Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunshine of your life

During the school summer holidays, we kids were dispatched to grandma's home.  When we returned, father almost always commented that we had gotten darker. Of course we were more tanned on top of the already melanin-rich skins. Unlike when school was in session, we were no longer confined to the shelter of the classroom.  After breakfast at grandma's, we would run across to the cousins', and then until lunch time we were good for nothings under the warming sun. Post-lunch, we were good for nothings under the blazing afternoon sun, except when grandma was eager to play kattam with us.

I continue to be out and about even now, as a middle-aged, balding, grey-bearded, good for nothing.  And, yes, under the blazing sun, I continue to add to my melanin-rich pigmentation.  It is mid-summer and am already gloriously two-toned; the skin where the sun doesn't shine looks strikingly different from the rest.

Through all this, I am also helping my body produce a whole lot of vitamin D.

Years ago, I read that vitamin D is more than a mere vitamin.  It is like a hormone that regulates a whole bunch of biochemical processes in our bodies.  While we usually associate vitamin D with bone growth and strength, it is way more than that.

Since then, every visit to the old country, I have bugged my mother and aunts about the importance of spending a few minutes walking under the sun's light and heat.  But, hey, you know the story of my life--nobody listens to me.  Not even my mother!

I bugged them because by then I had started connecting a few dots through the sun-exposure and vitamin D links.  Typically, the older women in the extended family and in society had more bone-related structural problems, which the older men did not seem to suffer from as much.  (Of course, women also seemed to outlive men, but I was not doing any controlled scientific study.)  I began to wonder if the old country's fascination with lighter skin along with the restrictions on women's movements contributed to this health hassle that resulted from lack of exposure to the sun.

If that is the case, my logical mind suggested that such problems should be equally intense in many of the Middle East countries, where women are not exposed to the sun thanks to the layers of clothing and the restrictions on them.

I tell ya, there is always something happening inside the shiny dome of mine! ;)

Therefore, every time I read essays like this, I am not surprised one bit:
Vitamin D deficiencies are widespread, with around one billion people, from all age groups and ethnicities, suffering from them, even in countries with year-round sunshine. Indeed, they are particularly common in the Middle East, owing partly to the prevalence of skin-covering clothes and a cultural habit of staying out of the sun. That same habit, together with darker skin, contributes to lower levels of vitamin D among Africans. 
Read that essay in order to understand how vitamin D links to many, many, many aspects of health;  "there is no doubt that vitamin D is crucial for human health."

"So how much vitamin D do we need to reap its disease-fighting rewards?"

This, too, is an important question.  A few years ago, after the routine lab tests during the physicals, the doctor said I was deficient in vitamin D and he prescribed a dose of pills.  He wanted me to check in with him after three months.  I never did.  Because, as much as I believe in the importance of the hormone like vitamin D, I am equally convinced that too much of a good thing can be harmful--especially when it is an artificial intake via pills.  It is one thing to increase vitamin D intake through walking on sunny days, or through milk and yogurt consumption.  But, pills?

Which is why this doctor always recommends walking.  Early morning sun is best--when it is not too intense.  Come to think of it, I suppose I am prescribing nothing but a variation of the old traditional life--get up in the morning, walk to the temple, where you walk some more within the walls but under the sun, and then walk back home and have some yogurt.  Plenty of sun and walk to start the day.

But then, nobody listens to me! ;)


Ramesh said...

Please don't give me acute bellyache caused by laughter. You get your Vitamin D from the sun these days ? Hahahahahahahahaha. Have you forgotten the glorious state you live in ? Can you lot spell s-u-n ? Hahahahaha.

By the way, pop the pill old man. As we age, our ability create Vitamin D using sunlight decreases. There is no option but to pop the pill. Get on to it right now :)

And I don't think our forefathers went to the temple in the morning and came back and had yoghurt (berating you once again for the horrible American spelling) . They had "pazhyedu" !

Sriram Khé said...

Ahem, check the weather graphic that I have embedded in the next post :(

Yes, they may have had pazhyedu--but with "curd" or "buttermilk"--the calcium there works well with the vitamin D that was processed from the exposure to the sun ... right?

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