How to combat vitamin D deficiency during lockdown
It’s all in your dabba
If you’re trying to keep up with your work deadlines from home, bad WiFi and trying to turn your bed into a workstation aren’t the only struggles you may be facing. Our exposure to sunlight is even more limited in matchbox apartments, especially in urban areas. As a result, you may be at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency.
For the past few years, being perpetually tired with a new joint pain every morning has been linked to our dwindling vitamin D levels. It’s a common conversation starter, considering 70-90 per cent of Indians live with a vitamin D deficiency.
Supplements and shots will reverse those erratic levels; however, exposure to morning sunlight is the go-to universal prescription.
“I’d wake up tired with a severe joint and back pain. I had no energy whatsoever. I blamed it on bad posture and constant exposure to the screen at work. But it turned out that my vitamin D levels had drastically dipped to 5,” says Devang Bhandari, a Kolkata-based photographer.
Limited sun exposure, smog and air pollution in cities and poor diet is linked to the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in India.
Side effects of vitamin D deficiency:
The normal range of Vitamin D is anywhere between 20 and 50 ng/ml. However, as the number drops, there are higher risks of developing chronic illnesses, which include diabetes, depression and bone conditions.
Bone health: The deficiency generally manifests in dull joint and muscle pains, especially in the lower back. It’s also linked to low bone mass and bone density, resulting in disorders such as osteomalacia, osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Mental health: Even after downing 5 cups of your favourite herbal tea and caffeine concoction, you’re still tired. You feel fatigued at all hours of the day. In the long run, this fatigue interferes with your mental wellbeing. In some cases, vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression, but because it’s a multifactoral diagnosis, the direct association is yet to be established.
Hair loss: Vitamin D stimulates old hair follicles and helps in producing new ones. In cases of deficiency, hair growth is often stunted leading to an autoimmune condition known as alopecia. It causes bald patches on the scalp and other areas of the body.
Diabetes: The underrated vitamin helps improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which often leads to Type 2 diabetes. Some reports also suggest that Vitamin D regulates insulin production in our pancreas.
But there’s a glint of hope in these times of lockdown. Dr Trupti Gilada, physician in infectious diseases, Masina Hospital, explains how you can get your dose of sunshine and tweak your diet to incorporate vitamin D-rich foods.
“The most potent rays are between 7am and 10am,” she says, adding, “A 45-minute morning walk on the terrace is all you need. You can also just stand on the balcony if you have access to enough sunlight.”
Get your vitamin D fix from:
Walk alone: “Time nahi hai” is an invalid excuse now. Wake up early and go for a jog or walk on your terrace. Get those rays in.
Get your dabba game on: While sunlight is the most important source of Vitamin D, you can turn to a more complete meal to make up for some additional D credits. Thankfully, for us, most Indian thalis are designed to provide all the micronutrients necessary.
Milk, in all its versatile forms, is a good source. Don’t forget your breakfast cereals. This one time, you may overeat your oats. And always, punctuate your meals with fresh orange juice.
Non-vegetarians can also add some meats and eggs to their diet.
Dr Gilada states that supplements can help increase vitamin D levels, but they must only be taken after consulting your GP.