Decoding Vitamin D

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From the desk of Dr Nandita Shah

How are you doing during these unexpected times? It’s a dichotomy that even if the air is cleaner than ever before, many of us are unable to go out and take it in. Nor are we able to exercise in order to maintain our health. Most people in urban areas have vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is produced by our body by the direct action of the sun on the skin. The kidneys also play a contributing role. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones and teeth, sleep, mood, and healthy muscles. There is also evidence to show that Vitamin D offers protection from breast, prostate and colon cancers as well as auto-immune diseases. Vitamin D also safeguards against age related neurological disorders such as dementia and deficiencies that are likely to cause depression.

All our hormones are orchestrated by the pituitary gland and when one hormone is out of balance, others too may be affected. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory disorders can benefit from normal Vitamin D levels. Given the fact that Vitamin D is a hormone, excess of it is as harmful as its lack so supplements should be taken only as prescribed. The very best way to get vitamin D is from the sunshine so that you neither have too much nor too little. This was not possible in pre-lockdown times since the air was so polluted that it came in the way of the sun’s rays. Now we have the opportunity of getting this vitamin directly since we may be able to sit in the sun during the day and the air is cleaner. This is just one of the silver linings of the lockdown. Even if you cannot go out, do sit by the window to inhale some of the fresh air and take in that sunshine.

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An experience that taught me a lot about Vitamin D

I never imagined I would be vitamin D deficient. I live close to the beach in a relatively rural area of India and travel a lot on bike.  My skin is exposed to the sun. Yet, after 50 years of relatively healthy teeth, I found myself with a cavity. After being away from dentists for so long I had to visit one! Since I take such good care of my health and my teeth, I felt a bit defeated. But I was determined to find out why I developed the cavity. It was a wake-up call. I got my vitamin D levels tested and found them lower than normal. And, all along, I had thought I was getting a fair amount of sunshine just because of where I live!

The experience taught me a lot about this vital vitamin. I learnt that receptors are around our eyes and that if we wear sunglasses our body is tricked into believing that it’s not sunny. This can cause other parts of the body to behave inappropriately even causing sunburn. I learnt that darker skin, like mine, needs more exposure to the sun to absorb vitamin D. I also understood that calcium deficiency is usually because of vitamin D deficiency and acid yielding foods and not because of a lack of intake of calcium.

Calcium tablets should never be prescribed or taken – they only cause kidney stones and calcification of arteries. Deficient calcium intake is unknown. Dairy is not a good source of calcium either as it’s acid yielding in the body.

We just need to make sure that we get enough of the vital vitamin D.

Recipe – Sunny Spread  

SHARAN participant Neepa Joshi shared this amazing recipe with moms during our Mother’s Day initiative of sending out an interesting and healthy recipe a day for 30 days.

Sunflower seeds are packed with the sun’s goodness. Sprinkle them on salads or make this yummy spread which is so easy to whip up too!

Ingredients: (organic ones are always the best)

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (soaked for 6 to 8 hours)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped celery or coriander leaves
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanut powder or white sesame seeds
  • Fresh juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves or tulsi
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 or 2 light green chillies (optional)
  • Himalayan sea salt to taste


Blend all the above ingredients. Serve with cucumber and carrot sticks, or use it as a sandwich spread or salad dressing.

Food for the mind


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Sun Support

The sun’s distance from our planet is the main reason that there is life on Earth. Food, energy, light – our basic needs are all taken care of thanks to the sun.

Here are some interesting facts about vitamin D


Darker skin shades need more exposure to the sun to get vitamin D


Vitamin D receptors are found around the eyes. If you block them with sunglasses you are more likely to get sunburned as your body does not understand how bright the sun is


Vitamin D production is a result of direct action of the sun on the skin. Sun screens, clothes, windows, and even pollution can come in the way of the sun’s rays and prevent absorption


The kidneys also take part in the production of this hormone. People with kidney disease may not be able to produce this vitamin despite exposure to the sun


People with IBD do better in warm sunny climates where there is plenty of vitamin D


Vitamin D deficiency can cause depression


Vitamin D deficiency can cause sleep disturbances


No matter what you do, its worth getting vitamin D levels tested and if they are low it should be supplemented properly. Click on this link for information on how to supplement –


Many people take calcium supplements for osteoporosis but the real cause is more likely to be vitamin D deficiency. There is no known dietary deficiency of calcium, and excess calcium supplementation can lead to atherosclerosis (or calcium deposits in the arteries) and kidney stones. Calcium supplementation can be dangerous.

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This newsletter was compiled by SHARAN Head of Mumbai, Reyna K Rupani, She facilitates the Six Weeks to Health Gain & Weight Loss program and also conducts health talks for schools, groups, corporates and more.

Edited by Vasanti Sundaram, Bangalore who has also benefitted from the SHARAN programmes, and now spreads awareness of plant based lifestyle through her talks.

Sanctuary for Health and Re-connection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN) is a social enterprise with the goal of spreading awareness about holistic health and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle.
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