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Ailments on the rise due to faulty Life style: Can Vitamin D help?

Ailments on the rise due to faulty Life style: Can Vitamin D help?

Vitamin D has been relatively obscure member of the vitamins family and its application in the past has been limited to rickets i e soft and deformed leg bones of children and poor bone health( ostomalacia) in adults, at the best. But of lately it has become more glamorous and is being touted as a big savior in preventive health and its deficiency is said to be responsible for a large number of conditions and diseases. On the other hand ignorance about the prevalence of its deficiency and its role in health and disease is not widely known. It is claimed that more than 9 out of 10 people worldwide don’t get enough Vitamin D. Its deficiency is fast becoming a national health concern. It is estimated that over 80% of the Indian population has Vitamin D levels less than normal. However, the bigger concern is that most people are not even aware of the deficiency and its consequences.  It influences the expression of more than 200 genes in the human body. Nearly every tissue in the human body has receptors of vitamin D, be it the brain, heart, skin, kidney, pancreas etc. Any deficiency of this vitamin  in the human body is bound to affect normal functioning of all organs. It has strong association with diabetes, immunity, asthma, TB, high blood pressure, neuro-muscular function, eye problems etc. Maternal deficiency of vitamin D is linked with abnormal foetal growth and gestational diabetes. People who complain of back pains, unexplained muscle pains, general fatigue are the most likely to be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency can be easily corrected by Vitamin D supplementation and lifestyle changes. In a vitamin D deficient person, oral 60,000 IU per week for 12 weeks followed by maintenance dose of 60,000 IU per month is a safe method to correct the deficiency. Also add more fish to your diet. Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods. Good food sources are oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Mush-rooms are a great source of Vitmain D, as are eggs and cheese. So eggs, fish and mushrooms would be a healthy meal to have on a regular basis.
Finally, try and get some sun light on your body if you can! There is no consensus about how much you need, but it’s recommended that you get at least 15-20 minutes early in the morning.Many others recommend 2-3 hours for dark skinned people, as in India. Though, of course, it’s important to still wear UV protection. The sun is less likely to provide your daily needs at higher latitudes, in the winter, or if you’re older or dark skinned (skin pigment blocks light and the process is less efficient with age). Looking at sunlight through the window or basking in the sunlight filtered  through a window glass  won’t work. In the laboratory test a reading of 40 nanograms per milliliter or or 100 nanomoles per liter of blood, is optimal.

What causes Vitamin D deficiency?

Fast-paced, stressed-out lifestyles with sedentary indoor life with long working hours and little or no time for outdoor activities, more and more people are suffering from vitamin D deficiency. It seems working from dawn to dusk in air-conditioned offices and time spent indoors have starved the supply of vitamin D in the body. From professionals and students to housewives, no one comes in contact with adequate sunlight, due to which vitamin D deficiency is rampant today. Elderly and children should be exposed to natural sunlight regularly. People are reluctant to go out in the sun. Dark skin of our population reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Those with dark skin would probably need 20-30 times more exposure to sunlight, compared to fair-skinned people, in order to generate the same amount of vitamin D. Sunscreen use can potentially lead to vitamin D deficiency, particularly if you use high sun protection factor (SPF) creams (factor 15 or above). Religious and social beliefs and taboos also play their role, since most of the natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, milk and liver. If your diet does not include these items, you will suffer vitamin D deficiency. When your kidneys are unable to convert vitamin D to its active form, the risk of deficiency also increases. This holds true for older people as their kidneys’ ability to convert the vitamin to its active form reduces with age. If your digestive tract has problems like chronic diarrhea or Crohn’s Disease, it can affect the intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food. Last, but not the least, if you are obese, you are bound to have low blood levels of vitamin D.

Beware of excess vitamins

There is a mis-belief that vitamins are good substitutes of food and their use in abundance will make you healthier and prevent the diseases also. This is not a fact. Vitamin supplements should be taken in moderation, and under medical supervision only. Excess use can be counter-productive. Vitamin D is no exception.It is a fat soluble vitamin and excess is not eliminated in urine or stools. So, one must be careful not to over-treat Vitamin D deficiency without monitoring Vitamin D levels and land up with toxic effects. It will cause Hypercalcemia, constipation, decreased appetite, lethargy, dehydration, failure to thrive(in children), polyuria, polydipsia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, nephrocalcinosis and headache etc. It requires prompt therapy in the form of intravenous fluids, oral prednisolone, and restriction of calcium in diet.

Go for assessment of Vitamin D through blood test and treat the deficiency adequately.


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