Vitamin D, a vital micronutrient for boosting health
Vitamin D or the sunshine Vitamin is one of the most vital micronutrients required for human health. It plays multiple roles such as modulating cell growth, neuromuscular function, boosting immunity and reducing inflammation. It strengthens the bones, minimizes the risk of fractures, reduces pain levels, improves dental health and helps increase life expectancy. It sustains mental health by fighting depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. It helps combat a wide range of ailments, or prevent their onset. This includes rickets, tuberculosis, respiratory disorders and various types of cancers.
Needless to say, a healthy dose of Vitamin D from sunshine exposure and oral supplements goes a long way in improving one’s health. Children or adults who have reduced sunlight exposure show higher instances of reduced gene expression, seasonal affective disorder, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders, diabetes or insulin resistance. People living at higher latitudes that receive less sunlight are more prone to developing Hodgkin’s lymphoma, pancreatic, breast, colon, and ovarian cancers. From pregnant women, to lactating mothers to growing children to working adults to aging seniors, everybody needs a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Even as Vitamin D remains highly critical to human health, Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a major health concern worldwide. Changes in lifestyle, a rigorous schooling curriculum and the use or misuse of sunscreen lotions imply children are increasingly becoming deficient in Vitamin D. This makes children vulnerable to a range of ailments in childhood as well as rest of their life due to a weakened immune system. It’s important that parents and educators wake up to this reality and take urgent steps to strengthen immunity in children.
Guidelines to build immunity in Children
1. Sunlight: One of the biggest casualties of the modern lifestyle is reduced exposure to sunshine, reduced outdoor activity and increased indoor activity. Parents and school administrators must ensure children receive adequate sunshine between 10 am and 3 pm when the sun’s rays are more direct and less oblique. Children living in regions that are at higher latitudes are already disadvantaged as these receive lesser sunshine than those living between 30 degrees north and 30 degrees south latitudes. Such children should increase their outdoor activity. Winter naturally reduces sunlight intensity, so children can be given oral Vitamin-D supplements after consulting a doctor.
2. Sunscreens: Wrong notions about the risk of prolonged exposure to sunlight have created a sunscreen culture worldwide where both adults and children recklessly use sunscreens. This tendency must be curbed and children should never be allowed to overuse sunscreens. Also, please note communities that have darker skin require more sunshine than those with lighter skin, to produce the same amount of Vitamin D in the body.
3. Nutrition: While sunshine and oral supplements of Vitamin D is a good thing, they are useless if the child has a poor diet plan or is prone to consuming low-nutrition diet. Children must be given a healthy dose of proteins, lentils, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs, etc. People who consume meat must ensure more of fish like salmon and cod and less of red meats in their diet. Foods that are processed or refined in nature must be avoided in favour of more natural oils and whole-grains in the diet.
4. Exercise: Merely improving nutrition and sunshine exposure is not enough. Being obese or overweight that comes from having a large BMI is one of the risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency. Both adults and children across age groups should get a healthy dose of exercise and activity as often as possible. A sedentary lifestyle must be avoided at any cost.
5. Sleep: Sleep is a restorative process and is very important for a strong immune system. The modern lifestyle has wreaked havoc in the sleeping patterns of both adults and children worldwide. However, parents must be firm in this matter and ensure children are getting enough sleep. It’s also good to ensure they sleep and wake up at more or less the same time every day as this improves the quality of sleep.
In a Nutshell
Having excellent Immunity or a strong immune system in children is not a matter of luck or genes. If your child is suffering from low immunity, Health Travellers Worldwide, an NABH accredited health advisory can connect you with experienced specialists in Paediatrics and can provide information about available treatment options to help you decide which approach to follow.