March 21, 2016
362 Vitamin D & Pregnancy #1 [March 21 2016]
In April 2012 (#160) I reported on a study showing that maternal supplementation of 4,000 IU vitamin D daily was still too low to achieve sufficiency (20ng/ml) in all newborns. Recent findings show how important maternal D levels are to the developing fetus.
Rhonda Patrick, PhD, was interviewed on mercola.com (14 March 2016) on the role of D in the developing fetal brain. One of the more than 1,000 physiological processes regulated by vitamin D is the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) which converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. Patrick discovered we have two different TPH genes – one in the brain and another in the gut which work independently – the serotonin they produce does not cross the blood-brain barrier. About 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, where it enables blood platelets to begin the clotting process that heals our cuts and bruises. The 10% of serotonin produced in the brain lifts our mood, enables impulse control, calms anxiety, and boosts memory.
Vitamin D regulates genes by attaching to the vitamin D receptor and either activating or deactivating the gene, depending on the receptor. Curiously vitamin D regulates the two different TPH genes in opposite ways. In the brain it turns the gene on, causing it to produce more TPH and therefore more serotonin. This is good. Insufficient serotonin in the brain results in impulsive behavior, depression, anxiety, and the inability to filter sensory stimuli (think ADHD).
In the gut, however, vitamin D turns the TPH gene off or slows it down. This is also good – we need some serotonin in the gut but not too much. Excess serotonin in the gut activates T cells which causes inflammation that can lead to inflammatory bowel disease. Vitamin D helps control this and clinically has been found to reduce inflammation in diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
In the developing fetus serotonin plays a much more important role. It acts as a brain morphogen, shaping the structure and wiring of the neurons in the developing brain. The fetus is completely dependent on the mother’s vitamin D levels for serotonin production. A maternal deficiency in vitamin D can have severe consequences for the fetal brain development, including autism. Low maternal D and serotonin levels have been linked to autism by many different researchers. More on this next week.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.