Q I’m pregnant and worried about vitamin D deficiency, after reading some frightening stories in the press. Is my baby at risk and do I need a supplement?
A Vitamin D is vital for building bones. Deficiency can cause rickets in children, because it impairs the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus. A recent study in Southampton Hospital’s orthopaedic department revealed that one in five children referred for investigation showed signs of rickets. Low levels may also affect growth, the age of walking, and tooth development. Children may be irritable, and prone to infection.
In adults, the problem manifests as bone pain and tenderness, which can lead to osteomalacia (the adult form of rickets). There is an increased risk of hip fractures due to osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency is also a major risk for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, infections, multiple sclerosis, some cancers and, probably, schizophrenia. It’s a contributory cause of raised blood pressure, inflammatory bowel diseases, polycystic ovary disease, period problems, infertility, infections, dental decay and depression.
About 90 per cent of vitamin D is made in the skin in response to strong summer sunlight, the rest comes from foods, (mainly oily fish, meat, eggs, butter, some fortified cereals, margarine and milk). Because we have so little adequate sunlight – and often slather ourselves in sun preps, which block UVB light necessary for vitamin D absorption – deficiency is now widespread. ’86 per cent of the UK population are deficient in the winter, and 57 per cent in the summer,’ says vitamin D campaigner Oliver Gillie.
All pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a vitamin D3 supplement, according to government advice. Babies may suffer vitamin D deficiency in the womb and then from low levels in breast milk. In some cases, supplements are free via the Healthy Start programme (healthystart.nhs.uk); ask your health professional.
All children under five should take a vitamin D supplement, according to the Chief Medical Officer. Breastfed infants will benefit from vitamin D supplements from one month if there’s any doubt about the mother’s levels. Oliver Gillie recommends starting in the first few days. Try D-Lux 400 Oral Spray by Better You, £6.25, from Victoria Health. (Formula milk is fortified with vitamin D so babies do not need it while being bottle-fed).
Over 65s should take a supplement, as should people with darker skin who don’t produce so much vitamin D. Many experts now believe that we can all benefit from vitamin D supplementing. Try D-Lux 3000 Oral Spray by Better You, £7.95 from Victoria Health.
Finally, do sunbathe for regular short periods without sunscreen (in the UK). Cancer Research UK advises ‘regularly going outside around the middle of the day…without sunscreen’, as the time it takes to make enough vitamin D – at least 20 minutes three times a week – is less than that needed for skin to burn (the big risk for skin cancer).
Only the finest for Fido
Most of us feed our four-footed friends on tinned or dried food. But dogs are really domesticated wolves and should be eating raw meat, bones and vegetables. Says holistic vet Richard Allport: ‘Dogs (and cats) are designed to eat lots of meat but the percentage in most pet food is tiny, and it’s usually bulked out with wheat, which is the most common allergen.’ Additionally, there are often large amounts of sugar and salt, plus over 400 permitted artificial additives. So why not try Honey’s Real Dog Food, which offers a vet-designed range including chicken, pork, beef, lamb, wild rabbit, biscuits and treats, prepared to order from ethically sourced ingredients. It’s individually prepared for each dog’s needs, frozen into daily portions, then packed in insulated boxes. From £1 a day for a small dog, from Honey’s, tel: 0844 656 1566 honeysrealdogfood.com PS There’s a book too, Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs, £7.50 inc p&p
Skincare Clinic – Be Botox Safe
A reader who is interested in having a cosmetic procedure such as Botox asks how she can do it safely:
Make certain the practitioner has appropriate medical qualifications to administer the treatment safely and well, and also to respond to any subsequent medical emergency.
The Department of Health-backed register Treatments You Can Trust (treatmentsyoucantrust.co.uk) provides a list of medically certified and qualified practitioners that administer ‘cosmetic injectable treatments such as Botox and dermal fillers’, in your area.
Never be tempted to have a treatment for Botox or any other procedure at a party or other non-clinical environment. Even if the practitioners were qualified, the setting is unlikely to be sterile and that could result in infection.
Website of the Week
The mother of a teenager who died from sudden cardiac death recommends the website Cardiac Risk in the Young (c-r-y.org.uk). Each week in England and Wales, at least 12 apparently fit and healthy people under 35 die from undiagnosed heart conditions. Cry offers support to bereaved families and help for young people diagnosed with life threatening heart conditions.