Autism in females may have slightly different symptoms

Girls and women on the autism spectrum or with Asperger’s Syndrome may not be diagnosed because their symptoms may be less physical and more daydreamy, seeming to not pay attention but then able to try to fit in and look attentive. Extreme difficulty with eye contact, to the point of physically not being able to have typical eye to eye contact with others when speaking or listening is a classic trait of males with autism. Less obvious problems with social interaction for girls and women with autism may be due to a tendency towards innate caregiving traits which would be needed for child rearing and/or other physical differences that lead to less severe autism changes in the brain, such as a protective effect of having more estrogen and less testosterone (estrogen receptors during fetal development seem to be involved in risk of autism development).

Checklist for females regarding Asperger’s syndrome traits – written by a woman who herself has Asperger’s syndrome and has a son with the condition; she discloses that she has a Master’s degree with some psychology training but isn’t a psychologist; she suggests that it may help identify who may have the condition; – having 75% or more of the traits may suggest a person has Asperger’s syndrome: Adult female/AFAB Asperger’s syndrome traits – Slower and sensory friendlyhttps://youtu.be/iIgsJ6uSgMo

I would add, somewhat humorously after having completed a variety of diagnostic checklists in the past that simply making it all the way through all of the checklist’s sub-lists may be an indicator too as interest in many details is a trait – and it is a very long and thorough checklist compared to many psychiatric screenings that are for only one type of condition. Screenings that mix several types of conditions together can also be quite long. The lengthy list was like meeting a friend or family member though for me. It felt familiar in a world that can often seem confusing. Empathy for another’s situation or even expectations about how difficult it might be to tolerate something familiar like spending time in a cold room can be difficult for most people – a discussion of empathy: Why developing emotional intelligence is harder than you think, (inc.com).

The video checklist about Asperger’s traits in females (youtube) also included in the section B. Innocent, 6. “Easily fooled and conned.” and 10. “Abused or taken advantage of as a child but didn’t think to tell anyone.” While eye contact and fitting in to society may be easier for a female on the autism spectrum the ability to pick up on cues and understand what is a joke or what is meant seriously may still be difficult, and that can also make protecting oneself from being manipulated or to recognize danger more difficult. People with autism and other mental or physical disability or differences can be more at risk for being abused physically or sexually. Abusers may encourage silence with threats or guilt or if something is said then deny or blame the victim for the abuse.

Physical health can make mental skills or symptoms better or worse – better is better in my opinion.

How healthy or well rested and well nourished a person of any health can affect their ability to understand and respond quickly to situations however it can make even more of  difference in a person with an inflammatory condition which may be an underlying problem for many people on the autism spectrum or with Asperger’s syndrome (the terms are used somewhat interchangeably but symptoms can vary among individuals significantly). Nutrient deficiencies can make mental health symptoms worse for anyone but again may have more obvious impact for someone with a history of trauma or with ADHD or bipolar disorder – symptoms can be somewhat similar across a variety of mental health conditions. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can also increase mood or physical symptoms.

Recognition of social differences and recovery from physical problems led to improvement in Asperger’s symptoms – with a lot of work – according to this story: https://blog.bulletproof.com/aspergers-symptoms-treatment/

Many factors have been found that can be involved in developing autism however they all lead to the similar problem of inflammation. So individually discovering what toxins and environmental or physical problems are causing inflammation and slowly working to reduce the load of negatives and increase the positives such as antioxidants or relaxation methods is the – with a lot of work. The goal isn’t to negate a person – to prevent a person but to improve health for a person and to improve quality of life physically and that often also improves mental agility in a variety of settings, social or academic or creative. Asperger’s syndrome and some individuals on the autism spectrum may have above average skills in some areas. The increased number of synaptic connections may also increase some creative and intellectual abilities.

The potential benefit of having a healthy brain on the autism spectrum: More synaptic connections and supportive brain cells may be involved with increased creativity and intellectual ability.

Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were both scientists who may have had some traits similar to Asperger’s Syndrome and who both made significant discoveries regarding physics. (newscientist.com) Albert Einstein’s brain was examined after his death to see if there was any differences, the number of brain cells involved in sending nerve signals was similar to average however more support cells/glial cells were found, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. (npr.org)

Astrocytes are a type of glial cell that may help with supporting fluid balance within the brain and helping with removal of toxins from normal metabolism – think a lot and you burn a lot of energy and that does leave some leftover material that needs to be removed. Oligodendrocytes are glial cells that help build the myelin coating around the connecting branches between brain cells. Myelin coating allows brain signals to be sent at a much faster rate than between cells without the fatty layer of insulating material. Oligodendrocytes support many brain cells, not just one, so they may also help with strengthening more helpful connections and pruning off less helpful branches – speeding up beneficial routes and removing less efficient pathways.

Autism seems to involve a difference in early childhood development when typically excess connecting pathways between brain cells are removed. The extra connecting pathways are removed as much as typical in the brain of a person with autism. This difference may make it easier to notice many details but also may make it easier to become overstimulated. Valuing each other’s differences can aid society as we benefit from each other’s strengths and support each other in ways where we may need help.

The connecting pathways in men and women tend to be slightly different – men tend to have more stronger connections within each separate side of the brain – within the right or left hemisphere, while women tend to have more strong connections that cross from one side to the other. (video) Loss of communication abilities after a stroke may be less severe in women than in men due to this tendency. 

Reducing inflammation may help protect against both short term worsening of symptoms and protect against development or worsening of chronic illnesses.

Reducing inflammation after a stroke or in any inflammatory condition can help protect against damaging oxidative stress chemicals. Foods rich in antioxidants and other plant phytonutrients can help reduce oxidative stress directly by providing antioxidants or indirectly by helping to signal to our own body to increase our own production of antioxidants. In normal health we make many protective chemicals and it would be difficult to match the amount from diet alone. The combination of antioxidants from the diet and our own internal production can be most effective. Pomegranate and other colorful fruits, (variety of links), vegetables, herbs and spices, and whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds all can help provide antioxidants and the other beneficial phytonutrients to help boost our own production of antioxidants.

I have not protected myself in situations where I was uncomfortable but didn’t seem to have control of myself let alone assertiveness skills to control the situation. Sleeplessness, extreme stress and fear, and nutrient deficiency were all problems. I have read a lot about assertiveness skills and interpersonal skills and also about the health impact of sleeplessness and nutrient deficiency and I hope to never feel taken advantage of again. I share information because pain hurts, whether physical, emotional or inflammatory. It takes a lot of work to cope with specialized health needs or even to maintain general health needs at an optimal level.

Sleep, enough and of good quality, helps in many ways, more on this topic later.

I will write more about sleep in a separate post, some information is in this previous post about sleep and Alzheimer’s dementia. Autism may also be more prevalent in males than females because Alzheimer’s is more prevalent in post menopausal females than males or younger females – some cases of autism and Alzheimer’s may be related conditions in which the presence of estrogen has a protective effect against an inflammatory autoimmune like response of white blood cells (immune cells & neurological conditions).

Colorful produce often has antioxidants and other phytonutrients that help promote our own ability to make antioxidants and benefit our immune system.

Preventing worsening of symptoms and maintaining more stable health and mood for individuals on the autism spectrum may help prevent chronic conditions or other psychiatric conditions from developing or worsening. I have been experimenting with healing foods for my own diet (summary links in this post) and a next step would be to try to prepare products to share with a test market or clinical trial group.

Pomegranate peel is more concentrated in phytonutrients and with a slightly different group than the fruit seeds and juice which are also nutritious. People already eat the fruit and juice is also available however the peel has only been used in animal and few human studies within a whole fruit extract. My health and mood seems greatly improved with as little as a spoonful or two of my version of peel extract, which is made in a similar way to vegetable soup stock which uses peels and other excess from certain types of vegetables. The peel extract is quite acidic, similar to lemon juice, and I’ve used it on salads or added to soup. I’ve also thickened it slightly and flavored it with extra spices and that recipe makes a flavorful additive for coffee or tea. I’ve baked with it in order to try to have a more shelf stable product for traveling but it can be easy to eat too much of a food that tastes good but which actually does have medicinal qualities. The dose of a spoonful or two is small enough that dehydrating it and putting it in capsules would likely be possible for a supplement company.

I share this information because I care, and it would be nice to be able to just buy (or manufacture in my own company) the powdered peel extract – the more companies and individuals who add nutrient dense foods to their diets and products the better in my opinion. The planet needs healthy people if only to reduce the waste level from medical supplies and to reduce the amount of medications in the ground water from our own waste products. Pomegranates are fairly drought tolerant and are grown for commercial sale in the U.S., South America, Australia, and New Zealand. They likely are grown in other areas too. Other varieties than the main commercial variety are available which can tolerate different growing conditions (more info, npr.org), and which may have similar or slightly different health benefits than the commercially available type.

Ideas for development – may be helpful in many areas of the world.

Recipes can not be copyrighted but a cookbook or article can be. Products based on foods and herbs can not be patented but specific company formulations can be kept a trade secret. The benefit of a trade secret is no time limit as long as the secret is protected, while patents or copyrights have a limited number of years of legal protection.

It is never too soon to try something new!

Cookbooks or video tutorials, deli style restaurant, group home with a centralized kitchen – many options exist in life and all may be helpful in different markets. Autism and other mental health conditions including Alzheimer’s dementia have become more prevalent. Alzheimer’s dementia is very sad in that the area of the brain that forms new memories is preferentially damaged and symptoms aren’t severe enough for diagnosis until after a large percentage of the area is affected. Prevention ten to twenty years earlier would be the best strategy. Brain cells don’t regrow typically. Improvements after a stroke occur by undamaged areas of the brain being retrained for new tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is an inflammatory process that effects large regions. 

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Might Alzheimer’s involve an infection-leading to inflammation?

With the disappointing results regarding medications to reduce the levels of protein build-up involved with Alzheimer’s dementia there has been a renewed interest in the question of whether an underlying infection is causing the excess inflammation. The protein build-up may be an immune reaction that normally may help fight infection but in Alzheimer’s dementia builds up to damaging levels. Read more: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/09/09/645629133/infectious-theory-of-alzheimers-disease-draws-fresh-interest?

Strategies to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation (previous post with a summary of possible strategies that may help) are still likely to be helpful but if infection is involved an antiviral or antibiotic may also be helpful, especially if used ten or twenty years prior to when more obvious symptoms occur – so research scientists also look for low cost, low risk screening methods to help identify people with early stages such as the excess protein build-up.

million + search results for more reading on what is known about amyloid beta protein and it’s role against infection: intracellular infectious pathogen amyloid beta protein

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Myelin and Neuroscience, the short story

Well, 800+ pages of Neuroscience textbook later, (1), the short story on myelin regeneration is – while regrowth is somewhat possible to damaged areas outside of the brain, it doesn’t really happen much within the brain. Preventing breakdown and maintaining or adding to the synaptic connections that exist may be a more realistic goal. The chemical signals that occur from inflammatory white blood cells can lead to increased breakdown of cells and myelin, and may also cause increased production of unnecessary protein or cells, somewhat like building scar tissue to wall off a damaged area – but if inflammation is occurring throughout the brain than large areas of the brain are developing the scar tissue.

In addition to stopping the causes of inflammation and providing the body with adequate nutrients and antioxidants to cope with oxidative stress, the “use it or lose it” principle sometimes mentioned in exercise may apply to the brain and synaptic connections. Staying mentally and socially active as well as physically active is helpful for maintaining the synaptic connections and nerve connections that connect brain cells with each other and with the muscles and rest of the body parts. If synaptic connections aren’t used they may be more likely to be lost, dismantled for spare parts possibly if there is some nutrient deficiency.

The nerve connections between cells can be as long as an arm or a leg for some that connect the spinal cord with muscles in the hand or foot and the synaptic connection is right the very end. The route between is like a little tunnel where protein and signalling chemicals are transported from the cell body in the spine all the way to the synaptic junction near a nerve cell in the hand or foot. Energy producing mitochondria also travel along this route from the cell body out to the synapse. Aging seems to cause a breakdown in the internal transport system within the tunnel and then the synapse is less likely to be able to receive the mitochondria or other signaling proteins that are produced within the cell body. The body is a miracle but it needs help from adequate protein, essential fats, and adequate carbohydrate in addition to all the more specialized vitamins and minerals. 

I have more reading to do, review the introductory textbook and read more of the advanced topics in more specific research articles. The good news though remains – prevention of inflammation is possible with diet and lifestyle changes, (see the summary points in the last post), however the clean air, water, and avoidance of other environmental toxins might be more difficult depending on where you live.

Addition: Spinal cord injuries may have more potential for healing than brain injuries – brain cells that are involved with smelling are some of the few types of brain cells that continue to divide and replicate throughout life, possibly because they are more exposed to the outside world. Transplanting some of them into the area of a spinal injury has had some success for reversing paralyzing damage to the spine. (2)

Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

  1.  Neuroscience, 6th Edition, Editors D. Purves, G.J. Augustine, D. Fitzpatrick, W.C. Hall, A.S. LaMantia, R.D. Mooney, ML. Platt, L.E. White, (Sinauer Associates, Oxford University Press, 2018, New York) (Barnes&Noble)
  2. Anna Z, Katarzyna J-W, Joanna C, Barczewska M, Joanna W, Wojciech M. Therapeutic Potential of Olfactory Ensheathing Cells and Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Spinal Cord Injuries. Stem Cells International. 2017;2017:3978595. doi:10.1155/2017/3978595. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5337375/