Zinc--a critical element for autism

Zinc is detrimental in the nutritional healing process of autism, ADHD or other behavioral condition.

It is known to play a vital role in neonatal development and is involved in countless metabolic and signaling pathways within the body.

One of the many critical roles of zinc is in gastrointestinal function and gut-brain interaction. There is indication in some research that zinc deficiency among mothers during pregnancy can play a role in the development of gastrointestinal functions of infants/children.

Zinc is critically important for neurotransmitter production, thyroid function and hormone balancing.

Zinc has been found to improve cognition in children with autism and ADHD as well as lessen hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Zinc has also been found to play an important role in sensory integration as well as taste and smells with food. Because of this, zinc supplementation can sometimes be very beneficial in getting extremely picky eaters to try new foods.

Having zinc and copper serum levels checked are proving to be very helpful in knowing the right amount of supplementation to acquire. Zinc and copper ratios have shown in research to be a major indicator of severity of autism.

Studies indicate that zinc and copper have a huge impact on GABA neurotransmitters as well as mercury accumulation in bodily tissues.

The highest amounts of zinc are found most abundantly in oysters, lentils, and green peas. Absorption from food is typically only about 33% in healthy adults, which makes supplementation necessary in many individuals.

Zinc supplementation is also typically necessary to pull someone out of a deficient state. The recommended daily dose is 12-15mg for healthy individuals but may need more depending on signs, symptoms and nutritional status.

Speak to your healthcare provider or Clinical Nutritionist to have a better understanding of yours or your child’s individual needs.



Shawna Kunselman, MSACN

Contact me for more information






Bjourklund, G. , The role of zinc and copper in autism spectrum disorders,Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2013;73(2):225-36.,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23823984

 Guillermo Vela, Zinc in Gut-Brain Interaction in Autism and Neurological Disorders, Neural Plasticity
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 972791, 15 pages

Babaknejad N, The Relationship between Zinc Levels and Autism: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis., Iran J Child Neurol. 2016 Fall;10(4):1-9.



Nutrient Deficiencies are typically the Root Cause of Behaviors. Get the list of Most Needed Supplements for Behavioral Conditions!

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How to Fix Leaky Gut!

This is Part 2 of the Leaky Gut series. Check Part 1 out here which explains what Leaky Gut (Intestinal Hyperpermeability) is and why you should care!

As previously explained, up to 80% of our immune systems lie within our digestive tract. If it is out of whack, we will not have optimal health. This is the case with ailments from acne to eczema and arthritis, autoimmune conditions to autism, and even cancer,  heart disease and diabetes.

Many conditions lead to leaky gut including food sensitivities, pesticides in our foods and medications we take. As I have said before, our bodies are absolutely amazing and can heal themselves when given the right components and the right environment. Let’s take a look to see what can be done.

Functional medicine likes to refer to this as the “4R” approach. Remove, Replace, Reinoculate and Repair.


  • We need to remove offending foods, alcohol, medications, and stress. Yes, I know this does not seem easy! But, once you start feeling better and optimizing your health, you will wonder why you waited so long to take this approach.
  • The most inflammatory foods tend to be gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, sugar, and corn. Are you asking yourself “What will I eat?” Try to focus on the foods you can have! There are many! Refer to my Getting Started Guide to see the best approaches to take and the most nutrient dense foods to eat.
  • Don’t remove any medications without speaking to your doctor! But, ask him/her which ones you may be able to get off. Once implementing a whole foods diet and removing offending foods which are causing inflammation and reactions in your body, most people find they are able to get off medications such as PPI (prevacid, Nexium, etc.), Statins, and NSAIDS. All of these wreak havoc on the digestive tract and therefore, the immune system. They inflame the gut lining and they prevent critical nutrients from absorbing.
  • Stress---Who doesn’t have it?! We all have stress…but we have to learn to effectively manage that stress. Take time for yourself; get a massage, go on a long walk, pray/meditate, do yoga, get out in nature. Nature in itself is truly healing. Find what you love to do and make sure to do it!



  • We need to replace the agents needed for optimal digestive support. Years of all of the above ↑↑ has diminished enzymes in our gut which is crucial for it to be at optimal performance.
  • Consider a short course of pancreatic enzymes and in some cases Betaine HCL; your Clinical Nutritionist or Functional Medicine practitioner can advise further in this area.



  • The good, friendly bacteria must be replaced. Antibiotic use wipes these healing bacteria away. Replenish them with a probiotic supplement including Lactobacilli and Biffidobacteria. These friendly bacteria in the colon produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide that keeps the growth of bad bacteria in check. They have been found to improve diarrhea in those taking antibiotics and have been found to be helpful in reducing the growth of yeast (very common in many ailments but especially autism—more on this in another article). These amazing bacteria also help support the integrity of the lining of the intestines. Fermented foods such as Bubbies Fermented Pickles and Sauerkraut are also awesome ways to get these good bacteria.


  • Pre-biotics---These feed the probiotics! If you are taking your probiotic in supplement form make sure it has FOS (fructooligosaccharides) added. Otherwise, you can eat bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, asparagus and garlic to help feed the supply! 🙂



  • Now we have to repair the mucosal lining….remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Unfortunately, it is not an overnight process. However, the results are well worth it.
  • Regular aerobic exercise can help with this. Stress induced enzymes which disrupt the GI barrier is greatly reduced just with exercise alone.
  • Additional supplements may also be needed to further repair the gut lining, depending on the severity of leaky gut. Your functional medicine practitioner or Clinical Nutritionist can help guide you in this area.



If you have any questions or would like to set up a private consultation, Contact Me.


Good luck on your transition to optimal health!

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apple, autism, digestion, autoimmune, nutrition

Why is Digestive Health so Important?


Research over the past 2 decades is finding that most chronic health conditions begin with the health of our digestive systems. An unhealthy gut contributes to disorders such as diabetes, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis. There is growing evidence that our gut microbiome (balance of good and bad bacteria) can even contribute to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease as well.

So, what makes the Gastrointestinal (GI) system so crucial?

The GI system digests nutrients from foods to utilize for energy growth and cell repair. Nutrients are broken down into carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are carried through the blood to cells throughout our bodies. This bacteria influences the intestinal immune responses and is critical for maintaining metabolic balance. Vitamins and Minerals are cofactors for enzymatic reactions and metabolism and all of these nutrients are precursors to neurotransmitters. In fact, the greatest concentration—up to 90% of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that stabilizes our moods) is in the digestive tract. Just as a small example, most B vitamins (which the majority of people are deficient in) is mandatory for the body to produce serotonin. The GI tract is now being referred to by many experts as the “second brain”, as it contains hundreds of millions of neurons—even more than the spinal cord peripheral nervous system.

70%-80% of our immune systems lies within our digestive tract. It is our physical barrier of defense against harmful bacteria, viruses, etc. With this close link between the digestive tract and our immune system, if the GI is not well maintained it can lead to a host of health issues and multiple auto immune diseases. Intestinal permeability (or leaky gut) is recognized as a leading contributor to multiple diseases such as autoimmune, cancer, autism, diabetes and even heart disease.

What is Leaky Gut?

As mentioned, the intestinal wall is a first line of defense for the immune system. If the cells of the intestinal wall become weak, waste and foreign matter (toxins, yeast, bacteria, etc.) are able to pass out of the bowels and into systemic circulation. The damaged microvilli inhibits specific digestive enzymes from breaking down foods for needed nutrients in the body. Undigested foods also “leak” through the intestinal wall. This increased permeability of the intestinal wall leads to the escape of specific materials which then triggers an inflammation. This chronic inflammatory reaction is what eventually leads to disease.

What are some of the symptoms of leaky gut?

Symptoms of “leaky gut” (intestinal permeability) vary from person to person. The chronic inflammation can settle in various places throughout the body causing an array of different symptoms. Common symptoms associated with leaky gut are:

• Multiple food sensitivities—a sign that your body is creating a response to everything you are eating.

• Multiple nutritional deficiencies—a sign that there is improper breakdown and absorption of the foods you are eating.

• Skin rashes—your body is trying to dump the released toxins through your largest organ—your skin

• Chronic diarrhea and constipation—signs of inflammation of the intestinal walls

• Frequent illness—poor immune system resulting from your body being in constant immune response with its own body and unable to tend to the constant bacteria and viruses encountered day to day

• Headaches, brain fog, memory loss and chronic fatigue—signs of inflammation and toxin buildup

• Cravings for sugar (carbs), gas, bloating and anxiety—signs of Candida (yeast overgrowth) in the gut caused by the leaky gut

All of these symptoms can lead back to one thing---a constant inflammatory state in the digestive tract which is allowing the flow of undigested particles through the blood stream. If leaky gut is not taken care, chronic disease as mentioned earlier can erupt.

Refer to Article #2 in this series to learn how to fix leaky gut.

1. Campbell AW. Autoimmunity and the Gut. Autoimmune Diseases. 2014;2014:152428. doi:10.1155/2014/152428.
2. Wu H-J, Wu E. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes. 2012;3(1):4-14. doi:10.4161/gmic.19320.
3. Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 2008;153(Suppl 1):3-6. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x.
4. Mayes MD. Epidemiologic studies of environmental agents and systemic autoimmune diseases. Environ Health Perspect. 1999;107 Suppl 5:743-8.
5. Lerner A, Matthias T. Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease. Autoimmun Rev. 2015;14(6):479-89.

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