The entire population was locked indoors for almost five months, owing to the outbreak of COVID-19. Apart from being safe from the global pandemic, there was something else that was making way into our daily lives. Very clearly, staying indoors means to be away from natural sunlight, which is one of the natural and the most effective source of Vitamin D. Despite having a rich resource of sunlight and dietary abundance, more than 75 per cent of the Indian population is a deficit in Vitamin D. The lockdown has just added to the burden, making way to extreme Vitamin D deficiency. Despite being there free of cost, it is an alarming situation to understand that Vitamin D deficiency is widespread across all age groups. A standard dose of Vit-D every year is a must for all but why the difference?
One must know that Vitamin D is a must for the human body as it supports various functions of the internal functioning. It functions just like a hormone and can be externally found in various food groups like dairy products, fatty fish. But did you know that only having a Vitamin D rich diet cannot suffice the daily requirement of 600-800 IU recommended dietary intake?
Common signs and symptoms of Vit D deficiency:
- Getting sick or infected often with common colds & Flu, due to a weak immune system
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bone and muscle pains
- Impaired wound healing
- Bone loss and Osteoporosis
Who should have Serum Vit D assessed?
- People with unexplained bone pains, extreme lethargy and malaise
- Elderly people who are homebound with limited exposure to sunlight
- Young children with stunted growth
- Obese people with Osteoporosis/ Osteopenia
- Population in heavily polluted cities
- People suffering from malabsorption syndromes such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's Disease
One of the commonest forms of deficiency is of Vitamin D and most people are unaware of it as symptoms are often subtle and nonspecific. Sunlight is hands-down the best source of Vitamin D. Usually 20 to 30mins of sun exposure from 10 am to 3 pm that too without a sunscreen is adequate to meet daily requirements, in places with minimum pollution levels.
The 2 Forms Of Vitamin D
- Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol)that is found in plant foods like Mushrooms
- Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) that is found in animal foods like Salmon, Cod and Egg yolks
As per current guidelines, consuming 400-800IU of Vit D should meet the needs of 97-98% of all healthy people. However, in case of deficiency, based on current research, it seems that consuming 1000-4000 IU of Vit D daily should be ideal for most people to reach healthy Vit D levels.
As a routine, people with Vit D deficiency have blood levels of less than 30ng/ml. Values of less than 12 ng/ml are considered as severe Vit D deficiency. Vitamin D preparations are easily available as powders, capsules, chewable tablets and syrups for children. Each dose has 60000 IU, so considering as roughly 10000 IU per day these preparations can be taken once a week for 8 to 12 weeks in a year. This dose is safe, without any side effects in all adults and children above ten years of age. However, before starting on the supplementation, it is important to consult with your local doctor.
However, the importance of educating patients, checking compliance and monitoring Vitamin D levels every six months during treatment of deficiency and maintenance, phases cannot be overstressed.
With Inputs by Dr Manish Sontakke, Consultant Joint Replacement Surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital
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