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Living with Autism


November 9, 2017

Higher Doses of Vitamin D for People with Autism and Epilepsy

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Recent studies show vitamin D (which functions as a corticosteroid) deficiency is HIGHER in people with autism. AND, in people with epilepsy. (Journal of Pediatric Neuroscience, 2014) and (Osteoporosis International, 2016). 

Why? Well, we know many people with autism also suffer with epilepsy. As such, they take seizure medications which degrade Vitamin D in the body. 

One study shows anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), even SECOND and THIRD generation AEDs, such as Gabapentin, Keppra, Lamictal and Lacosamide, can impact health by decreasing levels of Vitamin D.  

Some drugs are worse offenders. AEDs that drastically lower Vitamin D levels--are Dilantin, Tegretol, Primadone and Phenobarbital.  (If you're autistic child or family member takes these specific aforementioned epilepsy drugs, get them tested for Vitamin D, pronto. Or, if you are a person with high functioning autism, ask your doctor to test your Vitamin D levels). 

What about people with autism and without epilepsy? Yes, they too have lower levels of Vitamin D. A review of literature shows increased cortisol depletes Vitamin D. It's widely known people with autism have increased stress levels, which raise cortisol. 

This corroborates another study that shows people with autism have higher levels of cortisol. (Journal of Brain, Behavior and Immunity, 2017). 

After living years with  a son with severe autism and being around all types of people with autism, higher cortisol in autism makes perfect sense because the world is a terribly stressful and antagonistic place for people with autism. More so than we can imagine. 

The constant barrage of life: Bright lights, crowded public places, stores with noisy displays, narrow aisles, clanking restaurants, the storm of modern libraries, everywhere you go people chatting on cell phones speakers as if nobody else on the planet existed, lack of open space, autism intolerant neighbors, the tumult of traffic. Yes, people with autism, struggle to make sense of the insanity of it all. Society trying to get them to blend into the patterns of an often illogical, inconsistent, selfish, maddening and upside down neurotypical world. So, naturally people with autism are under constant stress and their cortisol levels are higher, thus depleting Vitamin D. 

An acute or chronic deficiency in Vitamin D can cause AGITATION, poor appetite, bone pain, body aches, fatigue, itchy skin, dry eyes, tension headaches and insomnia. 

Clearly, not symptoms handled well by behaviorally sensitive people with autism, especially non-verbal people who can't tell you what they are experiencing. And for sure not helpful for people prone to seizures. 

Interestingly, the MAYO CLINIC and Vitamin D council have different opinions about what the average daily dose of Vitamin D should be, but generally they conclude it's around 4000 IU a day. 

This is not an effective dose for people who take anti-epileptic drugs because research shows taking anti-epileptic drugs consistently DEPLETES Vitamin D levels. Thus, anyone taking daily does of AEDs would need a higher maintenance dose to promote optimal Vitamin D levels. (Taking anti-epileptic drugs INCREASES CATABOLISM (breakdown) of Vitamin D). 

Chronic untreated catabolism of Vitamin D can lead to Osteomalacia (decreased mineralization of new osteoids , which leads to bone softening). 

Vitamin D levels should be routinely checked in people with autism and epilepsy. 

PROPHYLAXIS (pro-active medical intervention to prevent disease) with Vitamin D is critical for people with autism and epilepsy. 

A 2012 study in Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology says that people with epilepsy need "up to 7000 IU DAILY" to offset this on-going catabolism. 

And that documented Vitamin D deficiency should be treated "with 50,000 IU for 8 weeks, FOLLOWED by 50,000 IU Vit. D every 2- 4 weeks". 

Hundreds of studies have been done to try to understand autism. Still, autism research is going in circles. 

Ironically, I've often found that the simplest solutions to issues in autism are found in the most complex across the board research studies. 

Kim Oakley, M.Ed. Autism Mom and Advocate. 


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