Friday, January 28, 2011

Tank up on sunshine!

Most professionals in the city take the air-conditioned car, or the fast train to spend eight to 10 hours inside the office. We pull the windows up in the car or sit away from the window in the train or bus. The closed-room air-conditioned workspace relives us from the excruciating heat, but also deprives us of sunlight a natural and a potent source of Vitamin D3.

According to endocrinologist and diabetologist, Dr Hemraj Chandalia, this silent problem manifests itself in seemingly unrelated symptoms and can be diagnosed through a blood test. The only apparent indicator of a Vitamin D3 deficiency is severe bone pain. While this is usually a problem with people who live in higher latitudes and have long grey winters. Those with darker skin pigmentation, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease are also at high risk.

Soak it in
Vitamin D3 is both a vitamin and a hormone. It acts as a vitamin when it binds with calcium for proper absorption. Humans cannot absorb calcium without adequate amounts of Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 promotes bone health, controls the immune system, increases neuro-muscular function, improves mood, protects the brain against toxic chemicals and reduces pain. The optimum Vitamin D level in the body should never be below 30 ng/ml. Between 30 ng/ml to 15ng/ml is considered borderline and anything below 15ng/ml is insufficient.

Headed for trouble
The lack of Vitamin D3 causes bone pain, especially in the pelvic, back and thigh region. In some cases, it can result in obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. According to a study, insufficiency of Vitamin D3 in the body may even cause kidney stones, osteoporosis, and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer.

The deficiency can also lead to cancer (especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers) and ischemic heart disease. “But these are conjectures, generalising the effects in the studies is very speculative,” says Chandalia. “An untreated patient can only develop small cracks in the bones, which could cause osteomalacia (softening of the bones due to defective bone mineralisation) and cause bow legs in the infants. In extreme circumstances, it can also cause rickets among children,” he clarifies.

Vis-à-vis, excess of it can cause drowsiness and depression. Therefore, one must not exceed consuming more than 2000 units of Vitamin D3 supplements every day.

Other Supplements
- Apart from taking in direct sunlight in mornings (when the pollution levels are considerably low) for about 30-minutes, eating milk products, oily fish, chicken and red meat helps.
- Cod liver oil supplements and consuming multivitamin tablets that include 800 to 1000 units of Vitamin D3 can also prove to be beneficial.
- In the case of patients who have a higher deficiency problem, Calcirol granule packets, which comprise 60, 000 units of Vitamin D3, are prescribed to them on a monthly basis.
- Only when the doctor suspects that the patient is unable to absorb the supplements that Arachitol injection that consists of 6,00,000 units of Vitamin D3 is infused in the body, once in six months.

“Besides, the way the government took the initiative to fortify iodine with salt, fortifying basic food items such as bread and milk with Vitamin D3 supplement can be a great way of ensuring that people are actively consuming sufficient units of it,” recommends Chandalia.

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