New Delhi: The second wave of the COVID19 pandemic has gripped the country wherein people are grappling for oxygen, beds, ventilators etc. Several states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka among others have imposed strict restrictions to discourage people from venturing out. Therefore, once again people are confined to their homes and will be deprived of the strongest and most effective source of Vitamin D – the Sun!Also Read - 5 Ingredients a Multivitamin Should Have, According to Expert

Now, while battling the pandemic, little is known about the protective factors of the COVID19 infection. Therefore, preventive health measures that can reduce the risk of infection, progression, and severity are needed, says Dr Harish Naik, Consultant – Neurosurgery, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital. Very few people are aware of the benefits of Vitamin D3 in preventing infections and improving the overall health and well-being of humans. Also Read - 7 Vitamins and Minerals One Should Take Daily For Good Health

Vitamin D3 has many mechanisms by which it improves bone health, controls neurological problems, reduces risk of microbial infection, increases cellular natural immunity, and adaptive immunity. Vitamin D3 supplementation has shown favorable effects in viral infections including Influenza and HIV. Moreover, the benefits of Vitamin D3 is not restricted to bone health, immunity, or infection control, it is much beyond that. However, the deficiency of it can severely impact overall health and well-being. Also Read - Vitamin C, D and Zinc do not Lessen Your Chance of Dying From Covid-19: Study

Here, Dr Harish Naik, Consultant – Neurosurgery, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital shares all about Vitamin D, its benefits and more that you should know.

What is Vitamin D and why is it important?

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone, activated endogenously with the effect of ultraviolet radiation received from the Sun, or from food sources and dietary supplements. Our body must have vitamin D to absorb Calcium to be able to promote and maintain bone health. We also need vitamin D for other important body functions.

What does Vitamin D deficiency mean to us?

Vitamin D insufficiency is a public health problem affecting over a billion people across India. Too little Vitamin D results in soft bones in children (Rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (Osteomalacia), it can lead to serious medical conditions too. Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to Breast Cancer, Colon Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Heart Disease, Depression, weight gain, and other maladies. Mainly during this pandemic, lack of sunlight minimized activities and isolation has greatly impacted people. We have come across many patients who developed, bone problems, Depression, and neurological issues during this pandemic – all of these linked to the deficiency of Vitamin D.

The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include:

  • Tiredness
  • Aches and pains
  • A general sense of not feeling well
  • Severe bone or muscle pain
  • Weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair
  • Stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips

Effects of Vitamin D supplements on mental health

Most people in our country have insufficient levels of Vitamin D – the normal range is above 30. Even before the pandemic, we have seen cases where people’s Vitamin D deficiency ranged between 20-30, but during the pandemic, it has fallen less than 20. This is also true for persons with depression as well as other mental disorders. We have seen acute Vitamin D deficiencies among such patients, the doctor explains. Interestingly, research has shown that Vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.

Vitamin D and brain health

Vitamin D is also said to activate and deactivate enzymes in the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth. Some studies suggest vitamin D protects neurons and reduces inflammation.

Vitamin D and Bone health

While this is no secret, Vitamin D is a must to building and maintaining healthy bones. It keeps your bones strong by helping your body absorb Calcium, Phosphorus, and key minerals for bone health. The continuation of Calcium and Vitamin D in a patient with bone loss & Osteoporosis is critical for optimal care. Unfortunately, 90% of women and older people may not be getting enough Calcium and over 50% of women treated for bone loss have inadequate Vitamin D levels!

Food sources of Vitamin D3:

  • Fish
  • Cord-liver oil
  • Egg yolk
  • Shrimp
  • Milk (fortified)
  • Breakfast cereal (fortified)
  • Yogurt (fortified)
  • Orange juice (fortified)

Apart from appreciating food sources people especially, women and the elderly need to regularly screen for Vitamin D deficiency through a pathological blood test and bone density test. This is significant for overall health and wellbeing, says the doctor.