Known in some spheres as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D serves various important functions in the body including: promoting the absorption of calcium, reducing inflammation, promoting bone and cell growth and maintaining normal phosphate and calcium levels. It can be obtained from various foods or supplements. Exposure to the sun stimulates its production in the skin.
Vitamin D deficiencies can cause mean short term and long term complications. Dr. Jimmy Joseph, an Internal Medicine specialist at the Universal Hospital warned that a lack of sun exposure could lead to complications such as kidney and heart diseases. This is in response to common misconceptions and negligence regarding Vitamin D deficiency in the Arab region. He explained that vitamin D deficiency was the most common vitamin deficiency found in their patients attributing it to the lack of healthy exposure to the sun.
Most people in Dubai travel by cars, hardly getting any time to walk outside. Children also spend their time indoors on their smart phones and tablets rather than playing outdoors.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) reported the number of UAE residents suffering from the deficiency to be more than 80 percent of the population.
This number is especially alarming and more so when you consider the effects. The Vitamin D deficiency not only causes fatigue, bone pain and muscle weaknesses but also triggers other serious diseases. It is a significant factor in liver disease, kidney disease, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. The condition could also lead to higher risks of asthma and wheezing, schizophrenia, memory loss, and depression.
According to a Universal Hospital report, a minimum of 5 patients every day manifest the symptoms of the disease. A patient can show up reporting pain in the arms after doing small chores that would not otherwise cause them to tire. More often than not, this is a problem connected with the condition, according to the report.
Calcium in the body is responsible for bone building. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of the Calcium
Per Dr. Anita Das Gupta, a clinical dietician at Burjeel Hospital, people should be willing to walk at least ten minutes in the sun without wearing any skin-protection products. This is important as it allows the body to absorb the necessary sun rays. She also pointed out that you can supplement short walks outside with vitamin D fortified foods like milk, and cereals.
Other foods that have a healthy amount of vitamin D are such as mushrooms, nuts, and eggs.
According to Dr. Zeeshan Khan, an internal medicine specialist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai, most people need between 8 and 10 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen at least 2 times a week. People with lighter skins require less exposure to sunlight because they have less melanin in their skin which means more absorption as opposed to people with a darker complexion.
If you suspect yourself to have the deficiency probably because you exhibit any of the symptoms, you should seek medical attention. The deficiency has serious repercussions. It is no wonder some hospitals in the UAE like the Medeor Hospital have time and again felt the need to offer free vitamin D testing.
Do not wait until you get the symptoms to be proactive about your health, take a stroll outside once in a while and enjoy not just the fresh air but the health benefits that come with.