In a 2015 study, it found that a high percentage of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders were deficient in zinc, a mineral that is needed for many metabolic and neurological processes, including the development and health of the nervous system and production of hormones and neurotransmitters for good mental health. Hence a deficiency of zinc can cause hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances and dysfunction seen in autism. The study also reported that the zinc deficiency was often accompanied by a copper overload or copper toxicity, which can result in impaired social behaviour, and impaired language and communication issues, common in autism disorders.
Zinc is also needed for good immune system function, for good functioning of the senses, for good digestive system function, and many more uses. Digestive issues are very common in those with autism disorders. And with gut issues being linked to brain conditions, this can explain part of the common digestive issues seen in autism, or in zinc deficiency. Such conditions include chronic constipation or diarrhoea, indigestion, reflux, heartburn, pains, bloating and gas, as well as digestive issues like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, leaky gut and irritable bowel disease.
The same study found that incidences of autism can increase from pregnant women who are deficient in zinc, and women who are pregnant and breastfeeding need a higher intake of zinc-rich food or supplements, or this can result in deficiencies in the mother and baby to cause neurological and digestive conditions in both.
Zinc isn't the only answer to explaining or treating autism disorders, but it is one of many factors which can greatly help in a holistic treatment plan for sufferers. Zinc deficiency is also an issue in many other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and others. Zinc deficiency is an issue I see a lot in my clinical practice, mainly from a poor intake of zinc-rich foods, and the increasing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets which are generally low in zinc. Stress also depletes zinc, so a high-stress environment can lead to a deficiency even if your intake is good.
Your zinc and copper levels can be tested, as can other nutritional minerals and toxic metals, which are also common in autism disorders. If you have other mental health symptoms or digestive symptoms (mentioned above), I can help with nutritional advice and supplementation if needed, to help reduce your symptoms and improve your health! The right form of zinc is crucial, as some are much better than others.