Dr. Julie Buckley wows us with revelations about GABA levels and ways to address GABA and anxiety puberty and beyond, especially in autistic teens.

Listen on to hear about:

-GABA supplementation


-Diet and

-Presumption of Competence (isn’t it amazing how this finds its way in the most seemingly unlikely of places)



Listen On


Disclaimer: The information in this Podcast is for educational purposes only. Vaishnavi Sarathy, Ph.D. is an educator, not a doctor, specifically not your child’s doctor. Please consult your physician before implementing any supplement or diet recommendations.

Audio Transcription: 


How often do we hear about puberty-induced anxiety? The answer for me is close to never, which is why I was beyond excited to interview Dr. Julie Buckley, who speaks into this topic so beautifully. I would encourage you to stay for the gem that she shares about high sugar correlating with high testosterone and estrogen dominance. Welcome to functional nutrition and learning for kids.

I’m your host Vaish. This is your podcast for everything Biomed functional nutrition and out-of-the-box learning strategies for your child with autism or Down syndrome or learning disability. Oh, and this week, I have a giveaway. The first five people to drop a review for this podcast in the next two weeks, you can write a blank email to me with the subject review posted so you can just put in a subject review posted and you can send an email to Vaish, that’s vaish@functionalnutritionforkids.com. Get into a drawer for a free mushroom match giveaway this is the matcha that I speak about all the time on my Instagram page. And I will post to get it in two weeks.

I’m really excited to introduce Dr. Julie Buckley today. Dr. Buckley is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital, the University of Miami pediatric residency program, and most recently, the Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner program. Dr. Buckley developed an interest in autism and her daughter developed symptoms of autism at four years old. And that’s when Dr. battle began using an integrative or functional medicine approach to autism as a result of which her daughter has had remarkable recoveries.

Now as a result of this success, this approach has been implemented into a unique and diverse practice in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. She’s also the author of several books, including healing or autistic children, which came out in 2009. She’s an international speaker on Autism and Related Disorders.

Dr. Buckley has founded the healthy you now Foundation, which is a nonprofit dedicated to creating healthy living, treatment, and residential facilities for individuals and their families impacted by autism. She’s also co-founded the healing autism Academy, which is an online learning platform for families. In addition, she sinks Corley she scuba dives and enjoys diverse activities with her family and adult children. While Dr. Buckley I think this is the most diverse bio that I’ve ever read.

I’m a fan already. And welcome to this podcast. Thanks for coming in. I was hearing as I was telling you a few minutes ago, I was hearing some of your speeches that he gave a talk this year and before and you’ve always struck me as this one person that talks about puberty and tells us things that I have not heard about additional complications associated with puberty, hormones, neurotransmitters, and so on and anxiety. So if you would like to tell us if you’d like to start talking about what is the difference that you see in children with autism pre and post-puberty?

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Well, first off, thanks so much for having me, it’s just a, it’s real pleasure to be able to talk about some of my favorite things. So what I have found with puberty over time, is that the anxiety that our children live with just becomes exponentially magnified and becomes a much, much, much bigger deal than it already is. And you know, I’m very lucky to be able to have my daughter be able to speak to me to talk to me about what’s going on with her. And it’s been quite an exercise because it’s probably the hardest topic she that she deals with is you know, what’s actually happening with her. But the interest in and the understanding of anxiety and puberty became something that I kind of discovered sideways.

One of the things that we know happens with our kids very, very often as they go through puberty is that a huge number of them will develop seizures. And after it happened to me in my house, I thought why on God’s earth is this happening? Because that’s really strange. And they’re that understanding why it happens would be the way to begin to work on preventing it from happening and others and dealing with it uniquely with our kids. And it took me hours and hours and hours of hunting the internet but I found a paper that said that it’s a fallen gabbeh And I was I thought huh, falling GABA? Well GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms down everything and keeps it from all firing simultaneously in the chaotic hot mess.

When GABA falls it’ll make it much easier for a ticklish brain if you will to go ahead and have seizures and to fire indiscriminately. But what’s interesting is that a falling GABA is also something that will result in a rise in anxiety. And we’ve used GABA in varying amounts with kids for years and years and years to help manage anxiety with good success. And so I kind of took that and thought, well, good grief, if GABA falls, then is that why every single, every single teenager in the world is a hot mess? And it’s just exponentially worse than our kids with autism? And should we put air conditioning vents filled with GABA when you’ve got pubertal? Home? Is an idea. Yeah.

I mean, because if you talk to all of us, there’s not one of us who would say, Yeah, I’ll go to puberty. Again. It was fun. So, that was the beginning of finding this, this issue. And, you know, so So neurochemically, I think that we can, we can say, okay, GABA definitely falls as we go into puberty, that’s what allows all the sex hormones to begin to, to do their thing and why kids will actually go into puberty. And a falling GABA is going to really result in more anxiety.

The other thing that I think is a very real issue, and when you talk about puberty in autism, why is it so much harder? I think that one of the other things that happen is our kids work so hard at improving their health, they work so hard with their families and therapies, they work so hard at getting to where they’ve got some control back of their body.

They work so hard. I mean, it’s therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy, trying to get control of a body to get that motor planning going so that they can actually show us what they know. And just like many kids who go through puberty, neurotypical children, there’s this dysphoria, there’s this, I don’t feel great, though, you know, what is going on in the world? And all of these probing questions that we tend to have in puberty, and when you compound that with, are you kidding, this is still my body. I, and now I’m going to have this forever.

It was supposed to get better by now. Right? And I think that there’s an element of frustration, I think that there’s an element of I’ve worked so hard, how come this isn’t it isn’t better? It is right? It isn’t more improved? Why isn’t it doing better? And I think the other thing that happens also is that when you go into puberty, and you watch the rest of the world move along, doing the next level of things, and you realize that you’re still not going to be able to participate in some of that, or certainly, everybody sees that you are in fact different to us see that you are different.

It probably shows more than it did when you were three and four and five. I think that that’s harder. And that’s very anxiety-provoking. So for me, as I watched children approach puberty go into puberty, very, very often, there’s just a tremendous ramp-up and anxiety. And we manage it if I can with a lot more GABA, and then I like to use things that will influence that GABA a receptor. So that’s kind of the start of what we do with puberty.


Thank you. And I have a couple of follow-up questions. One is that when you say talk about the Fallen GABA, the immediate thing is that the kind of a knee-jerk reaction that people may have, including myself is that oh, I should supplement GABA. How does diet figure into this? I was wondering if you can just supplement GABA and not worry about diet? Or how does

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Not my house. So I love talking about food. It’s just probably one of the most important things we do. But no, I don’t.

You know, we I have people who would rather give me give me 30 pills before I change how I’m eating. And Sid Baker who’s probably my favorite clinician in the entire universe has these pearls of wisdom that he drops at our feet and he says most people would rather die than change their diet and then truthfully, I have watched people choose to die rather than change what they put in their mouths.

Which is just a phenomenal thing to behold. But the need to change how we eat is very real and there’s an awful lot of pressure against it. And you need all you have to do is turn on your phone and because you’ll get bombarded with whatever media using that way watch the television, you’re going to get bombarded that way. And the idea of everybody being in the kitchen together cooking together with a purpose. So of nourishing each other on a regular basis and eating the leftovers from their own family in their own home, and the food that they make is something that is almost a foreign concept. In this day and age, I grew up, I’m old enough now and my mother cooked our meals, and my father, my father got pressed into service because it was that time of, of in life where men started to do some of those household chores as well. But we cooked we didn’t have anything that was processed food in our house.

I mean, a cake mix was the most processed thing that we ever saw. And you still had to make that. And is it when you cook from scratch, you have the opportunity to, to, to get back to the way God intended us to eat as far as I’m concerned, which is, you know, cooking things that are that actually grew, eat what grew. Eat your colors, and they need to be the colors that God gave the food, get rid of the sugar, get rid of grains, I mean, grains, were not something that was easy for us to eat.

I always go back to what was? What were we supposed to be eating when God stuck us here outside naked? 24/7? And, you know, what would you eat? If you couldn’t come back inside? And the answer is always going to be green leafy plant matter. That’s the easy one, you know, and the only thing you’re going to drink is water.

Okay, well from there, then you’re going to get some eggs maybe some fish once in a while, it’s gonna take me a little while to I can run fast enough to catch some animal or fashion some sort of a weapon to be able to get that animal. So you know, it’s thinking about the way we were intended to eat and then trying to mimic that because that’s what the body was designed for.

That’s how it’s going to work at its very, very best. And sugar is incredibly inflammatory. And when things are inflammatory, by extension going, trying to go back full circle to the idea of puberty and how does food influence puberty. When sugar is high, insulin is high, when insulin is high, sex hormone-binding globulin is low. And that’s that should make everybody go Wait, what did she just say, sex hormone-binding globulin goes low, well, that means I’m gonna have a whole lot of free testosterone floating around.


And we don’t want that.

Dr. Julie Buckley:

That’s not a lot of fun for most of us. In women that high testosterone translates to high estrogen, which leads to a say a state of estrogen dominance, which leads to wicked horrible bad periods and, cramps and misery, and dysregulated cycles. So if you want hormonal changes to be as easy as possible in your home, the most important thing you can do is to control before the horse leaves the bar, the food that everybody’s eating. And I’m a huge, huge, huge fan of if it’s good enough for my kid, it must be good enough for my entire family.

I’m a full-time working mom. And there’s there is no restaurant running at my house. Right? What comes to the house is what everybody eats. And if you don’t want to eat it, that’s too bad. Okay, you can eat the next meal. And if you start like that young, then it’s a lot easier to continue to like that when you get older. You can get into the details of how you shape all of that once there’s a problem. How do you fix it? That’s a harder thing to do. But I am a big fan of everybody’s cooking. Don’t do it with sugar. Don’t do it with grain and see if you don’t have a fantastic outcome.


Absolutely. So basically, you’re saying that you can’t eat a crappy diet and just get by your way too?

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Oh, yeah, no, you can try but it gets really expensive and it doesn’t work very well. Right.


I just thank for making that point. Because I just want to make sure that people didn’t go out with the idea that that’s all you needed to you know,

Dr. Julie Buckley:

No I you know, I have people who are afraid to come to see me because they you know, she’s such a diet Nazi and I and I am a big fan of using food as medicine when we use food as medicine. We spend a lot less on other supplements and medications. Hmm. So


you also speak about CBD as a GABA receptor. Could you tell us a little bit about

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Right so CBD is something I always give my son credit for. years ago in the state of Florida when things first came up for a vote on medical marijuana, I was just added avidly add rabidly vehemently. No, that’s not a good idea, etc, etc. And my son looked at me just straight in the face one day and said, Mom, you’re wrong, and you need to do your research. So I actually stayed home from Disney one day sat in the hotel. They all went to Disney and I sat at home and did my research. And at the end of The day when he came back I said to him, You know what I stand corrected on CBD.

I still stand firm on my stance on THC. I still don’t like THC. But CBD is deeply intriguing and so we got involved with adding CBD into the practice CBD is a hemp-derived product. It is not medical marijuana, it is something that is completely different and CBD is a unique product. CBD does have action on that same GABA receptor and the difference between CBD and GABA is where GABA can be kind of sedating, which some of us really, really love to have to happen in our homes. CBD is not sedating at all. So if your child is not a child who’s absolutely wild, and you want to try to slow them down anyway, CBD is a great option.

The other thing that’s lovely about CBD is it’s immune corrective, I think that’s the best way to try to describe what it does. But CBD also has its own action on the whole endocannabinoid receptor set that exists on ourselves, which has its own activity level. But CBD also has this really super cool property and that it’s an allosteric modifier of some receptor sites, meaning that it kind of like shape shifts other receptors so that they can work differently or better and get a better outcome.

CBD is really very uniquely powerful in many, many different ways and has the ability to do some very, very good stuff for our bodies. And it’s been one of the best things I’ve added to my practice.

I knew it was immune corrective. I mean, it gets used in cancer, it gets used in lots of things. But when this whole COVID pandemic thing hit, and I had people just with kids whose anxiety was through the roof, one of the things that we did a lot of was doubling and tripling up on some of our CBD dosings. And we got involved with a water-soluble product that was much, much, much more bioavailable and a lot less expensive. So that was nice. But when I did that, I did it to control anxiety.

Well, you know, six months, a whole year go by and we started to get some blood work done on some kids that hadn’t had it done in quite some time. And I was absolutely fascinated to see that some of the panda’s titers and some of the things that we measure, as immune markers had actually become much more normal and pandas markers when down tremendously without doing a whole lot of other change. It was just that Immuno corrective capacity of CBD so that was very exciting.


Is this something that both of you talked about to supplements? So GABA and CBD is something that people need to see a practitioner in order to know how much to dose or is it something they could just try it themselves?

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Well, I mean, it’s, there’s, you can certainly you can try these things yourself. But therewith without somebody lending a hand, you may it’s not just a mix and match and throw everything the, into the bucket and see what happens. And so there are people who don’t do well with GABA. If you end up with intolerance, it’s you know, why is that happening? Is it because it’s an oil-based CBD? Is it because the GABA isn’t just pure GABA? Is it because this is one of those people one of those rare people who really doesn’t do well with GABA, and there are so many other things so I’m a big fan of working with a practitioner at least, you know, at least once so I think it’s a much much wiser idea.

That being said, I know that there are 1000s of people out there who are working with these things and trying to find their way so you know, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to do harm by giving something small doses start low, go very, very slow, do one thing at a time, make sure that you’re monitoring your results and giving it a try, but they are all Gamble’s are not created equal. All CBDs are definitely not created equal. And it’s important to make sure that you have a good understanding of what you’re doing.


You mentioned two important pillars The one is the couple of supplements that you said to basically GABA and then CBD also because it acts on the receptor and then you talked about the value of diet because it kind of ties into you know hormones in puberty but even otherwise it because it’s it can be inflammatory, it can be anti-inflammatory. So the third pillar I know that you talk about Nighthawk part is a presumption of competence. What happens when that’s not a part of their life, and what’s the importance of that in this age group?

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Well, and that’s it, that’s a very important point. Because it just even with neurotypical children, you know, this.

The 234-year-old is very forgiving of you because they’re still trying to figure out how to do everything in the world. And it’s all a new novel learning experience for them. By the time even a neurotypical person is getting into their teens, they can make their bodies do most of what they want to do, they it’s not new, and they are starting to expect that you will treat them more like a grown-up and less like a five-year-old.

I What oftentimes happens when we’re dealing with autism is that we’ve got old bad habits, our kid doesn’t necessarily talk back to us, or to our kid may not be able to communicate very well, our child may still be doing stimming and other, you know, unusual behavior because they still have no problem with information going in. And tons of problems with motor planning and being able to take control of the body and the mouth and the fan fine motor skills happen.

When that happens, they can’t communicate effectively. So it’s almost impossible for a child who’s really struggled to communicate and really struggling to control their body to show you what they know. That’s a big deal when you’re four and five. It is a monstrously big problem when you’re a teenager. And so it’s one of the hardest things, I think we as parents too, is to work to treat our children like they are teens, to treat them like they’re young adults to, to be able to address them in a different way without using baby talk without using baby expressions.

My daughter hates it when I and I use baby, her baby words with her. Especially if we do it out in public, God forbid I call her peach out in public. Yeah, it’s going to be a big problem. So the same things that we do for neurotypical children, we have to work to do with our children with autism in some modified way. And when we fail to do that, we’re gonna pay a price, because they may not be able to show us with words.

They’re going to show us with behaviors, how incredibly frustrated and angry they are with us. And you know, that I think one of the biggest things there is to consider about puberty is that they’re not the only ones going through puberty, we have to go through the process with them, of growing up, and learning how to become parents of young adults, and big adults and changing our approach to them. Because they are different than they were when they were five.


As we wrap up the podcast, I was going to ask you, if there was one thing that you found that was most useful in the majority of your parents that struggled with anxiety during or after puberty? Or at the answer could be that it’s not one thing, and it always has to be many things?

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Well, I would give that answer, I would give two different kinds of answers. Number one, I There are many things. And I think the primary thing that we use as a tool will always be you know, being willing to focus in on nutrition, being willing to focus in on food, because that is something that we have to take into our bodies every single day. And it’s how we build ourselves. So I think that’s number one. The toolbox though has to be very, very deep in terms of how you manage anxiety, with young adults and with teenagers.

The other thing that I think is really, really important, another pillar of how do you manage and what’s a big take-home tool, with, with anxiety in pubertal children is to do what my daughter has always asked every time she has ever spoken. And that is for parents to never, never, never give up just because they’ve gotten into puberty, just because there’s facial hair just because there are erections just because of their menstrual cycles, does not mean that that is it that we’re done, it’s never going to change.

My daughter’s now 22 years old, we are still working on things that we can do to help her have an easier time of it. And some of them we have some great success with others, we have less success, but we still try. She’s still working at it and but we do it as a team. And it’s important. So I think, you know, use your food, have a deep toolbox full of supplements, but also, from an emotional standpoint, from a social standpoint. Never ever give up and presume that this is as good as it’s going to get.

The opportunity to optimize function is always something that we should avail ourselves of whether For a child with autism or ourselves,


Right, yeah, very well said Thank you, doctor. And I think the one thread that has come through this entire conversation is the fact that you are referring to the many things that your daughter has told you. I think that’s probably one of the gifts of as your child gets older is that your child is getting more mature, whether you can see it or not. So and then, as you presume competence and as you can avail of communication with them. This is an incredible learning opportunity. And like you said, that only happens when you don’t give up.

Dr. Julie Buckley:

Yep, absolutely. Thank you for taking the time. Dr. Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much.


So have you tried GABA or CBD for your child, and if you’ve had an experience one way or the other, go ahead and drop a note on my Facebook page. That’s facebook.com/functionalnutritionforkids. If you can’t wait to get more tools, I’m actually gearing up for a new course in e-course and anxiety, moods, and nutrition. This has to be launched in late May, early June.

Today, remember that I have a giveaway for the first five people to drop a review for this podcast. And you can let me know that you’ve done this by sending an email with the header review posted to Vaish at functional nutrition for kickstart calm. The first five people get into a draw for a free mushroom match or giveaway and I will be letting you know who got it. This is your host Doctor by society and today’s music like always was by my daughter Maitri gosh. Bye