Vitamin D Deficiency & Autism: What’s the Connection?

Vitamin D is considered to be an important element with regard to prenatal fetal development. Medical professionals often suggest expecting mothers to spend time under sunlight each day because the developing child’s needs are fulfilled by the nutrient stores of the mother. Many kinds of research have proven a strong link between healthy fetal development & maternal vitamin D exposure.

Vitamin D is associated with the below-mentioned factors of development

  • Bone metabolism & absorption – Bioactive Vitamin D or Calcitriol is a hormone that plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s levels of calcium, and also in mineralisation of bone. Vitamin D is a substance that the human body converts into an important hormone that regulates multiple functions.
  • Development & functions of the endocrine system – The endocrine system, which includes various organs which are The Placenta, The Digestive system, skin, liver, kidneys, stomach, small intestine, Adipose tissue, the heart, and the skeletal muscles. The development of the entire endocrine system is closely linked to Vitamin D.
  • Immune functions – The chemical reactions that are required in the body to have a strong immune function are directly correlated to vitamin D. Without appropriate levels of vitamin D the cells that protect us from infections, are not activated. It is vital for expecting mothers to get ample sunlight so that their immunity against diseases and infections remain strong.
  • Glucose metabolism – Though the research-based evidence to prove the link between Vitamin D and glucose metabolism is only limited, the association is still strong because vitamin D impacts the functions of the endocrine system. Fluctuating blood sugar levels during pregnancy also impact fetal development and maternal health.
  • Brain development – According to Eyles et al. Vitam D effects the developing brain including its effects on cell differentiation, neurotransmitter synthesis and anti-oxidant activity which are the basic building blocks of fetal development.
  • Synthesis of Calcium & Phosphorus – Since there is a strong link between vitamin D and the development of bones, calcium synthesis is an important function that is impacted. Phosphorus is a mineral that strengthens the skeletal and muscular development its functions are aided by vitamin D, hence making it a vital part of fetal growth.
  • The eventual development of teeth – Calcium and phosphorus are synthesized in the body with the help of Vitamin D, these vitamins directly impact the development of teeth in growing children.
  • DNA repair – Vitamin D protects the mother and the developing fetus against all forms of damage in DNA. Issues of DNA are directly linked to the causation of Autism.
  • Fetal lung development – Lung maturation in fetal development is also impacted by Vitamin D functions.

Apart from the direct effects of levels of vitamin D on the developing fetus, there are many indirect implications on the mother’s well being as well. Lower levels of Vitamin D are associated with bodily aches and cesarean deliveries. Lack of sufficient vitamin D exposure can also affect the immune system which can cause infections in the expecting mother. Infections caused by viruses or other ones like rubella in the mother cause prenatal exposure to the fetus, which has been closely linked to the causation of neurodevelopmental disorders. Prenatal viral infection is also considered as a top non-genetic factor that causes Autism Spectrum Disorder.

According to The International Society for Autism Research, as compared to children who are born with higher levels of Vitamin D, children with lower levels have up to 33% of increased risk of being diagnosed with Autism. All the above-mentioned factors are some of the prenatal indicators of a relationship between a deficiency in Vitamin D & the causation of Autism in children.

Treatment of Autism & use of Vitamin D

In a research done by Dr.Jia et al. , Vitamin D supplements were administered to children who were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was found that the core symptoms of Autism significantly improved after vitamin D was supplemented. Other chronic health risks were also found to be lowered due to the administration of Vitamin D in individuals with Autism.

In Autism Treatment a collaborative effort is required by professionals in order to provide the best relief for the symptoms that come along with the diagnosis. The caregiver of children who have received the diagnosis can seek help at Autism treatment centers, to receive customized guidance for the specific therapeutic needs.

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