Though it is important for overall health, an overdose of this ‘sunshine’ vitamin can have ugly consequences!
A lot has been said about the importance of Vitamin D or rather about the ill effects of its deficiency, which could include symptoms like weakness, poor concentration, restless sleep, weight gain, headaches, etc. Therefore, it’s not surprising to find people compensating for it through self-medication of the same. Also, it’s inexpensive (cost varies from Rs 34 for an injection to Rs 46 for tablets and Rs 63 for a suspension approximately) and can be easily purchased over-the-counter. If you too are guilty of the same, you better stop doing it with immediate effect. Why, you may ask? Read on to find out more.
Case 1: Neeta Tejuja (name changed), a 27-year-old media executive began taking Vitamin D, courtesy of her friend who told her about its numerous health benefits. She began taking it in the form of suspension (a suspension is a liquid with small pieces of drug) once every 10 days, until she casually happened to ask her doctor about it who asked her to refrain from doing so.
Case 2: Afshan Qureshi (name changed), 32-year-old lawyer read about the downside of deficiency of Vitamin D and self-diagnosed herself as being deficient due to fatigue, improper sleep and some weight gain. But that was probably because of her stressful job and eating fast food on the go. Nevertheless, Afshan began taking Vitamin D sachets once a week.
Daily ideal requirement
An ideal daily requirement of Vitamin D for our body usually depends upon one’s age. Interventional cardiologist Dr Haresh Mehta says that generally accepted figures are 400-600 IUs (International Units) in most people up to the age of 70. However, this requirement may increase beyond this age and go up to 800 and 1000 IUs. And, in case of deficiencies or certain illnesses, it can even go up to 1000 to 2000 IUs per day.
Reading about symptoms of Vitamin D on the internet or based on hearsay, and matching them with your general well-being is not a good/correct way to determine deficiency of Vitamin D. For this, it’s best you consult a doctor who will prescribe test based on your health concerns. Ideally, the 25-hydroxy Vitamin D test is a good way to determine Vitamin D levels in the body.
Do not self-medicat
Now that you got the low down on Vitamin D, don’t rush to your nearest drug store to buy it and self-medicate. “It is very unsafe to take Vitamin D or any supplement without consulting a doctor or health practitioner as there have been cases where patients have shown toxic levels of Vitamin D in their blood,” warns Syed.
If there’s a deficiency, you must certainly look for Vitamin Dupplements /capsules /tablets as advised by your doctor. “If taken in excess and high doses — for eg. above 4000 IUs everyday — for a long period of time, it may cause high levels of calcium in the blood. This increase in blood calcium may lead to hardening of arteries or Atherosclerosis, leading to blocked arteries. Other side effects of excessive intake of Vitamin D may be dryness in mouth, fatigue, weakness, headache and nausea among others,” warns Dr Mehta.
Obesity leads to Vitamin D deficiency
There are plenty of health studies throwing light on the link between Vitamin D and weight, specifically, it being beneficial for weight loss. “It has been hypothesised that because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it is hidden away and stored in fat tissues and muscles and then released slowly into the circulation. To summarise, obesity leads to Vitamin D deficiency and therefore an increase of the metabolic disorders too. Studies have also shown that calcium with Vitamin D supplementation has a small effect on prevention of weight gain in case of inadequate dietary intake,” says GI laparoscopic surgeon and an obesity expert Dr Muffazal Lakdawala.
So, if aiding your weight loss goal is your reason for self-prescribing Vitamin D, think again. Nutritionist Zainab Syed recommends supplementation of Vitamin D for weight loss only combined with moderate form of activity, a balanced diet and lifestyle modifications. “The first consultation is very important to know the patient’s lifestyle, health concerns, etc. based on which I recommend a few diagnostic tests and then decide on their diet, supplementation and lifestyle modification,” she says.