-stimulation behaviors.