Sunday, December 26, 2010

D3 to the rescue.....

Just came across this report , where Nandan Nilekani puts forth the 3 numbers, which would define every Indian in the years to come. UID, mobile number and bank account number. While the thinking, behind , what life will be like in 2020, demographic definitions, numbers representing migrations and economies, and prospective human needs , is to be greatly admired, I have often wondered , why we are so blind to numbers that often represent the "internal me" so to speak.

I've just had occasion to check out vitamin D levels. The results are an eye opener, not to mention , a trigger for intense searches on google , that continue to open my eyes wider and wider.

My earliest introduction to Vit D, was in school, when we answered questions about rickets, in the filling-in-the-blanks part of the examination paper. Sunlight was our guaranteed permanent traditional supply , and for a tropical country, we were always blessed. One always assumed that one may be deficient in other vitamins, but there would be no worries with Vitamin D.

I was wrong.

Somewhere after you cross the 50's , the niggling aches and pains begin. By the time you cross 60, you start suspecting things. In the last one year, I have learnt more names of bones and ligaments, done innumerable xrays, even done an MRI which resulted in a blogpost introducing a new genre of music, and I would have been a great Brand Ambassador for various ointments and Zandu Balm had a certain item number expert actress not beat me to it.

Turns out, that when we handle all these age related niggles, like osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, prediabetes, hypertension, depressions, etc, we are actually concentrating on individual trees, where the forest view is actually relevant. Surely, each has a solution, but it is something that is part of a grander scheme of things.

I couldnt believe it after, my Vitamin D3 blood test results showed up in the deficient range, after a lifetime of bright sunlight, sports, etc. So I investigated matters.

Turns out, that D3 is the vitamin we generate in our bodies after absorbing sunlight. D2 is what the plants and fungi generate. It is fashionable for post menopausal women to discuss the taking of calcium, the absorbtion of which needs D3. And so many of us blindly keep taking calcium supplemented with wrong type of D. 99% of the Calcium is required for healthy teeth and bones, besides being required in transmitting nerve impusles to the brain, which handles the triggering of the hormone levels in our body. The remaining is used up to shore up the immune system, and the muscles. (I wish I had known this earlier).

This Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone. And so its deficency in the body, is always made up for in the body, by some other hormone or hormones going out of range, to maintain the dynamic body balance. Much like a drummer going unnaturally loud to drown out a besura singer in an orchestra.

For example, besides the obvious problems of bone health, fractures etc, a study was conducted in Finland, by the National Institute of Health and Welfare, to study mean D3 levels in the population and observe health problems. While the mean healthy value for D3 was 75-80 , that in the Finnish population was actually half that. A study was conducted to ascertain the link between D3 and Parkinsons disease, for 29 years. They found 50 unpleasant Parkinsons episodes over that period and studied the iced serum samples. Turns out that those whose D3 levels in the blood were around 50, had a lower risk of Parkinsons disease, than those whose D3 level was 25.

D3 also has something to do with your blood pressure. While there are more cases of blood pressure increase in winter in places far from the equator, it has been found that administering doses of Vitamin D3 to patients of hypertension, caused both the systolic and diastolic BP to decrease. To get into more detail, vitamin D receptors have been found both in the heart and blood vessels , indicating that although we may not know how , this vitamin has something to do here.

Vitamin D3 also has something to do with diabetes. A deficiency , impairs a persons ability to synthesize and secrete insulin in a correct manner. It isnt a cure for diabetes, and there is often a strong genetic component to getting diabetes, but it looks like having a decent D3 level , keeps your diabetes under a proper control.

There have been studies that indicate that this partucular vitamin deficiency could have something to do with depression, obesity, kidney problems, heart problems, cancers and even multiple sclerosis. Several studies indicate that good levels and adequate safe supplementation of vitamin D3 in multiple sclerosis patients helps inhibit this autoimmune disease.

A study done in 2007, in the US indicated that upto half the breast cancer cases and two thirds of colo-rectal cancer cases can be prevented by correct supplementation of Vitamin D3.

Adequate D3 levels in the blood , says another study, means better cognition in patients and elderly folks suffering from Alzheimers Disease.

Would it surprise you to know that Vitamin D3 has something to do with infertility ? This vitamin is required for creating sex hormones, as well as is a key factor in regulating cell growth. Messed up D3 levels often lead to things like PCOS, PMS, ovulatory dysfunctions and infertility.

So is this some kind of magic ? NO.

As we age, our skin's capacity to process sunlight into bio-available D3 (with the help of liver et al) decreases. We dont realize it because it happens gradually. We put on weight, become hypothyroid, some get lethargic, some get depressed, some are amazed at the variety of muscle and bone pains that suddenly happen. Thinning of bones, leads sometimes to posture problems.

Today, there is a doctor almost for every organ, but there isn't anyone for LIFE as a whole.

And so we go to to neuro physicians, orthopaedic fellows, endocrinlogists, cardiac chaps, psychiatrists, skin specialists, even intensivists and surgeons.

This is almost like approaching a city's problems piecemeal, by catching goondas /punishing them without finding out about their motivations, family and moral backgrounds, providing vehicles without providing roads infrastructure, declaring fancy courses in schools without trained teachers. You notice a problem, and provide instant local solutions without worrying about how it relates to other things in the city. Things then often work at cross purposes, and supporting one thing hinders another. You find out that much much later . Then you appoint a fancy committee, which takes years to do a report and tell you what they should have known in the first place before trying out piecemeal stuff.

Unfortunately, in life, we are our own committee.

We need to be alert to how we feel physically as a whole. May be those tingling extremities are related to your sense of lethargy; possibly diabetes ? Yes, your knee pain has something to do with your weight, but could it be bone thinning, weak muscles , and could your sense of depression be related ?

The vitamin D3 test is a very simple , but expensive blood test. It doesn't cost anything more than a branded outfit. But we spend more thoughts and money on brands than health. Avoid these check ups, and you wont be fitting in that outfit for some time to come.

A serum D3 value of 30 ng/Ml and above is considered normal and acceptable.

A value > 100 is extremely dangerous and it means you have overdosed on the D3.

A serum D3 value between 20 and 30, indicates an Insufficiency in your D3 levels.

A serum value below 20, is a Deficiency.


Overdosing on D3 is a very serious problem , leads to kidney problems, sometimes with fatal results. So checking levels and taking the supplements , if necessary, of the appropriate strength/potency, under the advice of a good qualified doctor is recommended.

One should not take any supplements without these blood tests, as this is a fat soluble vitamin, and is stored in the body, unlike vitamin B, where excess is excreted out. Certain diabetes medications like metformin, actually cause a depletion of D3 (and vitamin B12 too) levels according to research. So check your D3 levels before you rush and someone hikes your dosage or puts you on insulin shots.

BP problems that are defiant in the face of excellent medication, could sometimes be solved by checking the D3 levels. A good D3 level sometimes gets the medications to behave.

Supplementation can be done by swallowing prescribed ampule doses and drinking certain doses of D3 granules mixed with any cold liquid. No, these are not prohibitively expensive, and are much cheaper than all the various pills you pop everyday, and the pizzas and Big Macs that are part of your trendy life.

For a long time, we've been a complacent society. Healthwise. Cardiac stuff , earlier thought to be troublesome for westerners addicted to eating red meat and alcohol, is now our prerogative. We lead the world in diabetes. Regardless of where we stay, in India or abroad. We even call it a rich persons disease, giving an instant status upgrade to some.

While hospitals constantly upgrade their cardiac, nephrology, neurosurgery, infertility, orthopaedic and even psychiatric setups to match with the best, in machinery and patient costs, certain things like adequate vaccine storage facilities, neonatal thyroid checkups , nutrition therapies, preventive diagnostic tests , hygienic living assistance are relegated to the lower rungs.

Maybe vitamin D3 is not as exciting as some other things. But sometimes, in our big hurry to beat everyone else and reach somewhere, we forget, that the roads travelled on by everyone are made of the same stuff.

I realize many of my blogger friends are much younger than me, and in the pink of health.

But I like to think, that when they get to my age, they will still be looking for more mountains to climb and conquer, more marathons to run, more books to read and write, thanks to some decent preventive check- ups they did across the years......

4 comments:

  1. This last paragraph - sure speaks to One Woman traveling through her 70's. Is that number really me.

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  2. Hii... Recently only I started following your blog and if you would have not mentioned you are 60 I wouldn't have come to know ... because the content of this blog is damn refreshing and I felt I am reading a blog of 20 years old..Kudos to you..:) and I would want to be like you when I would turn 60 :D

    Keep it up.. eagerly waiting for more posts..

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  3. Oh yes .. age got nothing to do with it all when i am 40 or 60 or 70 I would still want that fire inside me to sit in that plane and jump from 14000Ft... :)

    Recently i had to go my doc after 4 years cause of a fall i had and had to get a note to go back to work, he said he needs to de a SERVICE on me , since i never go .. so i have ben asked to do so many tests .. this was 3 weeks ago i am still thinking shud i go or not .. cause i feel when the results comes they are going ot bring so many things wrong in me .. and that will sopil the way i live :)

    Loved this article looking at you and reading what you write is refreshing for it makes me think Here I COME......... to aGe

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  4. Makes a lot of sense. Thank you for sharing.

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