Saturday, May 5, 2012

Do you have a D-ficiency?

In the last few years, I have been inundated with medical news and studies regarding the health problems that result from low vitamin D levels.  The new studies show a link between vitamin D deficiency and illnesses ranging from hypertension, weak immune systems, dementia, depression, colon cancer, and more.  Funny thing is, until a few years ago, the only thing I knew about vitamin D deficiency was that it typically results in rickets in breast feeding infants of darker skinned mothers.

While many people's first thought is to start drinking more milk, it turns out that milk isn't the main source of this versatile fat-soluble vitamin.  In fact, it is not naturally present in most foods.  The main source of vitamin D is the sun.  When ultraviolet rays strike the skin, it triggers your body to produce vitamin D.

Well, I decided to start checking the levels of my patients to see if this seemed to be a problem in my patient population.  If vitamin D deficiency could cause that many problems, seemed like you'd get a lot of bang for your buck if you correct it.  Little did I know that after checking the levels of nearly a thousand patients, I could count on one hand how many people had normal levels.  I'd expect Black people in Philly to be low in the winter, but vitamin D deficiency has consistently been the most common lab abnormality I detect.  Some people have levels so low, it's undetectable!  I could actually save the healthcare system a few dollars and stop testing people, assuming everyone I see is low.  Unfortunately, there's something about actually seeing the number that helps people feel committed to getting their levels up.

Will taking vitamin D supplements cure all your problems?  Of course not.  But it's definitely worth it to take into consideration that health recommendations should be tailored to the population being served.  People of color have natural sunblock (melanin) that predisposes them to low levels of vitamin D.  Our bodies are programmed for more sun exposure than most of us get, especially over winter in the north.  This sun-blocked effect is suggested by some scientists to be a potential cause of the high rates of high blood pressure among Blacks.

My advice?  Take a supplement in the winter, and at least for a month in the summer if you suspect your levels are already low. (5000 iu Vitamin D3 daily). The good thing is that since it is a fat soluble vitamin, it is a little more forgiving if you tend to forget a dose here or there.  As the weather warms up and the days are getting longer, try to find time to get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure directly on the skin.  Don't go crazy with the SPF 50 all over your body.  For the many Muslimah's out there who don't expose much skin, start scoping out a private area where you can get the sun your body needs without compromising your modesty.  If that isn't possible, consider taking a supplement year-round.

Let me know if you notice any changes in how you feel.  You may or may not feel the difference, but considering D-ficiency wouldn't be the only "silent killer", I would reach for this "low-hanging fruit" and correct those deficiencies you know you have.

Check out this link for more info: WebMD on Vitamin D Deficiency
You can find vitamin D for sale here: Fountain Med Supplements I recommend the liquid for families, so you can adjust the number of drops you use for the different ages in your household.  It doesn't have any particular taste.  My 4 year old just sticks out her tongue to get one 1000iu drop (when I remember).

Peace & health,
Dr. Safiyya

1 comment:

  1. Peace
    I bear witness! Dr. Safiyya put my son and I on Vitamin D supplements about 2 months ago. We didn't know we were deficient, however, we are glad we found out. They are tasteless but we both feel the difference after 2 months of our daily dosage (when I