The Autism-Vitamin D connection

You may have heard that Vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption but did you know it also plays a very important role in neurotransmitter and immune system function? Vitamin D actually activates genes that regulate the immune system and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, your “happy” hormones. 

The sun’s UVB rays synthesize a precursor of Vitamin D into the usable form of Vitamin D which then travels through the liver where it becomes active and usable for many functions in the brain.  Every cell in the brain contains a Vitamin D receptor.  Autism is also more common in areas with impaired UVB production, such as areas with high air pollution, regions of greater cloud cover and rainfall.

As I mentioned, Vitamin D plays a very important role in the immune system which is often compromised in kids with autism.  It acts to increase T-cells which calm the immune system and it works as an anti-inflammatory to reduce autoimmune response or allergies. 

The reality is that if you live in Canada, chances are you are not getting enough Vitamin D.  I’m sure it is a concern for many of us autism parents that our kids don’t tend to get enough time outdoors playing in the sun.  Just 15 minutes of full sun exposure on the face and arms 3 times a week will provide adequate Vitamin D!

The sun is best but there are also some great non-dairy food sources of Vitamin D like pink salmon, sardines, mackerel, egg yolk, mushrooms, oatmeal and soy.  If your child won’t eat fish you can try fish oils in their smoothie to mask the taste.  I have had success adding it to creamy desserts like healthy chocolate pudding.  The daily recommended intake of Vitamin D is 500 IU and if you want to learn more contact me.