Vitamin D and its importance

What are the most important things that we need to know about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins that our bodies need in order to function in a healthy state. It is both a nutrient that we consume and a hormone that our bodies produce. It is colloquially referred to as the “Sunshine Vitamin” since our bodies naturally produce it after exposure to sunlight. Other sources of Vitamin D include foods such as dairy products, breakfast cereals, and fatty fish such as Salmon and Tuna.

What role does it play? What are its most important functions?

Vitamin D was initially considered to be responsible for maintaining the health and functionality of the muscles, bones and joints by facilitating the absorption and retention of calcium and phosphorus. However, further research over the last decade has shown that Vitamin D also plays a key role in developing a strong immune system, maintaining organ functionality and alleviating chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma. Furthermore, a lack of adequate Vitamin D can also accelerate pre-existing mental health conditions such as dementia and schizophrenia, in the elderly.



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Vitamin D

All You Need To Know About The Sunshine Vitamin

We all know that Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins required for our body. The first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear Vitamin D is that we get it from sunlight and it keeps our bones strong. These are true, but there is a lot more to know about the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’. Common misconceptions and negligence has left people with a huge risk of being Vitamin D insufficient.

Vitamin D is an important factor is building muscles and bones, and helping the human heart, brain and lungs function well. Vitamin D is unique in its characteristics because it is the only vitamin that the human body can make on its own. Unlike other vitamins which we get through various sources like food, the body makes its own Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Although, there are other means by which you can get Vitamin D like food and supplements. (more…)


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Are you feeling SAD this season?

Have you ever experienced being sad, irritable, moody or have you lost interest in your usual activities all at the same time every year? We have all heard about seasonal changes, even in areas that have only two seasons, but have you heard of seasonal changes in a person?

As surprising as it may sound, some people experience a serious mood change with the change in weather, some people feel down and experience seasonal depression during the winter months particularly. This is a psychological condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

When the temperature levels drop and winter begins to set in, we all begin to function a little slower. We feel like staying at home and cuddling in a blanket to stay cosy. For some people, this feeling gets critical to an extent that it begins interfering with their lives. It is normal to feel irritable or tired during the winter months because of reduced light and shorter days but if this becomes a recurring issue every year during the winter months, making it difficult to function normally, chances are that you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a sub-type of depression that comes and goes during seasons.

Feeling slightly down every now and then is normal as everybody goes through this feeling at some point in time. However feeling sad and depressed can sometimes become incapacitate and have severe consequences to the extent of the person feeling suicidal.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder vary from feeling depressed throughout the day for almost every day, having very low energy, no interest in things you generally like to do, to feeling irritated, having difficulty in concentrating, sleeping etc. Symptoms also vary depending on seasons. The winter specific symptoms of SAD include tiredness, changes in appetite, weight gain, feeling lethargic, feeling of heaviness in the limbs, hypersensitivity to rejection, withdrawal symptoms etc.  However, the symptoms of depression aren’t always as obvious, as they manifest themselves in many other ways. Sometimes the changes may be very subtle and the person undergoing the changes may fail to realise it, although people surrounding will surely notice the changes.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in our body to regulate sleep and wakefulness. Light affects the amount of melatonin produced in the body. Normally melatonin levels remain high throughout the night and drop in the morning. This may differ with seasonal changes, during the shorter days the body may produce melatonin either earlier or later than usual, hence leading to symptoms of SAD. This causes a disruption in the normal functioning of the body’s internal system because melatonin slows down the nervous system and induces sleep and low levels of energy.

Seasonal depression in the winter is linked to excess production of melatonin, however, SAD may affect people even in the summer months. Research shows that people in the UAE suffer from the inverted form of SAD where people feel that they are trapped indoors because of the scorching heat in this region during the summer months. The study also established a link between depressive symptoms and decreasing levels of Vitamin D.

SAD, however, is a treatable disorder and the awareness among people about the condition is rather less. There are some ailments that can be resolved without medical help, however certain symptoms, particular symptoms of SAD when appears all together is an indication that urgent medical attention is required.  Consulting a specialist on noticing any of the visible and obvious symptoms of depression is recommended. At an individual level, on noticing symptoms of SAD, one can undertake a few steps like;

  • Soaking up some sun even in the winter months. Sitting by the window, opening all the blinds or curtains during the day will help absorb as much sunlight as possible. Even the smallest amount of sunlight counts.
  • Regular physical activity is a must to keep the body from feeling lethargic and to keep the blood flowing. Simple exercises like stretching or yoga can be done indoors.
  • Photo therapy, the practice of light treatment can be used to mimic sunlight, the feeling of being in the sun indoors. It can also be used even during the dark hours.

Despite all this, medication and therapy may be required if the symptoms get too extreme. Getting over the symptoms of SAD may not be as easy as it may seem. Sometimes people require extra help because if the symptoms get severe, people may resort to activities like excess alcohol intake, drug abuse and even suicide. There are a number of treatment options for SAD and it is best to visit a doctor sooner than later when new symptoms develop.

Dr.Mohammed Yousef

Specialist Psychiatrist

Aster Clinic, Al Muteena (DMPC)

Dr.-Mohammed-Yousaf- muteena


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Vitamin D and its Importance

As per the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), UAE is considered one of the hottest regions to live in, but a major section of the population living here still suffer from Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. In fact, Vitamin D deficiency is rather common among women and kids, the reasons for this may vary. One reason may be not consuming food rich in Vitamin D, lack of outdoor activity hence less exposure to the sun. A lot of Arab women suffer from the condition because of religious reasons where they cover themselves with long robes for prolonged hours, hence preventing exposure to sunlight. A lot also has to do with the geographic location, we receive so much sunlight that the weather makes outdoor activities close to nil. High intake of soft drinks could also be a reason for the deficiency in youngsters. Stress, diet, obesity, smoking, consumption of alcohol are also causative factors. Lack of Vitamin D is rather common in pregnant women, infants, and aged people but given the changed and convenient lifestyle choices of a lot of young people these days, they also suffer from the nutritional deficiency.


Vitamin D is one of the many important nutrients our body requires to stay healthy. Vitamin D plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the body by helping absorb calcium to build bones and keep them strong. Vitamin D also facilitates functioning of the immune system by fighting against infections and other illness, for instance, flu. This nutrient does play a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer, colon and prostate cancer, heart diseases, depression, weight gain etc. It is not proved that the lack of Vitamin D causes these conditions but people with higher levels of Vitamin D have the lower risk of developing these conditions.


The two most common conditions caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D are Rickets in children and Osteoporosis (bones become brittle) in adults. Vitamin D deficiency may differ in people depending on their body type and the need for the nutrient.  Some people have body types that have an increased need for Vitamin D, some do not make sufficient Vitamin D and others have a deficiency because of not enough dietary Vitamin D. Muscle pain or bone pain may suggest Vitamin D deficiency. In adults, general fatigue, pain in the neck, pain while performing daily activities like sitting or getting up from a chair, climbing stairs etc. are symptoms of deficiency. In children, delayed tooth, slower growth, respiratory symptoms, being prone to infections etc. may be the symptoms. Review of a patient’s medical history, symptoms, lifestyle and a simple blood test can reveal whether the patient has a lack of Vitamin D or not. There are available supplements and tablets for Vitamin D which can be used on being consulted and prescribed by a doctor. Certain lifestyle changes like including Vitamin D rich foods in your diet comprising orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, eggs, margarine butter, milk, sardine, tuna, cereals etc. will surely help go a long way in curbing the deficiency. Exposing yourself to sunlight for at least 10 minutes a day will help the skin absorb vitamin D because the sun is the main source of this nutrient.


Dr.George Thachil

General Medicine

Aster Clinic, Dubai Silicon Oasis


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