One the largest full moon will be observed next Friday night, it's reported. I still can't get wolves off my mind...esp since my children and I are completely mesmerized by the Planet Earth DVD series right now. One of my daughters was born in August -- the busiest time of the year for most OB/GYN/maternity wards around the country. As you know, we celebrated our first Paleo b-day party for her this year. Apparently she is hardly alone in celebrating a birthday in this month! In the U.S., August is the month with the highest birth rates according to a report by ABC News (we concur -- nearly got kicked out and diverted to another hospital the night of the impending birth since all the beds were full -- luckily one opened up *wink*):
Summertime Mystery: More Born, Less Die in August
If human mammals have 40-week gestation periods (10-lunar months) and you do the math....there are a lot of us participating in uuuummm...reproductive activities during this month of cheer, festivities, and mirth, December. How is Vitamin D vital to some of these uuummm 'processes' do you ever wonder?
Are we so different from wolves and bears? Obviously we are different species (bears, 38 chromosomes; wolves, 39; humans, 23) however hormonally we are very very similar:
--progesterone (the 'pregnancy' hormone)
--vitamin D (sourced from sun and rich salmon catches; IDEAL: 60-70s ng/ml )
--PTH (breaks down bone to modulate blood calcium, esp when vitamin D is low; IDEAL PTH levels imo 10-20)
-- thyroid hormones T3 T4 and related TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone) and TSH (thyrotropin)
Sex Hormones in Black Bears
Researchers of black bears compared sex hormone concentrations between between summer and winter seasons as well as pregnant v. non-pregnant bears. Guess what 3 things they discovered?
Seasonality, Sex and Survival
The length of the day (photoperiod) triggers activation of Thyroid hormone in both the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands in the birds and the bees...well...specifically QUAILS as demonstrated in the latest scientific breakthrough in Nature (below). The same research group shows a similar outcome in mice...here in the prestigious PNAS Nov 2008.
And yes in case you are wondering humans have VDRs (vitamin D receptors) all over the brain -- in the hypothalamus (McGrath JJ, J Chem Neuroanat 2005 )and of course the pituitary (Diguez C Life Sci. 1997 ).
So what may signal an increase in Thyroid hormone in bears and humans? What extends the photoperiods and those warm, long, lazy summer days?
Did you know in humans, seasonality of Thyroid hormones are observed as they are in the above bear studies? HERE, HERE and HERE. The Pituitary-Thyroid-Hypothalamus-Gonad axis potently controls reproduction. I talk about the Pituitary and Hypothalamus a lot because these are the endocrine glands which produce the signals that impact the sex organs (gonads) to produce Estrogen, Progesterone, DHEA, Testosterone, etc. The sypmphony of hormone music is truly a monumental miracle -- all geared to produce one single event. Yes, it truly breaks down to one thing.
No...not the 'O'... silly, which aint a bad event...
Survival of the species...
More and more trials and studies are coming out demonstrating how Vitamin D synergistically affects this awesome baby-making health axis.
Dr. Davis has now discussed how both the hormone of light (Vitamin D) and the hormone of darkness (Melatonin) controls and optimizes the cardiovascular system. Indeed, they actually optimize every system including the reproductive.
Degeneration Associated with Vitamin D Deficiency
The role of vitamin D to me appears central and pivotal for signalling mammalian bodies to prepare for reproduction/survival. By survival, I'm referring to survival of our lineage and paternal/maternal DNA. There are a few things non-conducive to that achievement...for instance, death is one. Death of either parent would diminish chances of passing on beneficial genes I would guess. Myocardial infarction or erectile dysfunction might be another. How is our survival linked to nutrients and optimization of survival? Dr. Bruce Ames has discussed the importance of achieving optimal levels of ALL micro- and macronutritients to prevent DNA damage and cancer here in his famous/infamous PNAS article ( Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage.PNAS 2006 Nov 21;103(47):17589-94.); Magnesium deficiency accelerates cellular senescence in cultured human fibroblasts. Killilea DW et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008). His research has shown that if even one nutrient (like, let's say folic acid) is omitted, DNA damage occurs in the lab animal just as if the lab animal sustained significant radiation damage. For heart disease, we at TYP understand the importance of obtaining nutrients for the benefits of reversal of atherosclerosis and plaque. This also absolutely extends to fertility and reproduction. I loved Dr. Schwalfenberg's organ review and the role of Vitamin D in every organ system HERE. Reproduction is one of the most important functions for survival (right?) and it was another organ system that unfortunately failed to get a mention (in addition to Parathyroid and Thyroid). So..."let's talk about S*X baby..." *wink*
Vitamin D From Sunlight
Do you feel sexier in the summer? High vitamin D (eg, long photoperiods/sunlight) appears to be correlated with high reproductive activities and characteristics which are conducive to reproduction, for example great skin/hair (estrogen), great muscles and physique (testosterone), amorous displays (testosterone) and libido (testosterone). Did you know that Vitamin D supplementation normalizes estrogen and testosterone (via aromatase)? In men with low testosterone, supplemenation can modulate and raise blood testosterone. In women, the same, with estrogen.
But let's be reasonable. Taking supplemental vitamin D is not going to make you an immortal god/goddess overnight.
But it will sure help.
Fertility and Survival
Both long-term survival (species) and short-term survival (individual) appear assured when both vitamin D and sex hormones are set within normal limits. At TYP, hormone replacement with vitamin D, bio-identical estrogen and testosterone have been shown to allow regression and eradication of plaque and heart disease successfully. Vitamin D of course is vital for reproductive health, and deficiency may have long-range survival consequences as we are finding out globally.
How many infertile couples do you know of? How many moms with PCOS (eg, wheat intolerance, insulin resistant, fish oil/vit D deficient) who can't naturally conceive? How many celebrity twins can you count being born annually? Or just the ones among your friends, family, acquaintenances and neighbors?
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Infertility, Low Sperm Counts, Maternal Pre-eclampsia, Pre-emies, and Premature Births, SIDS, Infant Mortality
FEMALE INFERTILITY AND MALE LOW SPERM COUNTS
Vitamin D is necessary for optimal health. Unfortunately the corollary is true and supported by the established and emerging medical literature. Deficiency leads to suboptimal health and particularly poor reproductive health...which translates to discontinuation of genetic information for some folks. At the end of October, researchers from Australia prospectively showed that Vitamin D supplementation increased sperm counts in infertile males. A year ago, my OB had told me about the use of Vitamin D in the fertility clinics to improve sperm counts. I couldn't find any prospective studies at the time and just forgot about it. Until now. It entirely makes sense to me.
Vitamin D Plays Major Role in Male Infertility
Animal studies have long supported the important role of vitamin D in reproduction:
Pre-eclampsia is on the rise...like vitamin D deficiency is. Connection? yes. Preventable? absolutely yes. Pre-ecampsia is a life-threatening condition leading to hypertension and early kidney damage in pregnant women usually presenting in the 2nd or 3rd trimester. BP drugs and strict bedrest (eg, not even getting out of bed to pee, no joke).
If vitamin D is a steroid and during pregnancy, the pregnant woman is making 10-TIMES more steroids to grow, sustain, and harbor a growing fetus, what do you think occurs if the mom starts out vitamin D deficient? Or what if she starts out critically vitamin D deficient -- like many women who abhor the sun for vanity (I may be part of this group *wink* and because I was deathly allergic to sun when I was wheat-addicted) and/or wear sunscreen and makeup...what might occur? Can you imagine what might occur as the mom's body starts to run out of the raw materials (cholesterol and vitamin D) to make estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin?
Not good things?
Pre-eclampsia, pregnany-related hypertension, proteinuria, kidney failure, and potential maternal and/or fetal death to name a few.
Fetal neurologic and autoimmune disorders.
Perhaps sowing the seeds for future heart disease? Perhaps the vitamin D deficiency of OUR mothers is currently affecting OUR generation? And future generations.
As we reviewed in the last post, vitamin D regulates our blood pressure by affecting the angiotension-renin-kidney system. Pre-eclampsia is basically a critical hormone and vitamin D imbalance.
INCREASED FETAL MORTALITY, PRE-EMIES, SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME
Actually little literature exists specifically on this subject (that I could find). SIDS is probably multi-factorial. In utero development of the innervation of the lungs and brain are likely key to susceptilibity factors. I did however find one report which showed low vitamin D levels in all cases of premature and infant death cases.
Perez-Lopez ties it up well for me (Gynecol Endocrinol. 2007 Jan;23(1):13-24)
Vitamin D: the secosteroid hormone and human reproduction
"Vitamin D is a secosteroid with an endocrine mechanism of action which is sequentially synthesized in humans in the skin, liver and kidneys. The active hormone, 1alpha,25-dihydrocholecalciferol [1,25(OH)2D3], is often considered only in terms of its role in controlling calcium and phosphorus homeostasis. However, cumulative evidence points to the presence of vitamin D receptors in many tissues. The present article summarizes key points regarding the participation of vitamin D in pregnancy and breastfeeding. During pregnancy, sufficient vitamin D concentrations are needed not only to address the growing demand for calcium on the part of the fetus, but also to participate in fetal growth, development of the nervous system, lung maturation and fetal immune system function. Hypovitaminosis D has been related to the development of diabetes, pre-eclampsia and fetal neurological disorders. During pregnancy and lactation, calcium from the maternal skeleton is mobilized, with a rise in bone turnover and a reduction in bone mass. It is advisable for pregnant and nursing women to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, through small doses of solar exposure to facilitate natural formation of the hormone or by ingesting appropriate vitamin supplements."
Next post: More Vitamin D Dosing and Non-toxicity