Many children, with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, have seen benefit from a gluten free diet. The scientific rationale for this benefit is because gluten stimulates serotonin production and mobilization (release). In ASD there is a deficiency in MAO-A activity, resulting in a build-up of serotonin because MAO-A breaks down serotonin into it’s active aldehyde. This build-up of serotonin inhibits oxytocin nerve growth, increases in cortisol production, and increases beta-endorphin production, all of which are seen in ASD. So gluten compounds the problem by stimulating the gut to produce and release more serotonin into the blood stream. This is why a gluten free diet has been beneficial to many children with a spectrum disorder.
The active ingredient in Respen-A is reserpine. Research shows that reserpine will double the activity of MAO-A. Thus by increasing the activity of MAO-A with Respen-A, the serotonin level is decreased and converted into its active aldehyde metabolite. Because of this breakdown of serotonin by MAO-A, serotonin must be replenished, such as through eating meat or taking the supplement of L-Tryptophan daily. We have found that in some children on a gluten free diet, just eating meat or taking L-Tryptophan, isn’t adequate after being on Respen-A. These children often show improvement in the first month to six months of using Respen-A and then they start to exhibit a return of their symptoms or become withdrawn, depressed, and sad. We find that these children have needed to add back into their diet a little bit of gluten. The reason is, L-Tryptophan from meat is the precursor to producing serotonin. The serotonin that is produced, is then stored in vesicles in the cell. The serotonin must then be released or mobilized from these vesicles into the synapse (the nerve junction), where it can be converted by MAO-A to its active aldehyde. Gluten triggers the mobilization and release of the serotonin from the vesicles.