In our busy schedules and assembly-line routines we really cannot afford nursing an illness however insignificant it may be. Did you know that in 1918, an influenza pandemic broke out killing 50 to 100 million people across the world including inhabitants of the remote areas of Pacific Islands and the arctic? With common cold living up to its name and literally becoming the most common disease in the world, one should really emphasize on its prevention. Ever wondered if the easiest cure could right outside your balcony? One word; Sunlight. Shocking but it is true! A journal issued by Cambridge University suggests that Vitamin D deficiency exposes infants and young adults to influenza and elevates the risk of developing respiratory difficulties. Dr. Adit Ginde of University of Colorado at Denver confirms that Vitamin D helps fight tuberculosis and common cold which can pose some serious difficulties to patients with chronic respiratory problems like asthma and emphysema, which is a long-term lung disease.
Vitamin D deficiency is the culprit to many other diseases!
Apart from respiratory issues there are several other risks that involve vitamin D deficiency. Some of them are enlisted below.
Diabetes: You may find it surprising but vitamin D is directly connected to diabetes. Vitamin D plays the role of specific receptors in pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin, a hormone that absorbs excessive sugar in our blood and regulate our blood sugar level. When provided with insufficient vitamin D level, the cell does not function properly and the blood sugar level increases. Prolonged elevation can result in a condition called ‘hyperglycemia’ commonly known as Diabetes.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD): Low levels of Vitamin D are not good for your heart. Studies conducted by Harvard University show that people with lower level of Vitamin D are at an increased risk of developing CHD. Vitamin D helps by reducing risks of diabetes, thickening of arterial walls, risk of arterial calcification or hardening and other factors responsible for causing Coronary Heart Disease.
Weak or Hollow Bones (osteoporosis): Vitamin D is directly responsible for stronger bone strength. Studies have shown that children exposed to sufficient sunlight in the initial years of their life have high bone mass and are less likely to develop chronic bone conditions like osteoporosis and fibromyalgia later in their life.
Brain Damage: Vitamin D acts as a neurosteroid and helps in proper functioning of our brains. It also acts as receptor in specialized areas of the brain, namely, cerebellum, thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia and hippocampus. Vitamin D deficiency has been asserted as one of the reasons for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and schizophrenia.
Cancer: vitamin D plays a pivotal role in prevention of breast and prostate cancer. Vitamin D receptors are present on the surface of the cell and can help nullify production of oncogenes by signaling the cell to stop dividing.
How to treat Hypovitaminosis D (Deficiency of vitamin D)?
The rule of thumb for treating hypovitaminosis D is ‘for every 1 ng/ml increase in the blood level, increment of 100 IU/day is necessary’. Treatment of vitamin D deficiency can vary from person to person and is mostly differentiated on the basis of requirement by the patient. For blood level less than 30 ng/ml minimum of 1000 IU/day is required in children and for adults, 1500-2000 IU/day. A task force for the Endocrine society made the following recommendations:
For children and teenagers aged between 1-18 years, 2000 IU/day of vitamin D2 or D3 for six weeks or 50,000 IU/day of vitamin D2 once a week again for six weeks followed by a maintenance therapy of 600-1000 IU/day.
For adults, 50,000 IU/day of D2 or D3 once a week for 8 weeks or equivalent 6000 IU/day every followed by a maintenance therapy of 1500-2000 IU/day.
For obese patients, people having mal-absorption syndromes and patients on medication effecting vitamin D metabolism at least 6000-10,000 IU/day followed by a maintenance therapy of 3000-6000 IU/day.
Apart from the above mentioned treatment methods, including a sufficiently fat rich food in your diet can help increase vitamin D levels as vitamin D is fat-soluble and it facilitates vitamin D absorption. A recent study showed that people who included fat-rich diet in their largest meal had their vitamin D level elevated up to an average of 56.7%. So the next time you go on a coughing spree, check with your doctor for Vitamin D deficiency.
(With inputs from NE Mirror)