Dr. Rhonda Patrick on Autism | Joe Rogan Experience


(Episode 502) 14:55 – Dr. Patrick explains what happens when we have a lot of serotonin in our system. Our bodies will compensate by down regulating serotonin receptors. This can make us feel worse some time after the surge of serotonin.

(Episode 502) 17:36 – Serotonin made in the gut. Vitamin D regulates the production of two enzymes responsible for turning tryptophan into serotonin. If vitamin D is abundant, the enzyme that makes serotonin in the gut (tryptophan hydroxylase-1) is turned off and the enzyme responsible for making serotonin in the brain (tryptophan hydroxylase-2) is turned on. Vitamin D regulates the production of both mechanisms in opposite directions.

Vitamin D; Tryptophan; Serotonin

(Episode 502) 20:50 – Dr. Patrick relates the two serotonin production processes to autism. Adequate vitamin D levels in people have decreased as instances of autism have risen in the past 30 years. Serotonin is critical to guiding neurons, regulating brain structure, and morphology.

(Episode 502) 22:24 – The detailed process of how we make vitamin D and why we need the vitamin D3 supplement. UVB radiation converts 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 makes its way to the liver where it gets converted into 25-hydroxy vitamin D (a major circulating form of vitamin D). Then this compound makes its way to the kidneys where it gets converted into an active steroid hormone called 125-hydroxy vitamin D. This form can bind to many receptors found all over the body; when bound it can turn on or turn off a thousand different genes. These pathways include pathways responsible for serotonin production; this is where Dr. Patrick links vitamin D to autism. She mentions that it is common for autistics to have an above average amount of serotonin in the gut.

(Episode 502) 24:40 – 5-HTP (an intermediate in the production of serotonin which comes from tryptophan) can get converted into serotonin in the gut and the brain. If there is too much, it can bypass interacting with typrophan-hydroxylase-1 and be converted into serotonin as a result of being decarboxylated in the gut. Therefore your gut can be making more serotonin than the brain – this is a problem because serotonin cannot pass the blood brain barrier. 5-HTP and tryptophan can pass the blood brain barrier; that is where we want it to go. The direction tryptophan and 5-HTP take depends on intake of other branched chain amino acids and the brain’s ability to convert the compounds into serotonin depends on vitamin D (turning on tryptophan hydroxylase-2).


(Episode 502) 48:33 – Obese individuals and type II diabetics have chronic inflammation and in this state, the body secretes inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines cross the blood-brain barrier and cause neuroinflammation. Injecting people with these cytokines result in cognitive decline and depressive symptoms.

(Episode 502) 50:41 – Autism and the bacteria in the gut. People with autism have a lot of inflammation in the gut, and as discussed prior, this inflammation can produce the cytokines that make their way into the brain.

(Episode 502) 51:00 – Brain inflammation and E2 series prostaglandins. When inflammation in the brain occurs, E2 series prostaglandins are released and they inhibit the brain’s ability to release serotonin. You cannot release serotonin from a presynaptic neuron; you need the release of serotonin to regulate behavior.The subjects who were injected with inflammatory cytokines were given EPA (one of the omega-3s [more on this in previous summaries]) and they did not get the depressive symptoms. EPA effectively inhibits the secretion of E2 series prostaglandins.

UC Davis Study; Immune Response

(Episode 1054) 54:32 – Primate immune response and effects on the fetus. Dr. Patrick uses this study from UC Davis to draw parallels to the vaccine discussion. A strong autoimmune response in the mother primates can produced antibodies that attack the fetus’ developing brain. The monkeys born from these mothers expressed autism like behaviors. It has been shown in humans that mothers of autistic children are 5 times more likely to have antibodies floating around in the blood that could attack fetal brain proteins. So there is a link between autoimmunity (particularly during pregnancy) and autism risk. Dr. Patricks opts for single administration of various vaccines for the growing child. Dr. Patrick was against getting vaccines during pregnancy, the UC Davis study provides good evidence as to why that makes sense.

Gut Health; Cognitive Disease

(Episode 1054) 2:26:06 – Studies have shown connections between gut microbiome and cognitive diseases. There have been links established with being on the autistic spectrum, with Parkinson’s disease, and with multiple sclerosis. Some of the short chain fatty acids that the gut microbiome makes increase the production of natural killer T cells which can kill cancer cells as effectively as chemotherapy. When the gut produces less of the bacteria that feed these T cells, the body can’t fight the cancer as effectively. There were human trials where subjects with colorectal cancer were given a high dose (around 400 billion) of probiotic and saw their cancer recurrence rates decrease. The gut is the major source of inflammation in the body. Patrick addresses how many people are concerned with taking some exogenous compound from some chemical (and people should be concerned) that can be cancerous; she says that people need to put a large emphasis on what is going on in the gut and the harmful effects of regular metabolism.

Vitamin D

(Episode 1054) 2:28:40 – Contributing factors to autism. In the past, Dr. Patrick’s research has established a connection with vitamin D deficiency and autism. Joe and Patrick list a few links: paternal age being linked with autism, smoking with autism, and maternal age linked to down syndrome.


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