Vitamin D is important to us. It plays a vital role to our health and the function of our various systems. Yet, many people aren’t getting their requirements.
We need vitamins for healthy skin, nails, bones, blood vessels, and much more. They play a vital role to our health and aid in the function of various systems in our bodies. Vitamin D is of particular importance to the body, yet despite this many people are not getting their recommended daily requirements.
Role of Vitamin D
“Vitamin D is very important for our bone growth, as it helps calcium absorption and various other processes in the building of our bone structure,” said Dr. Ahmed Abdelmoity, who specializes in Pediatric Neurology at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Due to its involvement in our bone building processes, vitamin D becomes particularly important for women during the child bearing years. Abdelmoity explained to Aboutislam that during pregnancy, the fetus relies on its mother’s calcium, and providing the fetus with calcium becomes the body’s priority, even if that entails that the calcium is obtained from the mother’s own bones.
“This is a very unique vitamin in that when we eat foods containing vitamin D, it gets activated in our bodies when we are exposed to sunlight,” explained Abdelmoity.
Thus, exposure to sunlight becomes an essential component when it comes to maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D in the body and avoiding its deficiency. If a person were to get almost no sun exposure, they would have to compensate for this by taking 5,000 units of vitamin D daily. To put this in perspective, that is the equal of fifty glasses of milk. Vitamin D can be found in dairy products, red meats, fatty fish, and egg yolks. (vitamindcouncil.org)
Vitamin D Deficiency
Mariem Abraheim, who lives in Houston, Texas, suffered from several mysterious immune system responses, including a continuous outbreak of hives and a low white blood cell count (the cells involved in the body’s defense against germs).
Vitamin D can be found in dairy products, red meats, fatty fish, and egg yolks.
She went to several doctors and underwent many tests to try to find out why her body was acting the way it was. She told Aboutislam that her condition put a strain on her lifestyle and not knowing what was causing it added to the stress.
“A year passed before any of the doctors thought to check my vitamin D levels,” says Abraheim. A test known as the 25-hydroxyvitamin cholecalciferol test showed that Abraheim was deficient in vitamin D.
Once she was diagnosed as being vitamin D deficient, doctors said that “it made sense as vitamin D has a huge impact on the immune system.” After being given a prescription strength vitamin D supplement, her health has been restored. She says “it has been fantastic, I can function again!”
Because of its important role in calcium absorption, the most obvious effect of vitamin D deficiency is on the integrity of bone structure. Those who are deficient in vitamin D are at a greater risk of suffering from osteoporosis, which is the softening of the bones.
Children who do not receive vitamin D fortified milk are at a greater risk of developing rickets, which can cause dental problems, impaired growth, and decreased muscle tone, among other symptoms. (mayoclinic.com)
Aside from bone development, vitamin D has been found to be essential in other body functions, the immune system. It is also involved in the life cycle of human cells. Deficiency in this vitamin is now associated with various forms of cancer and heart disease. (webmd.com)
Vitamin D Deficiency and Hijab
“Even sitting next to a window on a sunny day can help,” says Abdelmoity.
In Islam, the Muslim woman is told to dress and she is encouraged to cover herself. Dressing and wearing the hijab should not be considered as limitations, as exposure of the hands and face to sunlight can be enough. But, this can translate in some instances to limited sun exposure for some women, such as those who choose to also wear a face veil and gloves.
Nora Mahmoud, a Muslim woman residing in Oregon, told Aboutislam that her typical attire consists of a headscarf, long sleeved shirt, and pants leaving her hands and face to be exposed to the sun. When asked how she avoids vitamin D deficiency, Nora said, “I take a women’s multi-vitamin that contains 800 IU (200% of daily need) [of Vitamin D].”
Women who feel they are not exposed to enough sunlight should become more aware of their vitamin D intake and try to make sun exposure, when appropriate, a priority. “Even sitting next to a window on a sunny day can help,” says Abdelmoity.
He also recommends consulting with a physician about taking a daily multivitamin that includes vitamin D. Abdelmoity cautions that it is important to make sure supplementation does not interfere with any current medications. Taking these steps, besides to eating a well-balanced diet should help ensure proper Vitamin D levels in the body.
This article is from Science’s archive, originally published on an earlier date.
- DeNoon, Daniel J. “Supplement Your Knowledge of Vitamin D.” Web MD. 19 May 2008. Accessed 14 March 2009.
- “Rickets.” Mayo Clinic. 14 Oct. 2008. Accessed 14 March 2009.
- “Understanding Vitamin D Cholecalciferol.” vitamindcouncil.org. Accessed 14 March 2009.
- “Vitamin D.” Mayo Clinic. 1 March 2008. Accessed 14 March 2009.