Supplements and Autism: The Difference Between Dependence, Support, and Optimizing Physiologic Function

Written by: Julie A. Buckley, MD

The last few weeks, I’ve heard several variations on a theme:  “I don’t want him to become dependent on melatonin to sleep” , “I don’t want my body to have to have that methylfolate” and “Will she have to take this supplement forever?”

These are words I’ve heard many times over the years, and it’s worth addressing periodically.  The bottom line, I think, is this- our reluctance to use a substance whose only job is to be a Band-Aid is often appropriate- although choosing to bleed to death over using a bandage is probably unwise…  It’s a different thing entirely when we’re talking about correcting and supporting chemistry and naturally occurring substances that your body must take in, or synthesize, in order to function optimally.

We know that there are folks who simply do not make enough melatonin to fall asleep.  Asking them to go to sleep at night without giving them some melatonin might be like asking a child who needs glasses to read the board at school without them.

If you are an MTHFR SNP person (and 40% of the general population is, so it’s not rare) your biochemical/metabolic/folate metabolism pathways are going to have a harder time making methylfolate.  Your body is also going to be slower at setting the rest of the pathway up to manufacture glutathione, the master antioxidant.  That part is an unavoidable result of genetic coding.  Trying to get through life without supporting the work of that pathway is sort of like deciding that you could have two arms to do pushups like the rest of the world does when they are in physical education class, but you’ll just do one-armed pushups for life.  It’s harder.  Ultimately you’ll do fewer pushups for a shorter period of time and probably of lower quality.  Would you choose one arm or two for optimal long-term push-up performance?