Tuesday, 10 April 2012

8 reasons why you should go and get some Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is greatly underrated perhaps because it is available for free.    Your skin can make Vitamin D when the ultra violet radiation from the sunlight touches it.    

1. Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption, bone health and prevents osteoporosis
2. Vitamin D boosts the immune system in the body reducing infections
3. Vitamin D helps in preventing certain types of cancers
4. Vitamin D has a positive effect on diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.  
5. Vitamin D helps prevent depression
6. Vitamin D helps in asthma
7. Vitamin D is FREE
8. I saved the most important for last.  Vitamin D improves brain health.  

Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D is important for the brain’s vasculature.  This is particularly critical for the elderly who are at risk of Vascular Dementia.   Medical research has shown evidence that Vitamin D helps clearing amyloid from the brain. (Amyloid is a protein that condenses into plaques in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease.)  Presently, the long term benefits of removal of amyloid from the brain and whether this might reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia is underway.   

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine measured Vitamin D deficiency in a large number of elderly in the USA.  The findings were-
• Over 50% of those people with Vitamin D deficiency had significant cognitive impairments.
• Severely low levels of Vitamin D makes one four times more likely to develop an age-associated cognitive impairment and is a warning sign of a more severe dementia.
• Vitamin D deficiency may have other consequences upon brain health as we age; low levels of this vitamin have also been associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease.

One would expect that in India where we have abundant sunshine, there would be no deficiency of Vitamin D.  The reality is very different.   A research report published in the Journal of Association of Physicians India states that there is widespread prevalence of varying degrees (50- 90%) of Vitamin D deficiency in the Indian population.   Actually this is not surprising.  Think about it. 
We are indoors of the time.  When we go out we do so in cars to air-conditioned malls and gyms.   Today everyone uses sunscreen before stepping out to stay fair skinned and wears clothes that cover most of the body.
The UVB rays that help the skin make Vitamin D cannot penetrate glass or sunscreen lotions or clothes.   So you cannot get your dose of vitamin D sitting inside an air-conditioned car even if can feel the sunrays on your skin.   Even weak sunscreens (SPF=8) block your body's ability to generate vitamin D by 95%. This is how sunscreen products cause disease -by creating a critical vitamin deficiency in the body - something pharma companies will never admit. 
People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 - 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of Vitamin D.   But the high temperatures during day time and sultry humid climate are major deterrents.   We prefer to stay in the shade and cover up when we need to step out in the sun.  Also increase in the air pollution levels hampers the UVB rays thus preventing synthesis of Vitamin D in the skin.  
The foods that contain Vitamin D are oily fish, egg yolk, milk, leafy vegetables and fortified foods.  Most Indians are vegetarian and we do not have foods fortified with Vitamin D in India.  Even if we did it would be next to impossible to get the required daily dose of Vitamin D from diet alone. The only reliable way is adequate exposure to sunlight.

Some symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are body ache, muscle pains, weakness, joint pains, fatigue, day time sleepiness, misaligned teeth and tooth decay, allergies, vision problems, and frequent fractures.  If pressing firmly on your sternum hurts (Sternum or breastbone is a long flat bone shaped like T in the chest below the neck, located in the centre of the chest) you may be suffering from chronic vitamin D deficiency right now.
Sensible exposure to natural sunlight is the simplest and easiest way to improve your health.  This is best done in the early morning or late afternoon and not in the blazing mid day sun.  The sunlight needed has to fall directly on to bare skin (through a window is not enough).  Sun exposure two to three times a week is enough to achieve healthy vitamin D levels. This is a fat soluble vitamin and can be stored by the body.  It is advised that each episode be 20-30 minutes to bare arms and face.  This is not the same as sun tanning; the skin simply needs to be exposed to sunlight.  Children and pregnant women have increased requirements.
Chronic vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight: it takes months of vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body's bones and nervous system.  

Overenthusiastically taking Vitamin D supplements without careful monitoring of levels has potential dangers.  This could lead to hypervitaminosis D and its ill effects.   But your body will never generate too much vitamin D from sunlight exposure. Your body will self-regulate and only generate what it needs.    So do it the natural way.  Go out and get some sun on your skin.  

If your dementia patient can walk, take them out in the morning or late afternoon.  If they are unable to walk, sit them down near an open window to get their dose of Vitamin D.  Skin in the elderly produces reduced rates of Vitamin D and hence their levels need monitoring. It would be a good idea to request for a simple blood test for vitamin D on your next visit to the doctor.
Stay healthy and be happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment