So- one of my patients has been diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency- this came as something of a surprise!
It wouldn’t have occurred to me that a healthy, professional woman who eats well, walks to work, keeps active and takes several holidays a year, would be at risk of being Vitamin D deficient… and if she is then maybe its true that nearly everyone in London is!?
Office based, living in the shade of buildings, driving or taking public transport and letting the good old British weather scupper any outdoor activities- really it can be hard to get enough of the miraculous sunshine exposure (on bare skin too remember!) that we need for Vitamin D synthesis… Added to that is everyone using sun-protection whenever the sun is actually out for fear of wrinkles and cancer, and a lack of oily fish in the diet and its actually hard to imagine that we could get enough! I also read somewhere that Vitamin D could be washed off your skin before it gets to the deeper layers- yet another hindrance for hygienic city types! Indeed it seems we need to learn much more about the skin’s vitamin D production and how much is actually washed off easily… http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/news-archive/2009/showering-after-sunbathing/… (So grubby summer festivals are really medicinal despite excesses..!?)
This patient was diagnosed because of a stubborn cough, and after 3 days of supplementation it cleared up. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a vast range of ailments and conditions aside from being necessary for Calcium absorption.
“Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin as it is synthesised by the body via the skin, so make sure you get out and catch a few rays during your lunchbreak and embrace outdoor activities at the weekends. Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish and some fortified foods; but ensuring adequate exposure to sunlight, should be a priority as this allows the body to build up it’s own stores. Good levels of Vitamin D are crucial for bone health as it aids calcium absorption, it also helps maintain our level of immunity and may have a cancer protective role.
(Note: Supplementation may benefit some people but it is important to speak to your health advisor to discuss your individual requirements as excessive intake could have a negative impact on health)”
Which also reminded me of a theory I learned in my first degree about evolution and the distribution of ethnicities in the world: Caucasian skin has the potential to absorb excess vitamin D, and therefore absorb excess calcium which in turn could cause calcification of the joints – an evolutionary hindrance in sunny Africa and the tropics- hence the move towards the poles…. Darker skin on the other hand prevents excess absorption and needs more sunlight to access enough Vitamin D- which can be a hindrance in this country…. at the moment in fact we are seeing a sad upsurge in Rickets in the UK, and Black and Asian children are more at risk of this….
So- a big subject, and food for thought…
make the most of any Indian Summer sunshine to prepare for the shorter days ahead, consider a good fish oil supplement perhaps if you are concerned, or consult a professional for more discussion…! 🙂