Arizona Advanced Medicine Clinic

Autism - Seasonal Symptoms Can Result from Lack of Vitamin D

Friday, February 5, 2010

JohnCannellMDThe letter below shows the dramatic healing capacity of Vitamin D-3 on one of the most baffling epidemics of modern time – childhood Autism.

Note: The mother’s letter below has been edited for brevity. You can read the full account on the Vitamin D Council’s newsletter archives, titled, Another Autism Case Report.

Reprinted with permission.

Dear Dr. Cannell:

At age 2.5 years, between December 2007 and January 2008, my son experienced a fairly dramatic onset of symptoms that led to his diagnosis of autism.

We took our son to see a number of specialists during the winter of 2008 including a neurologist (who diagnosed him with Asperger Syndrome), a psychologist (who diagnosed with autism), and a second psychologist who specialized in the treatment of autism (who diagnosed him with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not-Otherwise-Specified). All three diagnoses are on the autism spectrum. He also began seeing an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a behavioral specialist, and a DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) doctor for dietary interventions.

We saw a dramatic improvement by April/May of that year. Nearly all the symptoms on the list above had resolved. We assumed the improvements were due to diet but he started to go into the sun around that time. Our son slept well and spent many peaceful, happy and anxiety-free months during the spring and summer after turning three.

By December, our son’s symptoms had worsened further and we decided to put him in a very expensive and intensive autism treatment program through our local hospital. He made slow progress during his participation in the program from January through April. He was also involved in speech and occupational therapy during the winter months.

During that winter, I was crying to some friends about my son and describing his seemingly seasonal pattern of symptoms. We had just seen a second neurologist searching for help, and I was extremely frustrated when, after listening to my son’s symptoms and history, he told me bluntly, “There is nothing seasonal about autism,” then suggested that we put our son on an anti-depressant. We refused the medication.

One of the friends I was crying to is a research librarian and the other is a medical researcher. After our conversation, they located and e-mailed me a few journal articles they thought might help, one of the articles was by Dr. Cannell and discussed his vitamin D theory of autism.

Reading the article was one of those “Aha!” moments and I felt hopeful that Dr. Cannell was on to something.

By June our son was released from both speech therapy and occupational therapy and we were told that he no longer showed any delays for his age. When he had begun occupational therapy in January, the OT had been astonished at our son’s lack of muscle tone. She recommended that he also receive Physical Therapy services, so we went on a long waiting list. Our initial OT was in a car accident, and in May we were transferred to a new OT.

When the new OT first saw our son, she said could not believe he was the same child described in the notes. By May the low muscle tone, hyperactivity and distractibility noted in his file, were no longer evident. His turn came up for physical therapy and we were told he no longer needed it.

Our son has always spent a lot of time outdoors in the summer, without sunblock. He had a happy and relaxing summer. As fall/back-to-school approached, I began to fear the onset of another regression and again read the article by Dr. Cannell my friend had sent.

I visited his website and decided we would try a vitamin D supplement. Our pediatrician did not encourage any dose higher than 400 i.u. (that found in a typical multivitamin) but did write a script to have his 25-hydroxy level tested. In August his level was 37, so we started him on 5,000 iu daily and had his level retested on October 21st. By October his level was 96. The pediatrician was concerned that this was too high and told us he should not have more than 400 iu per day.

Knowing that Nov-March are typically his worst months, we reduced the dosage down only to 3,000 iu from October through mid-December. At an appointment in December our son was doing wonderfully (none of his usual fall/winter symptoms yet evident) and the pediatrician told us 3,000 iu was too much and that we should be giving no more than 400 iu.

In mid-December we reduced the dose to 1,500 iu. By the beginning of January we noted a marked loss of eye contact. We also noted that our son was again interchanging his right hand for writing and eating (after using his left hand exclusively for 8+ months). We increased his vitamin D level to 4,000 iu daily in early January. On January 11 we had his 25-Hydroxy level checked on January 11 and found that it was 89. By the end of January, we and his grandparents noted improvement in his eye contact.

In January 2010 we attended his preschool conferences. The teacher had marked cards with the following code (1=age appropriate, 2=developing, 3=area of concern). Our son received 1s in all areas with the exception of hopping on one foot and balance beam where he received 2s. We were told that he is on par with or ahead of his peers in all areas (academic, fine motor, etc.), and that his teacher had noted no unusual symptoms or concerns.

During the fall/winter 2009-2010 our son has been free from nearly all of the most troubling symptoms that plagued him the previous two winters.

Thank you.
Jeannette, Wisconsin

Dear Jeanette:

You’re welcome. Several things need comment.

First, the symptoms are typical of autism.

Second, the seasonality of symptoms suggest a vitamin D deficient disease.

Third, the treatment in the spring of 2008 seemed effective but, in hindsight, it was simply due to spring sun exposure.

Fourth, as you may now know, light boxes for seasonal affective disorder make no vitamin D.

Fifth, your pediatrician knows little about Vitamin D other than what committees tell him; your decision to ignore his advice probably saved your son’s brain from further injury, as autism is a progressive inflammatory destruction of brain tissue.

Sixth, the fact that you needed bed rest and gave birth prematurely suggests you were Vitamin D deficient during your pregnancy.

Seventh, his twin sister has never had autism, despite the same intrauterine environment. This is consistent with my theory, that autism is caused from a quantitative, not qualitative, variation is one of the enzymes that metabolize Vitamin D. That is, there are no structural differences in these enzymes in autism, only a genetically determined difference in the amount present. These enzymes are responsive to estrogen; estrogen protects the brain from being damaged by low Vitamin D, probably by increasing the amount of activated Vitamin D present, explaining why boys are four times more likely to have the disease.

The report that your son deteriorated when his dose was reduced from 3,000 to 1,500 IU suggests autistic children need adult doses of Vitamin D. When you reduced the dose from 3,000 to 1,500 IU/day he worsened although his level on 1,500 IU/day was probably still greater than 50 ng/ml. This makes me think that dosage needs to be stable and suggests that Professor Reinhold Vieth’s theory of a detrimental seasonal resetting of the intercellular metabolism of Vitamin D may even be true at levels above 50 ng/ml, where the body is storing the parent compound, cholecalciferol, in muscle and fat.

His current dose of 4,000 IU per day is perfectly safe and will give him a level of 80-100 ng/ml, inside the reference ranges of American laboratories. Toxicity (asymptomatic high blood calcium) begins somewhere above 200 ng/ml. Generally speaking, autistic children should take 2,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight for six weeks, then have a 25(OH)D blood test and adjust the dosage to get into the high end of the reference range, 80-100 ng/ml.

Although I first published the Vitamin D theory of autism theory 3 years ago, few autistic children are currently treated for their Vitamin D deficiency. This is due to several reasons. One, those who think, correctly, that autism is a genetic disease, stop thinking after that, reasoning that genetic diseases are untreatable. Such thinkers do not understand epigenetics (upon the genome). Vitamin D is probably the heart of epigenetics, as nothing works upon the genome like vitamin D.

Secondly, the “all autism is caused from vaccinations” crowd cannot accept the Vitamin D possibility as it threatens their core beliefs. They simply cannot change their minds.

Finally, as you now know, organized medicine would say you should stop the vitamin D and watch your son deteriorate, which is why slavery to evidence based medicine is fine for scientists and unethical for practitioners.

John Cannell, MD
Executive Director
Vitamin D Council

Categories: