The onset of puberty increases testosterone in boys which is the normal adolescence growth pattern.
However, for a large percentage of children on the autism spectrum and some neurotypical children, testosterone levels may elevate at a much younger age than normal.
Precocious Puberty and Autism
Neurotypical children who develop symptoms of early puberty are diagnosed with a condition called Central Precocious Puberty or Peripheral Precocious Puberty.
Both conditions are often treated with Lupron injections to keep the testosterone levels down.
However, it is important to try and understand why testosterone levels might be elevated in the first place.
Mark Geier MD, PhD, an endocrinologist and geneticist along with his son David Geier, found that approximately 80% of boys and girls with autism experience precocious puberty.
The onset of puberty for any child is a time period of great difficulty and transition, but for children with autism, it can be a time of significant endocrine dysfunction.
Even female children with autism are also affected by elevated testosterone levels.
Research studies have found that increased levels of testosterone in children with autism suppress a gene called RORA which hinders aromatase, an enzyme produced by this gene that converts testosterone to estrogen.
This may be one possible factor of why many females with autism have high levels of testosterone.
The Mercury Connection
The Geiers, on the other hand, performed many peer-review studies on the effects of mercury (which is androgenic) and how mercury increases the body’s levels of testosterone resulting in more masculine features and traits.
Children today are being exposed to more mercury than ever before. It is found in:
- Some medicines
- Dental amalgams
- Consumer products such as compact fluorescent light bulbs
- General environmental exposures in the air, water and soil
Mercury and Glutathione
The Geiers also found that high levels of testosterone can block the body’s ability to make glutathione, which is the master antioxidant in the body that is necessary for detoxification and excretion of toxins.
Through their research, the Geiers concluded that mercury has a relationship with glutathione: when glutathione levels are low, mercury levels are high and vice versa.
This correlation holds true for many other toxins.
Furthermore, mercury binds to glutathione, thus inactivating whatever stored levels there may be in the body.
The inability to excrete toxins, in conjunction with our extremely toxic environment and the accumulated effects of toxic overload, are all significant issues for children with autism.
Dr. Geier prescribed Lupron for children with autism to keep the testosterone levels in normal range.
He found that many parents reported incredible benefits such as:
- A major reduction in aggressive behaviors
- Alessening of puberty on-set seizures (1 in 4 boys with autism develop seizures at the on-set of puberty)
He believed that Lupron was a much safer choice for children with autism than having to resort to psychotropic drugs that are addictive or even possible institutionalization due to the severe aggressive behaviors from high testosterone.
The following are some of the behavioral and physical symptoms of high testosterone in children with autism:
- Social withdrawal
- Pubic and underarm hair
- High anxiety
- Increased sweating
- Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
- Increased body odor
- Facial and body hair
- Oppositional behaviors
- Sudden growth spurt
- Excessive bone growth
- Physical aggression
- Early menstruation in girls
- Penis and testicle enlargement
- Sleep issues
- Breast growth
- Sexual activity such as masturbation
- Lower voice
- Muscular physique
- Eating issues
- Increased strength in anger
Please note: Some parents have found apple pectin and the herb Angelica Gigas to be effective at decreasing testosterone levels.
However, they may not be effective enough depending on the testosterone levels and the age of the child.
It may also be effective for girls with high testosterone to increase estrogen levels at the time of puberty when girls should be more estrogen dominant.
This may help decrease some autism traits in girls with autism.