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Turning On the Brain Self-Healing Pathway Called Nrf2- Key for Autism and Brain Health

Your body is equipped with an amazing self-healing mechanism called the Nrf2 Pathway. The Nrf2 pathway's role is to activate the production of internal antioxidants and detoxification enzymes in the body, especially the brain. The Nrf2 pathway is present all around the brain and protects the neurons or brain cells from damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress (2). I see the Nrf2 pathway like the brain's own Secret Service that is built to protect brain cells from toxins or inflammation.

The Nrf2 pathway is diminished in children with autism and can be the reason for high levels of neuroinflammation in this community (2).

How Can We Activate This Brain Self-Healing Pathway?(4)

*Eating broccoli is a great first step. One of the most potent Nrf2 activators is sulforaphane found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.

*Supplementing with sulforaphane can be another excellent choice. Thorne Research or Avmacol are high-quality choices. Sulforaphane has demonstrated effectiveness in improving behavior in autism (3).


*Green tea

*EPA and DHA from Fish Oil



*Vitamin D3

In summary, our body, especially the brain, is equipped with a self-healing mechanism called the Nrf2 pathway, and this mechanism can be activated by eating nutritious foods and high-quality supplements. This internal mechanism's activation may be a new way to improve patients affected by autism and neurodegenerative diseases.

"To become successful and outstanding at something, we don't have

to come up with something new; we need only to find ways of doing

it better."

Earl Nightingale

There is hope for Autism!

David Rivas, RPh, MSc, CCN

Pharmacist and Clinical Nutritionist/Consultant


(1): Sun, Y., Yang, T., K Leak, R., Chen, J., & Zhang, F. (2017). Preventive and protective roles of dietary Nrf2 activators against central nervous system diseases. CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-CNS & Neurological Disorders), 16(3), 326-338.

(2): Nadeem, A., Ahmad, S. F., Al-Ayadhi, L. Y., Attia, S. M., Al-Harbi, N. O., Alzahrani, K. S., & Bakheet, S. A. (2020). Differential regulation of Nrf2 is linked to elevated inflammation and nitrative stress in monocytes of children with autism. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 113, 104554.

(3): Singh, K., Connors, S. L., Macklin, E. A., Smith, K. D., Fahey, J. W., Talalay, P., & Zimmerman, A. W. (2014). Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(43), 15550-15555.

(4): Hodges, R. E., & Minich, D. M. (2015). Modulation of metabolic detoxification pathways using foods and food-derived components: a scientific review with clinical application. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2015.

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