A New Look at PTSD
While 25 to 80% of the general population (depending on location) have been exposed to traumatic events, at some point during their life, “only a small subgroup of trauma victims develop PTSD”.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a serious psychiatric disorder characterized by avoidance behaviors, hyperarousal, and intrusive memories. PTSD is also associated with a range of mental and physical conditions including anxiety, bipolar disorder, cardiovascular disease, depression, metabolic syndrome, and schizophrenia.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to all these ailments as well, and found to be involved in neuroinflammatory (e.g. multiple sclerosis), neurodegenerative (e.g. Parkinson’s disease), and neurodevelopmental (e.g. schizophrenia) disorders.
So, researchers decided to investigate “whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to reduced vitamin D levels and vitamin D deficiency. Moreover, we sought to investigate the role of the vitamin D-binding protein...by testing if two functional polymorphisms were associated with vitamin D levels and PTSD.” (Polymorphisms refer to genetic expression.)
Other studies have in the past attempted to find reasons why some people are predisposed to developing PTSD, looking at metabolic and genetic factors. But none had examined vitamin D levels, and receptors, for a link. One point to be noted here is that the study sought not only to see about vitamin D deficiency, but to also establish if there was a malfunctioning gene, causing such individuals to be unable to properly utilize what vitamin D they did obtain.
It had already been scientifically established that there are certain pathways by which vitamin
D metabolism is linked to mental disorders. For example: vitamin D has a regulatory role in neuroinflammation and neuroimmunology, which may also be involved in PTSD; vitamin D receptors are found in brain regions which show altered activity in those suffering from PTSD; and, vitamin D is also involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and catecholamines, which play a major role in the biology of mental disorders.
So, what did they find?
“The analysis revealed an inverse relation of 25(OH)D levels and a positive association of vitamin D deficiency with PTSD. Our results suggest that an altered vitamin D metabolism may be involved in the pathophysiology of PTSD.”
(Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry; Volume 96, 10 January 2020; “Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with reduced vitamin D levels and functional polymorphisms of the vitamin D binding-protein in a population-based sample.” Jan Terock, et al.) Study link
This conclusion shows not only a link between PTSD and low vitamin D levels, but something else as well. “An altered vitamin D metabolism” is the laymans’ term for a genetic malfunction of vitamin D receptors.
This genetic problem is also found in many people who are poor “methylators”, a complex subject, but one worth investigating if one has PTSD, or any difficult-to-cure ailments. Up to 40% of the population may be poor methylators, and poor methylation can be a root cause of diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, neurological degenerative disorders (MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, etc), depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Since this genetic malfunction is commonly accompanied by a malfunctioning of the vitamin D receptors, it would not be surprising if those who are predisposed to PTSD are also prone to methylation malfunctions. For an overview of the concept of methylation, and the distinction between over and under-methylation, have a read of this article from Psychology Today.
There is also indication that improving methylation status can help those who already are dealing with PTSD, to reduce some of the symptomatic expressions. And, since improving vitamin D status has been shown to be helpful for anxiety, depression, and other mental and mood disorders, it would most likely be of benefit for those with PTSD to also look into the therapeutic use of vitamin D.