Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Tag: Vitamin D Page 1 of 2

How much vitamin D should you take? Depends on who want to listen to.

sun

The now world famous sunshine vitamin is more than merely a nice have, ultimately D converts to a hormone and hormones have the power to unlock a long list of processes in your body — I mean long. 

Made primarily from your skin’s exposure to sun or through supplementation, if you’re low in D you put yourself at risk for numerous health hazards. More than likely your doctor has tested you for vitamin D. More than likely he-she told you your levels are normal or close to normal, that is — greater than 20 ngl/ml. 

Sound the buzzer. Wrong answer.

So what level of D is ideal?

Depends on which advisory board you follow. I follow the Vitamin D Council because they back their recommendations with decades of research.  They’re specialists in one and only one substance,– D.  The Endocrine Society’s recommendations are higher, but not high enough.

Writes the D Council:

“Vitamin D is important for general good health, and researchers now are discovering that vitamin D may be important for many other reasons outside of good bone health. Some of the functions of the body that vitamin D helps with include:

  • Immune system, which helps you to fight infection
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation
  • Respiratory system –for healthy lungs and airways
  • Brain development
  • Anti-cancer effects

How high should my vitamin D level be?

Vitamin D Council Endocrine Society Food and Nutrition Board Testing Laboratories
Deficient 0-30 ng/ml 0-20 ng/ml 0-11 ng/ml 0-31 ng/ml
Insufficient 31-39 ng/ml 21-29 ng/ml 12-20 ng/ml
Sufficient 40-80 ng/ml 30-100 ng/ml >20 ng/ml 32-100 ng/ml
Toxic >150 ng/ml

 

How much vitamin D should I take daily?

Vitamin D Council Endocrine Society Food and Nutrition Board
Infants 1,000 IU/day 400-1,000 IU/day 400 IU/day
Children 1,000 IU/day per 25lbs of body weight 600-1,000 IU/day 600 IU/day
Adults 5,000 IU/day 1,500-2,000 IU/day 600 IU/day, 800 IU/day for seniors
Recommended daily intakes from various organizations

 

So who is this oh so bold Vitamin D Council?

The Vitamin D Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in California, United States, working to educate the public on vitamin D, sun exposure and health.

” ‘Why,’ you might ask. Simply put, humans do not get enough sun exposure in the 21st century. Because of this, many — if not most — humans are deficient in vitamin D,” writes Dr. Cannell, the Council’s Executive Director.

…..”Research on vitamin D is pouring out and it’s hard to keep up with the latest information. Recommendations on vitamin D and sun exposure are confusing, conflicting and inconsistent. We’re here to help both the public and health professionals sort through everything. The Vitamin D Council serves as a center for evidence-based vitamin D research and is a reliable source for the general public.”

 

Image: By samuiblue, published on 31 May 2013

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Are your kids getting enough vitamin D? Likely not.

vitamin d, kids and vitamin d

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici

You might think your kids are getting enough vitamin D but a 2009 study published in Pediatrics found that 9 percent of kids ages 1 to 25 were deficient in vitamin D and 61 percent were low. The researchers linked their findings to increased cardiovascular risk.

Kids with levels less than 30 ng/mL of vitamin D were more likely to have low serum calcium and HDL (good cholesterol) and higher blood pressure…

Read more at Sheknows.com

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici 

 

 

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Vitamin D Deficiency May Contribue to Crohn’s Disease

Vitamin D Deficiency Could Contribute to Crohn's DiseaseResearch findings suggest that low levels of vitamin D may contribute to Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel diseases. This inexpensive vitamin, actually a hormone, may alleviate Crohns symptoms in some patients. And because Crohns often has a genetic components, taken prophylactically, vitamin D may prevent Crohn’s’ siblings and offspring from manifesting the disease.

Crohn’s is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation and ulcers (open sores) along the innermost layer of the digestive tract.   Inflammation can appear along the entire gastrointestinal tract (from the mouth to anus), although the majority of cases involve the small intestine or the first part of the large intestine. The cause of the disease is largely unknown; although genetic and environmental factors may play a role.

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D, in its active form (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D), is a hormone that binds to receptors in the body’s cells. Despite the name, vitamin D is actually a secosteroid hormone that targets over 2000 genes. Vitamin D has been shown to have a positive effect on bone health, the immune system, helping prevent some cancers, and reducing inflammation.

Taken orally, vitamin D is absorbed with fat through the intestinal walls as well as in the fat cells of the liver, skin, brain and bones, in amounts sufficient for many months. While not readily available in foods, vitamin D is made in large quantities when sunlight strikes bare skin which is why a deficiency is more common in the winter.  Other factors contribute to low vitamin D including malabsorption, common in people with an inflammatory bowel disease.  Vitamin D production is also affected by anything that blocks ultra violet light including skin pigment, smog, fog, sunscreen, windows and hats.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Crohn’s and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Researchers in a 2009 report wrote that “Western studies show that up to 65 per cent of patients with Crohn’s disease have low serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D concentrations, and 45 per cent of these patients have metabolic bone disease.”  In the study, scientists found that vitamin D levels were significantly lower among patients with Crohn’s disease compared to subjects the same and age and gender.  Further, D levels in patients with Crohn’s disease were lower in those with severe disease activity and less sun exposure.  

In a 2010 study, Dr. John White and his team found evidence to suggest that sufficient vitamin D may counter the effects of Crohn’s disease.  Although the researchers were initially studying the effects of D on cancer; the results consistently pointed to D’s impact on the immune system, specifically on the innate immune system, the process that acts as the body’s first defense against microbial invaders, “It’s a defect in innate immune handling of intestinal bacteria that leads to an inflammatory response that may lead to an autoimmune condition,” White explains.

Click Here for Vitamin D Supplements

Several other studies suggest a link between vitamin D and inflammatory bowel disease, including a 2006 finding out of Ireland. Researchers found that a high proportion of Crohn’s patients had some level of vitamin D deficiency during late-wintertime.   The researchers suggest people with Crohn’s consider taking supplemental vitamin D, particularly patients with small intestinal involvement, quit smoking, get adequate but responsible exposure to summer sunlight, and maintain a body mass index in the normal range. 

Vitamin D and Innate Immunity

Vitamin D’s role in intestinal health is believed to involve the beta defensin 2 gene, a gene coding for an important defense molecule of the body. Defensins are part of the arsenal of weapons used by the human immune system. Patients with Crohn’s disease of the colon (colonic CD) have a lower level of beta-defensins in the mucous membranes. Beta defensin encodes an antimicrobial peptide and the NOD2 gene that alerts cells to the presence of invading microbes. If NOD2 is deficient or defective, it can’t attack invaders in the intestinal tract.

An international research team with the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg discovered a possible cause of the chronic inflammation. They believe Crohn’s patients have one less copy of the protective beta-defensin 2 gene which may be associated with a lower production of the endogenous antibiotic and therefore, lower defensin level.  A lower defensin level causes the protective intestinal mucous membrane to become so porous that bacteria can attach to and invade the mucous membrane, which leads to the typical inflammatory hot spots of Crohn’s disease.

Implications for Vitamin D and Inflammatory Diseases

Dr. White believes these findings have significant implications for Crohn’s patients and their families, “Siblings of patients with Crohn’s disease that haven’t yet developed the disease might be well advised to make sure they’re vitamin D sufficient. It’s something that’s easy to do, because they can simply go to a pharmacy, health food store, or online and buy vitamin D supplements. The vast majority of people would be candidates for vitamin D treatment,”  he writes. 

Click Here for Vitamin D Supplements

Marc J. Servant, a professor at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Pharmacy and study collaborator agrees. “This discovery is exciting, since it shows how an over-the-counter supplement such as vitamin D could help people defend themselves against Crohn’s disease,” he says. Although researchers believe many people in the general population are low in vitamin D, patients with Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel disease may be particularly vulnerable to a deficiency.

(Photo Credit: Shezamm, Flickr)

 

Sources

“Crohn’s Disease: One Gene Copy Too Few Leads To Weakened Defense,” Medical News Today. Accessed April 15, 2010.http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/47508.php

Gilman J, Shanahan F, Cashman KD, “Determinants of vitamin D status in adult Crohn’s disease patients, with particular emphasis on supplemental vitamin D use.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006 Jul.

Joseph AJ, George B, Pulimood AB, Seshadri MS, Chacko A. “25 (OH) vitamin D level in Crohn’s disease: association with sun exposure & disease activity. ”  Indian J Med Res. August 2009. 

White, JH et al., “Direct and indirect induction by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 of theNOD2/CARD15-beta defensin 2 innate immune pathway defective in Crohn’s disease.” The Journal of Biological Chemistry. January, 2010.


 

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Can Vitamin D Impact Weight Loss?

Vitamin D continues to make headline news. Findings suggest adequate levels may break barriers with individuals battling excess weight.

Research reveals a relationship between vitamin D levels in the body, vitamin D intake, and body weight. While the exact relationship is not entirely understood, a growing body of evidence suggests an association between obesity/excess body weight and D levels exists.

(Photo credit, Flickr)

vitamin d, weight loss, vitamin d deficiency

In addition, the link is supported by the fact that obesity and low D are co-morbid (occur at the same time) with diseases such as: disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, depression and even periodontal disease.

Vitamin D Levels Predict Weight Loss Success

In a 2010 study researchers found that adequate vitamin D levels in the body improves weight loss success with a diet program.

“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with obesity, but it is not clear if inadequate vitamin D causes obesity or the other way around,” said the study’s lead author, Shalamar Sibley, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

For the study, scientists measured circulating blood levels of vitamin D in 38 overweight men and women before and after the subjects followed a diet plan for 11 weeks consisting of 750 calories a day fewer than their estimated total needs. Subjects also had their fat distribution measured with DXA (bone densitometry) scans.

Click here for Vitamin D 

While the participants’ vitamin D levels were lower than what many experts consider sufficient, the subjects’ baseline, or pre-diet vitamin D levels predicted weight loss in a linear relationship. For every increase of 1 ng/mL in level of 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, the precursor form of vitamin D and a commonly used indicator of vitamin D status, subjects lost almost a half pound (0.196 kg) more on their calorie-restricted diet. For every 1-ng/mL increase in the active or “hormonal” form of vitamin D (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol), subjects lost nearly one-quarter pound (0.107 kg) more.

In addition, subjects with higher baseline vitamin D levels (both the precursor and active forms) lost more abdominal fat. The implications of these findings, researchers believe, are promising. “Our results suggest the possibility that the addition of vitamin D to a reduced-calorie diet will lead to better weight loss,” Sibley said.  

Obesity and Vitamin D Levels

In another study out of the University of Madrid researchers found that excess body weight was associated with decreasing amounts of vitamin D. Scientists measured the body weight of 61 young, overweight/obese women and randomly assigned them to two different weight control programs: diet V, increased greens and vegetables, or diet C, increased cereals (some of which were enriched with vitamin D).

Taking into account only women with a vitamin D intake below expert-recommended levels, the women who were obese had a significantly lower average serum 25(OH)D concentration than those who weighed less. In addition, group C (increased cereals, some enriched with vitamin D) subjects lost more weight than the Group V subjects.

Click here for Vitamin D 

In another study out of Spain, researchers gathered the following data on 102 children ages nine to 13: height, body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist and hip measurements (to determine the quantity of visceral or abdominal fat), and the thickness of the tricipital and bicipital skinfold (to determine the quantity of subcutaneous fat). Scientists also analyzed the childrens’ diet with a three-day weighed food record and their vitamin D intake as compared to recommended (expert) levels.

Results showed while there was no significant difference in body weight based on vitamin D intake, children who had insufficient levels of D in their body had higher weight, BMI, waist measurement and waist/height ratio than the children with adequate levels of D in their body.

In addition, results showed that children with a body weight, BMI, bicipital skinfold thickness, waist measurement and waist/height ratio above the 50th percentile for each variable were at a greater risk of having a low serum 25(OH)D concentration.

Obesity and Vitamin D Epidemic: Coincidence? 

Dr. John Cannell, Director of the Vitamin D Council in his 2004 Newsletter article, “Obesity and Vitamin D,” writes, “One third of Americans are obese. While much of that epidemic is surely due to playing Nintendo instead of baseball, or the consumption of soft drinks instead of water, does that explain it all? Is it a coincidence that the twin epidemics of obesity and vitamin D deficiency are occurring together?”

A growing body of research suggests more than a coincidence. While there are numerous alternative explanations for the findings notes Dr. Cannell, an overwhelming number of studies suggest a link. The following is an incomplete list, for the full list refer to Dr. Cannell’s September 2004 newsletter.

Click image 

  • When aboriginal populations migrate from high altitude (more UV rays to convert to D in the skin) to low altitude, body fat increases.
  • Higher calcium intake is consistently associated with lower body weight, as vitamin D significantly increases calcium absorption.
  • The combination vitamin D and calcium reduced subsequent spontaneous food intake and increased the metabolism of fat.
  • Genetic abnormalities of the vitamin D receptor (called VDR polymorphisms) are associated with body weight and fat mass. Patients with VDR polymorphisms have reduced vitamin D activity at their receptors.
  • Blood parathyroid levels, which are elevated in vitamin D deficiency, predict obesity.
  • Starting since 1981 studies have consistently shown that 25(OH)D levels are lower in obese subjects.
  • Obesity is associated with early death, and low vitamin D levels are more likely in the winter. Scientists have known about and debated the cause of excess winter deaths for years
  • Obese subjects obtain lower 25(OH)D levels when exposed to ultraviolet light or when they take supplemental vitamin D. Subjects appeared to deposit some of their vitamin D in their excessive fatty tissue which impaired their ability to raise their 25(OH)D levels.

Whether excess weight contributes to lower levels of vitamin D in the body or low vitamin D causes excess weight is still unclear. Research indicates however, a relationship exists. The implications for weight management and leveraging the effectiveness of a diet program are promising.

Click here for Vitamin D 

Sources

The Endocrine Society (2009, June 12), “Successful Weight Loss With Dieting Is Linked To Vitamin D Levels,” ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 18, 2010.

Ortega RM, López-Sobaler AM, Aparicio A, Bermejo LM, Rodríguez-Rodríguez E, Perea

JM, Andrés P, “Vitamin D status modification by two slightly hypocaloric diets in young overweight/obese women.”International Journal of Vitamin & Nutritional Research 2009 Mar;79(2):71-8.

Rodríguez-Rodríguez E, Navia-Lombán B, López-Sobaler AM, Ortega RM,

“Associations between abdominal fat and body mass index on vitamin D status in a

group of Spanish schoolchildren,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010 Mar 10.

Cannell, John, MD, The Vitamin D Council, “Obesity and Vitamin D,” The Vitamin D Newsletter, September 17, 2004.

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Vitamin D Deficiency, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety & Depression: Possible Links

vitamin d, fibromyalgia, depression, chronic pain

The Sunshine Vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to fibromyalgia, chronic pain symptoms.

(Photo credit, Maggie Smith)

While researchers have found a relationship between insufficient vitamin D, chronic pain, anxiety and depression, the exact causality is still unknown.

Researchers in a 2007 study reported in Clinical Rheumatology that vitamin D deficiency is common in people with fibromyalgia and also occurs more frequently in those with anxiety and depression. Yet research is also emerging that may dispute the once believed link between Seasonal Affective Disorder, its depressive symptoms and D deficiency.

Regardless of the unanswered questions, patients suffering with mood issues and/or chronic muscle pain may want to consider having their 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels tested.

Fibromyalgia, Vitamin D, Anxiety & Depression May Be Linked

People with fibromyalgia often have symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as low levels of vitamin D. In the 2007 study, researchers tested serum vitamin D levels in 75 patients with fibromyalgia. The subjects completed a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (HADS). Results showed that patients with vitamin D deficiency scored higher on the HADS .

Research has also linked vitamin D deficiency to patients who suffer with chronic pain. While the relationship between fibromyalgia, pain, anxiety, depression and vitamin D deficiency is somewhat complex and the exact relationship remains unclear, evidence is mounting to suggest that vitamin D plays some role in chronic pain and mood imbalance.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Depression With Seasonal Affective Disorder Research Disputed

Vitamin D continues to gain worldwide attention due to emerging research linking it to more than 2,000 gene processes in the body. Yet evidence has surfaced to challenge vitamin D’s once presumed role in Seasonal Affective Disorder and the associated depressive symptoms. Researchers believe Seasonal Affective Disorder manifests during winter months as a result of lack of sunlight exposure on the skin which then results in vitamin D deficiency.

In a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Dr. Oscar Franco, Assistant Clinical Professor in Public Health and his team, recruited more than 3,000 people and tested levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) in the blood. Subjects completed a questionnaire to measure depressive symptoms. Researchers found no clear association between depressive symptoms and the concentration of vitamin D in the blood.

“Few studies have explored the association between blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and depression in the general population, ” said Dr. Franco. “Previous studies into the effects of vitamin D supplementation have produced mixed results. More studies are still needed to evaluate whether vitamin D is associated with seasonal affective disorders, but our study does raise questions about the effects of taking more vitamin D to combat depressive symptoms.”

A Japanese study conducted in 2009 also found no evidence linking higher blood vitamin D levels with decreased depressive symptoms.

Vitamin D, Mood & The Brain

In a report entitled, “Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?” researchers concluded that based on the body of research to date, high doses of supplemental vitamin D may improve mild depressive symptoms. Yet questions persist regarding the following critical study areas of mood regulation:

  • how vitamin D affects monoamine function and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress
  • whether vitamin D supplementation can improve mood in individuals with moderate-to-severe depression
  • whether vitamin D sufficiency is protective against incident depression and recurrence.

Investigators in the report suggest it is “premature to conclude that vitamin D status is related to the occurrence of depression. Additional prospective studies of this relationship are essential.”

While the exact relationship between mood disorders, chronic muscle pain and vitamin D deficiency has not be clearly established, evidence suggests that patients with chronic muscle pain, anxiety or depression should at least consider testing their vitamin D levels and supplementing if they are deficient.

Additional Reading:

Fibromyalgia Pain: Magnesium and Malic Acid Combined More Effective

Vitamin D Deficiency and Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Linked

Integrative Massage For Chronic Pain: Multi-Disciplinary Approach More Effective

Footnotes:

Armstrong DJ, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB, “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia,” Clinical Rheumatology,2007 Apr.

An Pan, Ling Lu, Oscar H. Franco, Zhijie Yu, Huaixing Li, Xu Lin. “Association between depressive symptoms and 25-hydroxyvitamin D in middle-aged and elderly Chinese., “ Journal of Affective Disorders, 2009.

University of Warwick (2009, March 18). Vitamin D May Not Be The Answer To Feeling SAD. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 3, 2010.

Bertone-Johnson ER, “Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?” Nutritional Review, 2009 Aug.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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Autism and Vitamin D Incidental Findings Gaining Attention

autism, vitamin d, vitamin d deficiency

(Image credit, Flickr)

Researchers are continuing to piece together one of the most mysterious modern day epidemics, autism spectrum disorder, a syndrome affecting one in 110 children. A growing body of evidence suggests low vitamin D levels may play a role.

Scientists studying autism and vitamin D believe there may be an association between a woman’s vitamin D levels during pregnancy, her child’s subsequent vitamin D levels, and autism symptoms. Researchers aren’t however, suggesting a vitamin D deficiency causes autism, rather that a number of incidental studies suggest a link.

Autism Epidemic Presents Five Unexplained Features

The Autism Society of America (ASA) describes autism as “a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.” Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because it impacts individuals differently and to varying degrees.

ASA estimates 1 to 1.5 million Americans are impacted by autism, making it a national health crisis costing about $35 billion annually. Yet, despite numerous exhaustive metabolic and genetic evaluations conducted by scientists all over the world, researchers still aren’t able to pinpoint the exact causes.

Dr. John Cannell, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, writes that scientific groups have been trying to account for the 20-year increase in autism. Yet any valid theory says Cannell, must account for the following five unexplained features:

  1. significantly higher concordance (if one has it, the other is likely to have it) rates in identical, but not fraternal, twins
  2. widely-varying symptoms, even among identical twins
  3. striking 4:1 male to female sex ratio
  4. increased rates in blacks
  5. rapid increase in occurrence rates over the last 20 years

A 2009 Scientific American article “What if Vitamin D Deficiency is a Cause of Autism?” reported that five researchers at Harvard endorsed the vitamin D theory of autism, and that Dr. Darryl Eyles with the University of Queensland joined the expanding list of scientists who support the theory.

Despite the name, “vitamin” D is a secosteroid hormone that directly regulates more than 1,000 human genes. Not readily available in foods, vitamin D is made in large quantities when sunlight strikes bare skin.

fibromyalgia,vitamin d,anxiety, depression,chronic pain

(Image credit, Flickr)

Vitamin D Regulates Long List of Genes

Geneticists believe that genetic codes may not properly transfer in children with autism, and that multiple genes aren’t expressed, possibly the result of environmental injury. Vitamin D, it seems, may protect an individual’s genome (entire genetic material) from damage from environmental toxins.

Researchers with the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) identified mutations in four genes within the AGRE families. Two of the genes were shown to be associated with autism and often are involved in forming or maintaining neural synapses, the point of connection between individual neurons. One of the new genes identified was neural cell adhesion molecule 2 (NCAM2). NCAM2 is expressed in the hippocampus of the human brain, a region previously associated with autism.

Dr. Lei, lead researcher on the study, explains the implications, “Studies such as this provide evidence that autism is a genetically based disease that affects neural connectivity.”

Dr. Cannell emphasizes that the vitamin D theory of autism doesn’t downplay the genetic role. In fact, he writes, “Without the genetic tendency for autism, I suspect that severe maternal or early childhood vitamin D deficiency may cause bone abnormalities, as referenced above, [but] with no evidence autism.” A vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and early childhood may, however, trigger symptoms in a child who is genetically pre-disposed to the disorder.

Autism and Vitamin D Deficiency Linked Through Incidental Findings

In the May 2010 issue of Acta Pædiatrica, Dr. Cannell submitted a paper stating his position regarding D’s role in autism, “I have suggested that the primary environmental trigger for autism is not vaccinations, toxins or infections, but gestational and early childhood vitamin D deficiency (1,2),” he writes.

In the report, Cannell cited several studies that offer incidental evidence (unexpected clinical findings) of a link between D deficiency and autism:

A few of the findings include:

  • Boys with autism have unexplained metacarpal bone thickness. At some point these boys developed less cortical bone than normal children, a finding consistent with undetected and untreated childhood or even intrauterine vitamin D deficiency.
  • Melanin in the skin is an effective sunblock. Melanin is higher in dark-skinned people. Three of four recent U.S. studies found a higher incidence of autism in black children.
  • A Somali immigrant study in Sweden found a higher rate of autism in the Somalian population. These refugees traded family compounds and regular exposure to the equatorial sun for cloistered high-rise apartments, and many of them Muslim, cover their bodies from head to toe (thus received minimal sun exposure).
  • Studies showed autism in three U.S. states was higher in areas with more precipitation and clouds (less exposure to sunlight).
  • Lower seafood consumption during pregnancy was associated with low verbal intelligence quotient, suboptimum outcomes for prosocial behavior, fine motor, communication and social development scores. Fish is one of the few foods with significant amounts of vitamin D.
  • Autism is more common in mothers who take antiepileptic drugs. Antiepileptic drugs are one of the few classes of drugs that interferes with vitamin D metabolism, lowering 25(OH)D levels.

While the government’s advice to the public over the past few decades to use sunblock and to avoid excessive sun exposure to reduce the incidence of skin cancer was well-intentioned, an unfortunate side effect has contributed to two modern day epidemics, vitamin D deficiency and autism spectrum disorder.

Footnotes: 

“Study adds to evidence that autism has genetic basis,” ScienceDaily, May 3, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2010.

Cannell JJ. “On the Aetiology of Autism.” Acta Paediatrica. May 2010.

Cannell JJ.” Autism and Vitamin D,” Medical Hypotheses 2008, Accessed July 23,2010.

Lite, J., “Vitamin D deficiency soars in the U.S.,” Scientific American, March 23, 2009. Accessed July 23,2010.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Heart Health Risk With Calcium Supplements, Research Suggests

calcium, heart health, heart attack, supplements calcium, heart health, heart attack, supplements, research on calcium and heart

Calcium supplements (vs. food-based calcium) may contribute to heart issues

(Photo credit: Carlos Porto) (Photo credit:Master isolated images)

A new study finds supplementing with calcium may slightly increase risk of heart attacks. Researchers suggest a review of current calcium recommendations.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that calcium supplements commonly prescribed to benefit skeletal health, may increase the risk of a heart attack and cardiovascular events such as stroke, in healthy older women by 20% to 30%.

Calcium and Osteoporosis

While the increased risk is small, and some researchers say the findings are unnecessarily alarmist, given the widespread use of calcium supplements to help prevent osteoporosis, even a small risk within a large population could become a health burden, warns the study’s lead researcher Dr. Ian Reid.

Calcium supplementation has proven to provide only minimal benefit to increase bone density and to prevent fractures in women. As a result of its limited use for osteoporosis patients and the new heart risk findings, Reid suggests the current supplement recommendations be re-assessed.

In an editorial published with the study, cardiologist John Cleland of the U.K.’s Hull York Medical School called the analysis “concerning but not convincing.” Like Reid however, Cleland remains cautious. “Given the uncertain benefits of calcium supplements, any level of (heart) risk is unwarranted.”

Council for Responsible Nutrition Questions Implications

Dr. Andrew Shao, senior VP, scientific & regulatory affairs with the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) says in a press release for CRN that the warnings have been overstated and dilute the importance of calcium. Calcium’s role in building and maintaining bone is vital says Shao, and to prevent osteoporosis. “The results from this meta-analysis does not undermine the value calcium supplements offer to those concerned with maintaining or increasing bone density, as years of research shows these products do,” he says.

The problem explains Shao, is the meta-analysis only included 15 randomized trials on calcium, rather than the available 300. Moreover, seven of the 15 trials had no, or incomplete data on cardiovascular outcomes and the study excluded studies that combined calcium with vitamin D. “This analysis should not dissuade consumers, particularly young women, from taking calcium supplements. They should talk with their doctors about their current and long-term needs and determine how much calcium they are getting from their diets, and supplement accordingly, likely in combination with vitamin D,” says Shao.

Vitamin D and Heart Health

Vitamin D, actually a secosteroid hormone, is gaining increasing attention among researchers. Once largely associated with bone health, studies indicate vitamin D may play an essential role in a wide array of key body functions including immunity, cancer prevention, and heart health.

“Vitamin D deficiency is an unrecognized, emerging cardiovascular risk factor, which should be screened for and treated,” says researcher James H. O’Keefe, MD, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo., in a news release. “Vitamin D is easy to assess, and supplementation is simple, safe and inexpensive.”

The December 2008 issue of The Harvard Heart Letter reported on the link between vitamin D and heart health, writing that calcium deposits that stiffen the arteries are more likely to develop in people with low levels of vitamin D and cause coronary artery disease. Like low magnesium, a D deficiency contributes to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

Jennifer Warner in her WebMD article “Too Little Vitamin D Puts Heart at Risk,” writes that researchers are finding a growing body of evidence to suggest a vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of heart disease and is linked to other, well-known heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

Magnesium and Heart Health

Another unsung hero involved in heart health is magnesium. Dr. Carolyn Dean, Medical Director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association and author of several books including The Magnesium Miracle, has long warned doctors and the public against over promoting calcium and under promoting magnesium.

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a critical role in heart health and balances the effects of calcium. Most calcium-magnesium formulations however, have a 2:1 (or higher) ratio. Dr. Dean recommends the inverse, 2:1 magnesium.

Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D.Director with the Center for Magnesium Education & Research writes in her book The Magnesium Factor, “The most important marker for impending heart disease is a low magnesium to calcium ratio in the cells.” Rosanoff’s co-author, Dr. Mildred Seelig writes, ”While several essential nutrients are imperative for heart and blood vessel health, the vast research on low magnesium and its impact on heart health has gone unheeded, so much so that much of the heart disease seen today is a direct result of low magnesium consumption.”

In recent decades calcium supplementation has been heavily promoted to prevent osteoporosis, build bone density and prevent fractures, yet results have been disappointing. Calcium, a new finding suggests, may actually increase the risk of heart attack. Yet magnesium and vitamin D once largely in the shadow of calcium, are gaining attention for their role in the prevention of a wide array of diseases and to improve overall health functioning, including heart health.

Footnotes:

Boyles, Salynn, “Calcium May Increase Heart Attack Risk, WebMD Health News. July 29, 2010.

Bolland MJ, Avenell A, Baron JA, Grey A, Maclennan GS, Gamble GD, Reid IR., “Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis.” British Medical Journal, 2010 Jul 29.

Rosanoff, Arlene, Ph.D. and Seelig, Mildred. The Magnesium Factor, Penguin, 2003.

“Vitamin D deficiency bad for the heart, bones, and rest of the body,” Harvard Heart Letter, December 2009, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School.

Warner, Jennifer, “Too Little Vitamin D Puts Heart at Risk.” WebMD Health News. Dec. 1, 2008.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Calcium and Vitamin D Synthesis Involved in PMS & PMDD Symptoms

Research suggests there’s a link between premenstrual dysphoric disorder and how some women synthesize estrogen, vitamin D and calcium during menses.

While 30% of women suffer from PMS each month, up to 8% suffer from a more extreme form, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Although the exact cause is still largely unknown, research suggests an increase in estrogen with changes in subsequent vitamin D and calcium synthesis may be involved.

PMDD Emotional Symptoms More Severe Than PMS

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is an extreme form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) with monthly symptoms that can be severe, even disabling for some women.

While PMS and PMDD both manifest with physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD causes more extreme mood shifts in women that can interfere with their work and relationships. PMDD symptoms occur during the luteal phase (latter part) of the menstrual cycle and are virtually non-existent during the follicular phase.

PMDD disappears at menopause, remits during pregnancy, and improves with ovarian hormone suppression therapy. In both PMS and PMDD, women experience symptoms in the last week of the menstrual cycle which generally improve a few days after menstruation begins.

PMDD and PMS both share symptoms of bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue, and changes in sleep and eating habits, but women with PMDD often experience a combination of the following emotional and behavioral symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of being “keyed up” or “on edge”
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Persistent irritability
  • Marked anger

While the exact cause is unclear, research has shown a link between calcium deficiency and mood abnormalities which suggest PMDD may be linked to extreme fluctuations in calcium-regulating hormones in some women during their menstrual cycle.

Calcium Improves PMS & PMDD Symptoms

In a 2007 study on calcium and PMDD, lead author Susan Thys-Jacobs writes, “women with PMS were shown to have exaggerated fluctuations of the calcium regulating hormone across the menstrual cycle with evidence of vitamin D deficiency and secondary hyperparathyroidism.”

(flickr,photo credit)

Thys-Jacobs’ research team investigated calcium’s role in PMS and PMDD based on earlier evidence linking mood disturbances and calcium metabolism. “On the basis of previous studies linking abnormalities in mood,” writes the author, “this investigation has now found that the pattern of cyclical fluctuations in the calcium-regulating hormones, specifically ionized calcium, urine calcium, and 1,25 (OH)2D (vitamin D) differs between women with PMDD and those without.”

Although there’s still no consensus among scientists the degree to which calcium-regulating hormones vary in women with PMDD, the 2007 study indicated that serum calcium declines at three points during a woman’s cycle: at menses, at mid-cycle, and during the late luteal half of her menses.Vitamin D Synthesis Involved in PMDD Symptoms

The research team found that although women with and without PMDD symptoms were low in vitamin D, women with PMDD metabolized vitamin D differently during their menstrual cycle than women without PMDD. Asymptomatic women had more access to stored calcium in their body during their menstrual cycle than women with symptoms. Researchers believe vitamin D plays a role in regulating the level of calcium released during the menstrual cycle.

Estrogen is likely involved as well. Estradiol, a component of estrogen, peaks during the ovulatory and luteal phase of menstruation to regulate vitamin D metabolism and to help prevent bone loss by keeping bone from being reabsorbed. When estrogen inhibits calcium from being released from bone, it lowers serum calcium which leads to a rise in the parathyroid hormone, triggering an increase in 1,25(OH) 2,D synthesis. Elevated 1,25(OH) 2,D may contribute to vitamin D and calcium deficiency, and subsequently cause PMDD symptoms.

While the exact cause of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is still unknown, a growing body of evidence suggests there may be a link between elevated estrogen levels and how vitamin D and calcium are metabolized in some women during their menstrual cycle.Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Footnotes:

  • Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, Johnson SR, Willett WC, Manson JE. “Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome.” Archives of Internal Medicine, June 13, 2005.
  • Khajehei M, Abdali K, Parsanezhad ME, Tabatabaee HR. “Effect of treatment with dydrogesterone or calcium plus vitamin D on the severity of premenstrual syndrome.” International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, May 2009.
  • Thys-Jacobs S, McMahon D, Bilezikian JP. “Cyclical changes in calcium metabolism across the menstrual cycle in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, May 2007.
Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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Fibromyalgia and vitamin D (actually a hormone) deficiency. Are they linked?

fibromyalgia, vitamin d, vitamin d for chronic pain
In 2008 the online site Pain Treatment Topics released a review of research on the potential benefits of vitamin D for patients with pain conditions, notably musculoskeletal and back issues. Although results varied, researchers agree insufficient vitamin D is an underlying factor in fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

Chronic pain and vitamin D deficiency linked long ago

Multiple studies link vitamin Ddeficiency to chronic aches and pains, muscle fatigue or weakness, and other disorders including immunity and some cancers (Holick 2003b; ODS 2008; Plotnikoff and Quigley 2003; Reginster 2005; Tavera-Mendoza and White 2007; Vieth 1999).A study presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists 2007 Annual Meeting reported that about one in four patients with chronic pain also have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D. Patients with insufficient vitamin D also needed higher doses of morphine for longer periods of time.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

According to study author W. Michael Hooten, MD, medical director and anesthesiologist at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, Minn., researchers have long known that inadequate levels of vitamin D can cause pain and muscle weakness.“The implications are that in chronic pain patients, vitamin D inadequacy is not the principal cause of pain and muscle weakness,” said Hooten for a press release, “However, it could be a contributing but unrecognized factor.”

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

The jury is still out on the exact connection between vitamin D and chronic pain but scientists believe it may begin with lower levels of circulating calcium (hypocalcemia) due to inadequate vitamin D. A cascade of biochemical reactions then occurs that hinders bone metabolism and health. Low levels of calcium elevates parathyroid hormones which impairs proper bone mineralization causing a spongy matrix to form under periosteal membranes covering the skeleton.

This gelatin-like matrix can absorb fluid, expand, and cause outward pressure on periosteal tissues, which generates pain since these tissues are highly innervated with sensory pain fibers (Holick 2003b; Shinchuk and Holick 2007; Yew and DeMieri 2002).

Fibromyalgia and Vitamin D Deficiency

The association between low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and non-specific musculoskeletal pain, including fibromyalgia syndrome remains controversial.

In one study, Israeli researchers found no association between women with fibromyalgia and low levels of vitamin D(Tandeter et al. 2009). Yet researches in an earlier study in the Middle East found a significantly greater prevalence of low D concentration in women with fibromyalgia compared to women without fibromyalgia (43% vs 19%).

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

Yet researchers in the Middle East found that 90% of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and/or non-specific musculoskeletal pain treated with vitamin D improved.(Badsha et al. 2009).

One reason for the conflicting evidence is researchers have yet to adequately measure patients’ response to different formulations, doses, and durations of vitamin D. In addition, scientists believe vitamin D receptors have different genetic make up and activity so individuals may respond differently to vitamin D therapy. (Kawaguchi et al. 2002; Videman et al. 2001).

Vitamin D Dosing

Dr. Cannell, Executive Director of The Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with Cholecalciferol vitamin D3). D3 is the naturally occurring form of vitamin D and is made in large quantities in skin when sunlight strikes it. Dr. Cannell explains that Calcidiol is the only blood test that should be drawn. Doctors can order calcidiol levels although labs will know calcidiol as 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Take enough vitamin D3 to get 25(OH)D levels above substrate starvation levels, 50 ng/mL or 125 nmol/L. Current recommendations for adults and children are inadequate to maintain optimal health and certainly to treat chronic pain conditions and illness.

Dr. Cannell suggests people supplement with vitamin D before getting their blood tested, then adjust their dose so their 25(OH)D level is between 50–80 ng/ml during both the summer and the winter. These are conservative dosages explains Dr. Cannell. People who avoid the sun, and nearly all dark-skinned people need to increase their dose if their blood levels are still low, even after two months of the above dosage, particularly during the winter months.

Exact levels are difficult to determine because requirements vary by age, body weight, percent of body fat, latitude, skin coloration, season of the year, use of sun block, individual variation in sun exposure, and how sick someone is.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

“If you use suntan parlors once a week,” says Dr. Cannell, “or if you live in Florida and sunbathe once a week, year-round, do nothing.” However, if you receive very little UVB exposure the Council recommends the following dosing levels of D3 (maintenance level):

  • healthy children under the age of two – 1,000 IU per day*
  • healthy children over the age of two – 2,000 IU per day*
  • adults and adolescents – 5,000 IU per day.

*The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 mg per day for children.

While the exact relationship between vitamin D and chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia isn’t fully understood, most researchers agree that vitamin D deficiency contributes to muscuskeletal pain. Patients and practitioners should consider including vitamin D supplementation in their therapy for patients suffering with chronic pain syndromes.

Click here for low prices on vitamin D products

Another note: Magnesium, malic acid also assist in pain relief for FMS……I use several products but Magnesium Calm is one of my favorites because it works very well, tastes good  Click here for magnesium

Dr. Dean who wrote the Magnesium Miracle (Very easy to understand read on why magnesum is critical to our health yet deficient in our soil and therefore our food and often, body)  turned me on to the importance of this essential mineral. I take it every night or more often if I need to. It’s a co-factor for an impressive list of functions in our body. 

Sources:

“Vitamin D Inadequacy May Exacerbate Pain,” American Academy of Anesthesiologists, Press Release, October 15, 2007.

Tandeter H, Grynbaum M, Zuili I, Shany S, Shvartzman P., “Serum 25-OH vitamin D levels in patients with fibromyalgia.” Israeli Medical Association Journal, 2009.

Badsha H, Daher M, Ooi Kong K. Myalgias or non-specific muscle pain in Arab or Indo-Pakistani patients may indicate vitamin D deficiency. Clinical Rheumatology. 2009.

Leavitt, Steward, B. MA, PhD., “Vitamin D: A Neglected ‘Analgesic’ for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: An Evidence Based Review and Clinical Practice Guideline,” June 2008, http://Pain-Topics.org/VitaminD.

“Vitamin D for Pain: Update of Research Evidence,” Pain Treatment Topics, Accessed: January 10, 2010.

Arvold DS, et al., Correlation of symptoms with vitamin D deficiency and symptom response to cholecalciferol treatment: a randomized controlled trial,” Endocrine Practice, 2009 May-Jun.

Armstrong DJ, Meenagh GK, Bickle I, Lee AS, Curran ES, Finch MB., “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia,” Clinical Rheumatology. 2006 Jul 19.

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11 Ways to Naturally Improve Depression or Anxiety

Photo credit: Digitalart

While the pharmaceutical companies continue to promote expensive mood medications that come with a long list of side effects to manage anxiety and depression, in many cases, natural therapies alone or in combination with low dose medication can alleviate symptoms, and without side effects.

Re-think Serotonin theory on depression

Many prescription anti-depressants are designed to address low levels of serotonin and nor epinephrine. Yet in a 2005 review, researchers Jeffery Lacasse and Jonathon Leo wrote that they couldn’t find any article to directly support the long-held claim that a serotonin deficiency causes mental disorders.(Click here for serotonin-related products)

Moreover, not all mood disorders are due to a biochemical imbalance, and medications often miss the mark or don’t address the underlying causes. Drugs can have unpleasant side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido, or diminished affect (emotion); and can even exacerbate symptoms. Alternatively there are a number of natural alternatives to boost mood.

Increase dopamine

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in arousal and motor function is a precursor to adrenaline and a related molecule, not adrenaline. Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and is central to the creation of reward systems such as food, sex, positive social interactions, even humor. While doctors can prescribe medications to treat dopamine-dependent depression, there are natural ways to elevate dopamine. (Click here for dopamine-related products)

Michael Lardon, a doctor and researcher on the neuroelectric assessment of athletic peak performance explains in an online article for the Modesto Bee that everyone who exercises can reap the benefits from the “dopamine buzz.”

“Dopamine is released within just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, says Lardon, “and triggers within your brain positive feelings about yourself even after your first session of exercise, before your body has had a chance to firmly establish an association between the exercise and the great feelings.”

Increase GABA

Another neurotransmitter involved with mood regulation is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA controls the brain’s rhythmic theta waves that allow individuals to feel physically and mentally balanced. (Click here for GABA-related products)

Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Mind Boosters [St. Martin’s Press, 2000] explains GABA’s key brain balancing role, “GABA is the most important and widespread inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Excitation in the brain must be balanced with inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to restlessness, irritability, insomnia, and even seizures. GABA is able to induce relaxation, analgesia, and sleep.”

GABA is involved in the production of endorphins, brain chemicals that create feelings of well-being known as the “runner’s high.” An imbalance can be involved in bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorder but it’s also inherent to several critical day to day brain functions.

A GABA-rich diet and certain supplements can elevate GABA, and so can yoga, research finds. “The practice of yoga should be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders. Future studies should compare yoga to other forms of exercise to help determine whether yoga or exercise alone can alter GABA levels,” write scientists in a 2007 study. (Click here for GABA-related products)

Fish Oil to Improve Mood

Fish oil is most often associated with cardiovascular health, but the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can also improve mood in some people. (Click here for Nature’s Way fish oil product, their Mega Gold is one of my and my husband’s favorites)

According to Dr. Mercola, a leading natural health expert, “Numerous studies worldwide have linked lack of omega-3 consumption – specifically DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) – with depression. One study found that depression symptoms were higher among infrequent fish consumers than among those who ate fish on a regular basis.”

Researchers found that low plasma concentrations of DHA were good predictors of low concentrations of brain serotonin. Low serotonin can be associated with depression and suicide in some individuals.

Socialize With Cheerful People

Depressed people often avoid social interaction, but forcing face-to-face connections with upbeat people can boost mood, research indicates. (Click here for books about boosting mood)

Forbes.com reported on a 20-year study that found social networks can have a deep impact on an individual’s happiness. Scientists tracked over 4,700 people and found that social interactions with both cheerful friends and strangers considerably influenced the subject’s chances of happiness.

Pet a Pet to Boost Mood

Petting Rover can be plus for mental and physical health. “The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets,” says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD for a WebMD article.

Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health [Peak Press, 2000] tells WebMD that like any enjoyable activity, playing with a pet increases serotonin and dopamine. “People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin (click for 5 Htp products) and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature, “says Justice.(Click here for serotonin-related products)

While the pharmaceutical industry continues to promote a long list of medications for anxiety and depression, several natural alternatives are available that are safe, often very effective, and without risky side effects.

People suffering with acute or chronic mood changes who are interested in natural treatments should seek a holistic practitioner. Holistic physicians often measure neurotransmitter and hormone levels and then develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a combination of diet changes, exercise, hormone replacement and supplements. Treatment may be combined with conventional approaches to mood management or as an alternative.

Take SAM-e

Sam-e, a naturally occurring compound found in all living things is distributed throughout the human body and can help to maintain mood. Levels fall as people age and certain groups of people, including those with low mood, tend to have lower levels of SAM-e (Click here for Sam-e products) in their bodies.

Lower Homocysteine

Homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that naturally occurs in all humans and is involved in cellular metabolism and the manufacture of proteins. The body uses vitamin B12 and folic acid to convert homocysteine into SAM-e and without sufficient B-vitamins, blood homocysteine levels rise.

Researchers believe that high homocysteine levels contribute to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, both which can lead to depression. A study conducted in 2005 found that total homocysteine levels were higher in elderly patients with late-onset major depression (Chen CS et al 2005).

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, genetic factors, and a deficiency in folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins. Aging, smoking, large amounts of coffee and some medications can also elevate homocysteine. The following supplements may lower homocysteine levels and improve depression:

  • folic acid
  • vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (sublingual (under the tongue), transdermal (skin) or injection form only)Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • trimethylglycine and zinc
  • selenium
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • cysteine
  • creatine and choline-producing nutrients (inhibits the release of homocysteine)

Boost Vitamin D

Dr. John Cannell, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Council, explains that while further research needs to be conducted, vitamin D may play a role in depression. Vitamin D is a secosteroid hormone involved with over 2000 genes in the body and is created when the sun’s rays strike bare skin. With an increase in sunscreen use and indoor activity, researchers believe there is a D deficiency epidemic across the globe. (Click here for vitamin D products)

Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and low bone mineral density are all associated with depression, writes Cannell on the Council’s website. Viitamin D deficiency, it turns out, causes some aspect in all these illnesses. Summer sunlight increases brain serotonin levels twice as much as winter sunlight, a finding compatible with both bright light in the visible spectrum and vitamin D affecting mood.

While Cannell promotes the critical importance of optimizing vitamin D levels for disease prevention, he isn’t suggesting vitamin D is the one-stop shopping cure for depression. “We were unable to find any studies in the literature in which patients with depression were treated with enough natural sunlight, artificial sunlight or plain old cholecalciferol to raise their levels to 35 ng/mL or higher. We all know how we feel after a week at the beach, but is that bright light, vitamin D, or something else? (Click here for vitamin D products)

Increase Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that regulates more than 325 enzymes, including many critical functions that produce, transport, store and utilize energy. It also orchestrates the electrical current that sparks through the miles of nerves in the body.

A magnesium deficiency can produce symptoms of anxiety, depression, muscle weakness, fatigue, eye twitches, insomnia, anorexia, apathy, apprehension, poor memory, confusion, anger, nervousness, and rapid pulse. Serotonin, the “feel-good” brain chemical, relies on magnesium for its production and function.

“People do not get anxiety, panic attacks, or depression because they have a deficiency of Valium or Prozac,” says Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, [Ballantine Books, 2007]. “Our bodies do not require these substances for essential metabolic processes. However, we can develop a myriad of psychological symptoms because of a deficiency of magnesium, a nutrient our bodies do require,” says Dean. (Click here for Natural Calm Magnesium Products, one of the best magnesium products, IMO).

Laugh

Since the 1980s, Dr. Lee S. Berk, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunology researcher, and Dr. Stanley Tan have followed in Norman Cousins’ ground breaking work. In the 1970s, Cousins suggested humor and the resulting laughter benefits a person’s health.

Berk and Tan’s research has shown that laughter helps optimize many of the functions of various body systems such as optimizing the hormones in the endocrine system and decreasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine which lead to stress reduction. Repetitious mirthful laughter causes the body to respond in a way similar to moderate physical exercise.

While the pharmaceutical industry continues to promote a long list of medications as the solution to treat anxiety and depression, several natural alternatives are available that are safe and without risky side effects. (Click here for L-theanine, the patented Suntheanine form works best)

People suffering with acute or chronic mood changes interested in natural treatments should seek a holistic practitioner. Holistic physicians often measure neurotransmitter and hormone levels and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a combination of diet changes, exercise, hormone replacement and supplements. Natural treatments may be used in conjunction with conventional approaches to mood management or as an alternative.

Footnotes:
“Body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise, study finds.” ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 11, 2010.

Folstein M, Liu T, Peter I, Buell J, Arsenault L, Scott T, Qiu WW, “The homocysteine hypothesis of depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2007. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2010, April 26).

Lacasse JR, Leo J, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fl., 2005 Dec;2(12):e392.

Lerche Davis, Jeanie, “5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health,” WebMD. November 16, 2009.

Mercola, Joseph, Ph.D., “More Omega-3 Studies Find Links to Depression,”November 24 2004.

Mercola, Joseph, Ph.D., “Elevated Homocysteine Levels May Affect Your Ability to Think,” Mercola.com, September 10, 2003.

Rebecca, Ruiz, How To Beat The Winter Blues. Forbes.com. December 15, 2008.

Streeter, CC, Jensen JE, Perlmutter RM, Cabral HJ, Tian H, Terhune DB, Ciraulo DA, Renshaw, PF, “Yoga Asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study.” Journal of Complementary Medicine, 2007 May 13.\

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Author’s Note:

Depression and anxiety treatment has exploded into a highly profitable industry for drug companies. A growing number of people are popping prescriptions, desperately seeking solutions that will work long term and won’t carry risky side effects.

But pharmaceutical companies continue to spend millions on advertising to convince consumers that the solution to conquering mood disorders comes from a doctor’s prescription pad. Yet there are numerous natural alternatives available that cost little money, are safe and effective and will treat a spectrum of acute and chronic mood issues.

Ideally people battling mood disorders should find a physician who will first test their neurotransmitters and hormone levels (interrelated) and then work from the patient’s baseline numbers to create a brain balancing program with natural and/or traditional solutions. In addition, people should track their symptoms over several months, noting any changes and what factors preceeded their symptoms (food, stress, hormonal change, poor sleep, etc).

Not all depression and anxiety stems from the same imbalance, knowing what the deficiencies are is a better treatment plan then throwing medication at a patient and hoping it sticks, with endless trials and error. Although even with natural healing, trial and error is part of the package to wellness. – Laura



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