I have always had a fantastic relationship with the sun. I am a true tropical creature who basks in the warmth of the sun. Two downcast days and I feel depressed. Yes, I know sunshine lifts my spirits.
It was still morning. Sun was playing hide and seek in the clouds. One moment, the grey clouds threatened to swallow the sun but the next moment he came out as if smiling and enjoying this game. The sun’s rays were still very soft. I sat on the roof soaking in the goodness of the gentle warmth with a newspaper in hand. A koel was singing somewhere closeby. While the households were witnessing frenzied activity, here I was relaxing on the terrace making small talk with the husband who was lovingly tending to his vegetables, picking out a weed here, plucking some ripe tomatoes and brinjals and stirring the compost bin.
I was feeling more energetic slowly beginning to return to normalcy. I felt my stamina improve gradually. It all must have started a few months ago though I am not sure when. Gradually, I started feeling tired. First it was by evening. Then it started happening by afternoon. Then came a time when I woke up really exhausted unable to face even the normal daily chores. Exhausted, I snapped at everyone as I tried to wonder what had gone wrong with me. My routine health checks showed all my parameters normal. I tried to improve my diet and even took a multivitamin but it did not help.
The tipping point came when I was unable to do my regular brisk walking, something that was second nature to me. Frightened I got comprehensive bloodwork done. And that is when a month back the problem was found – extreme Vitamin D deficiency. What I knew was the Vitamin D was responsible for effective absorption of Calcium in the body. So clearly my Calcium stores must be depleted. What I didn’t know was that its deficiency caused debilitating fatigue. Aware now, I approached a doctor who put me on Vitamin D supplements. Luckily, Vitamin D is easy to replenish in the body. It has been 3 weeks since I started on that medication and finally I see a bit of my old self surfacing again.
But I will be on supplements for 6 months before my levels go back to normal. Yes, the supplements are not magical wands. Initially I am on a massive 60000 IUs dose per week for 8 weeks. Then it will taper down to 1000 IUs per day for another 4 months after which I will get my levels checked again.
Here are some points to remember about Vit D absorption:
- Your skin cannot make Vit D through filtered sunlight. So sunlight coming through glass is not effective. You have to be outdoors.
- You need an exposure of 30-40 minutes per day on an average. The darker your skin tone, the more time you need in the sun as compared to light skinned people. At least 15-20 minutes per day should be attempted by everyone. Make sure that the sun’s rays are adequate. Early mornings and early evenings are the best times to be out in the sun. Cloudy days are not good enough.
- Even minor sunblock as low as SPF 8 will hinder Vitamin D absorption. Massive use of sunscreens around the world is one of the prime reasons for Vitamin D deficiency. Yet remember to use sunscreens in harsh sunlight to protect your skin from skin cancer. Just don’t use it all the time.
- Fish is a good dietary source along with egg yolks. Yes, I started eating egg yolks again (yuck). Yet, it is almost impossible to get it from food. You have to get your daily dose from the sun or supplements.
- Lack of Vitamin D can cause depression. So watch out for that. These are lesser known direct problems associated with inadequate Vit. D.
- No matter how much Calcium you consume, it will not be assimilated by your body without adequate Vitamin D. Hence you are at the risk of brittle bones, osteoporosis and fractures if you are Vitamin D deficient.
The doctor didn’t ask me to (she should have) but now I sun bathe every single morning. It is not as if I wasn’t an outdoor person earlier but I am more conscious now.
Why I am sharing this experience is because I know many of us are not really aware of the connection between Vitamin D and fatigue. Most of us just battle on when we are tired hardly thinking that there may be a physiological reason behind it. Just be conscious if you experience the same. Tank up on your sun. It is a shame that in a country blessed with natural sunshine, 69% of the population is Vit D deficient and further 15% is Vitamin D insufficient according to this article. Is it because, we hardly go out in the sun especially in our cities as we traipse from car to office and office to car on most days?
Thank heavens I found out what was troubling me! Do not neglect any minor health issue that you may face.
Stay healthy! Stay blessed!
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