Autism, Glutathione and Star Wars…


star-wars-yoda-movieStar Wars – a sci-fi movie series with a cult fan following. Darth Vader, Jedi Knights, Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are the central characters.

Autism – the fastest growing developmental disorder in the world. 1 in 45 children are diagnosed with autism. A person with autism face challenges in speech and communication, behavioural issues and socialisation. Many people with autism also present many health challenges such as food sensitivities, digestive issues, impaired detoxification, nutritional deficiencies and more.

Glutathione – pronounced “glue-te-thai-on”. A powerful antioxidant.

So what does autism, glutathione and Star Wars have to do with each other you ask?
In her book Healing Our Autistic Children – A Medical Plan for Restoring your Child’s Health, Dr Julie Buckley calls most antioxidants the Jedi Knights in the metabolic sense. However, she calls glutathione Yoda. As many Star Wars fans know, Yoda is the legendary Grand Master of the Jedi Order and can do many wondrous things.  My Star Wars fan hubby was duly impressed with the analogy. As he would put it, glutathione is Yoda whilst MB12 is Obi-Wan Kenobi. To date, we haven’t decided what Luke Skywalker is…….

By now, most of us have read and heard about the importance of glutathione. Glutathione levels is something that most biomedical doctors are concerned about. Glutathione (GSH) is a powerful antioxidant, it is the key detoxificator in our body.  It plays a fundamental role in numerous biochemical and metabolic functions. Most chapters in biomedical books or topics in biomed conference stresses the importance of glutathione. Children with autism either have too little of it or the subset of kids who do have adequate levels of glutathione are not utilizing it into the proper detox pathway, instead it goes on to be utilized for other functions. Some children also have adequate levels of GSH, but their toxin load is so high that it’s just not enough. Most children on the autism spectrum need glutathione support, either by supplementing it directly or by enabling the body to produce more. Oxidative stress, damage from heavy metals, immunological and metabolic disorders are common culprits of lowered glutathione production and depletion. Glutathione is a topic close to our hearts namely due to the heavy metal and environmental toxin load that is commonly found in our kids and the high need for an efficient detox and methylation pathway.

According to her OATS (Organic Acid Test), my eldest daughter Mei had impaired detox markers and low levels of glutathione. Our second round of OATs done a year later showed marked improvement overall. This also commensurate with better cognitive function, enhanced skill sets, reduced behavioral challenges, improved fine and gross motor skill, age appropriate language skills and immense reduction in Autistic traits overall.

We raised Mei’s glutathione levels directly by transdermal lotions as well as supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). NAC is the precursor to glutathione, it is commonly prescribed by biomed doctors. A small subset of children don’t do well on NAC as it does have a tendency to increase yeast. In some children, it tends to raise their sulfur levels. For us, we did not experience any obvious side effect from NAC. Even though it is known to cause yeast flare-ups, it wasn’t a big deal for us because we were constantly battling yeast anyway, so what’s a little bit more yeast right? Our biomed doctor put both my girls, Mei and Min Min on NAC almost immediately, we used it for 1.5 years. We no longer use it now as Mei’s glutathione levels are fine.

Supplementing Glutathione
Depending on your child’s unique health issues, there are several methods of supplementing GSH- oral, transdermal, suppository and intravenous;

1. Oral glutathione supplement is used widely, however it may affect the gut and cause yeast overgrowth. It is also not as well absorbed compared to other types of supplementing GSH. All of my biomed doctors did not recommend oral GSH for both my daughters due to their own unique issues.

2. Transdermal ie. creams are quite popular because it is easy to administer and relatively affordable.  Glutathione lotions are easily available from many supplement providers. I have tried over the counter as well as specially compounded, personally I don’t see any obvious difference, but I do like trying different brands and rotate. For my 2nd daughter Min MIn, her American biomed doctor ordered a compounded glutathione lotion from a well-respected speciality compounding pharmacy. The compounded glutathione came in a double vial, with an activator as well as the glutathione. Many believe that the activator enables better absorption. It is slightly more expensive, you do need ask your doctor to order it specially for you.

3. Suppository- this is a popular choice amongst some biomed doctors in Asia. It is more readily absorbed and comes in higher dosages. These need to be prescribed and specially ordered compounding pharmacies. These can be quite expensive, they have a short shelf life, dosage is according to body weight and frequency is usually once a week. Some children do well with glutathione suppositories and some do not. We were quite excited to try this out, unfortunately Mei had a negative reaction almost immediately after administering it. Within 1 hour, her temperature shot up to 40 degrees Celcius. I believe it was just too much for her. Lesson learnt. I don’t think it is possible to predict which child will react well to them, we can only try and observe. Some children who are doing chelation (heavy metal detox) also use specially compounded DMSA suppository combined with glutathione.  It is interesting to note that glutathione suppositories are not popular in most countries. 

4. Intravenous (IV) glutathione is a popular choice in certain countries such as the USA. At some clinics, patients can receive intraveneous glutathione infusions. This provides the best absorption, however the potency or effectiveness is for a shorter period I believe.

Glutathione Inducers
I spoke to the legendary Dr Sidney Baker about other forms of glutathione supplementation. I explained that IV glutathione is not available in many parts of Asia. I asked which was better, transdermal or suppository? Dr Baker replied that in his opinion, he much preferred inducers of glutathione rather than supplementing it. He highly recommended N-Acetyl Cystein. He also mentioned that several foods also helps with glutathione production.  Broccoli sprout extract, turmeric, curcumin (an extract of turmeric), Vitamin D, dark chocolates, most foods with strong or interesting taste are said to be glutathione inducers.
One biomed doctor gave me a quick tip to determine whether we had adequate glutathione levels- if your urine does not smell strongly after eating asparagus, this may be a sign that you do not have adequate levels of glutathione. Thus, if you eat asparagus and afterwards your urine stinks, then your liver and detox system is probably fine. However, this is not a definitive test, merely a simplistic DIY self-evaluation. Some people can still have adequate levels of glutathione yet are not utilising it metabolically.


What To Expect
When we supplement with glutathione, it works on a more cellular level. Increasing the body’s glutathione levels either by supplementing it directly or by inducing better production by NAC or food inducers will improve the detox function. However we do not expect to see any behavioral improvements or reduction in autistic traits. The basic principle is that more glutathione is needed to detox effectively, a better detox function enables the body to flush our toxins, a body with less toxic burden is healthier, a healthy body equals healthy mind.
Glutathione is not an autism treatment per se, ultimately it seeks to lower the toxic levels in our bodies, thus enabling better health for our children. It is important to remember how crucial glutathione production is in our biomedical treatment protocol. Treating oxidative stress, lowering the toxic burden and improving the nutritional status also helps towards glutathione production.
What Affects Glutathione Levels?
Panadol (paracetamol) or commonly known as Tylenol in the USA, decreases glutathione levels markedly. Judicious use of Tylenol should be observed, however we need to keep in mind how it affects glutathione. On occasions when you do need to use Tylenol, it is best to remember to keep glutathione levels up. On the other hand, ibuprofen is another popular choice for fever or pain management. Ibuprofen does not decrease glutathione levels. However, with any pharmaceutical drug, there are also other issues to consider when deciding which medication to use.
My children and I have not used any fever medications for several years now. I prefer to support the body during times of illness with homeopathic remedies, essential oils, healing foods, herbal and natural remedies.
Many babies and young children are advised to give Tylenol before or after a vaccination shot. Being the concerned parents that we are, we wanted to save our kids the pain of the injection. Unfortunately, now we know that by giving Tylenol, the glutathione levels drop drastically, right smack during the time when our babies need them the most. By reducing the glutathione levels, our kids are left with very little detox support. Right when they are hit with the multiple viruses and heavy metal load.
Many children receive vaccinations as well as Tylenol almost simultaneously, and yet never end up with autism or other vaccine-induced injuries or disorders. However, these are the genetically and physically lucky ones who have better metabolic, mitochondrial and detox function and is able to take the multiple hits that vaccinations give. There are many causes for autism. Vaccinations, viruses, Lyme disease, environmental toxins and pollutants, pesticides, GMOs, genetics, food allergies, GI disorders, mitochondrial and metabolic disorders to name a few. For my children, glutathione support is important metabolically and played a part in their recovery from autism.


We only tried the glutathione suppository once, Mei did not react well to it, so I continued with the lotion. I used glutathione lotion on Mei and Min Min every night for 1.5 years, the girls love their nightly massages before bedtime. They were calmer due to the gentle, soothing strokes and we make it a special moment between mother and daughter.


Keep the glutathione levels up guys! We all need a little bit of Yoda in our lives. We’ll be eating asparagus, broccoli sprouts and turmeric for dinner with dark chocolates for dessert tonight followed by the Star Wars movie marathon:-) May the Force be with you……


About Spectrum Mum in Malaysia – Marissa is a mother of 2 children who are recovered from autism. She is the co-founder of Brightstars – Life Skills for Exceptional Kids, a holistic school for children with autism, ADHD and learning challenges in Kuala Lumpur. Marissa is the co-author of Autism Beyond The Spectrum and Vice-President of The Thinking Moms’ Revolution, an autism advocacy movement based in the USA. In 2009, she founded KL Biomed, a support network for parents with children affected by autism and related disorders in Malaysia and neighbouring countries in Asia. Marissa is a blogger, autism advocate,  passionate about nutrition and natural health. Her blog Spectrum Mum In Malaysia is inspired by her children’s journey and experience in recovering from autism. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.