Off late (at least in Mumbai where I live), I find myself hearing A LOT of conversation about Vitamin D deficiencies. What started off as a rich man’s disease or an upper middle-class disorder has now clawed its way into everyones lives. In fact, pills, powders and Vitamin D shots have become quite the trend off late. If I had to make a guesstimate, I would say that 80% of my clients have a Vitamin D deficiency and if I had a 100-rupee note for every time I overheard someone talk about their Vitamin D deficiency, I would have been able to make at least that one trip to Greece which I have been aching to take for a while now. Anyway, let us first get some basics in order:
- Vitamin D is a vitamin (duh!). Vitamins have some specific tasks which they are supposed to do in the body (energy, disease protection etc.).
- Vitamin D specifically is meant to help with immunity, building strong bones and ensuring that your muscles, heart, lungs and brain are all working well
- Vitamins and minerals are MICRO-nutrients which means that the body needs them in small amounts.
- Vitamins are of two types—either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Vitamin D specifically is a fat-soluble vitamin which means that for the cells to pick it up or absorb it and for it to perform it’s necessary functions, a small amount of fat is needed as a carrier.
Have you ever seen a trail of baby ducklings follow the mommy duck? Think of Vitamin D as one of the baby ducklings and the fat as mommy duck. Baby ducklings (fat-soluble vitamins) can’t reach the other end of the pond/lake in the absence of the loving and guiding mommy duck (fat). Remember this fact and this metaphor and as you keep reading, you’ll know why I chose to elucidate on this specific pointer.
- Most lab tests measure Vitamin D in nano-grams/milliliter wherein an amount in the range of 30-100 is good. Anything below is insufficient/deficient and anything over could be toxic. As previously mentioned, most of us are deficient and I often hear people joke about how deficient they are. “Well, my Vitamin D is like REALLY low! I remember it being a single digit number!” “Oh my God. That’s terrible. Mine is low but not THAT low.”
Now that you’ve understood the basics, let’s answer some comprehensive queries:
- Why are so many people getting deficient in this vitamin?
Recently, my apartment got revamped and my parents and my brother can’t stop talking and raving about their suave new purchase–black-out curtains! Basically curtains that would make it impossible for sunlight to reach your bedroom. In fact, even if you need to take an afternoon nap, these babies can create an illusion of it being night time because they make the room so dark. Now isn’t that fancy? Unfortunately though, by doing this, you’re seriously depriving yourself of Vitamin D. That’s reason #1. Reason #2: We are excluding the mommy duck (fat) as though she were a step-mom and acting like we no longer need her. If you’re going to have fat-free milk and fat-free yogurt, how in the world will your body cells pick up the fat-soluble Vitamin D? Work on these two pointers and that in itself should be of enormous help in upping your levels.
- What are some food sources of D? What’s the best source and why?
Very few sadly. Cod liver oil and fish oil are good sources. Ghee is a great source! Add it back onto your diet so that you don’t go weak in the knees (bone health, get it?). Industrialists have started fortifying (artificially adding) Vitamin D into milk, cereal, breads and packaged juices. Although nothing beats some good, old-fashioned time under the sun. There is a reason why Vitamin D is called the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ It’s the best source of Vitamin D and the safest because if you’re absorbing Vitamin D from the sun, there is no chance of overdosing or toxicity. Nature is so beautiful and perfect that once your bodily needs of the vitamin are met, the chemical will stop converting the inactive form of Vitamin D to its active form.
- What happens if I have excess Vitamin D in my body?
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness
- Constipation, diarrhea or both
Shall I go on?
- So my levels are sort of low. Big deal! How does it change my life?
Statement above was made by one of my really bold clients. He went onto add that he feels tired anyway and he could just live with a little more tiredness. “I probably won’t even notice.” I wasn’t about to just sit and watch while that’s the kind of neglect he decided to put his body through and I don’t intend to do that with all of you either. So news flash: it doesn’t end at fatigue. You risk getting cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, weak bones, heart disease and an array of other diseases. Doesn’t seem like much of a party now, does it?
- Anything else I need to know about D?
Studies show that it gets metabolized most optimally at the back of our thighs so put on those short shorts and step out for some sun time