Friday, September 7, 2012

God's Cure for Rickets

Asalamu Alaykom,

Subhanallah!  God gives us exactly what we need.  God gives it to us in ways which are easy to obtain.  Even then, we are stubborn creatures.

Do you know how much money it costs to get a daily dose of vitamin D?


Not once cent, piestre, or pence.

All you need to do is soak up five minutes of sun.  There has been so much negativity about sun exposure that we forget how Allah is The Creator of the Sun and the Moon.  There is nothing created by The Almighty which is completely harmful to us.  We are not to worship his creation so we should not become bronzed sun worshippers.  That's overdoing and as believers we are meant for moderation. I'm not saying to ignore warnings that UV rays can cause skin cancer.  I still wear Clinque City Block with SPF 25 on my face every day I go out of the house.  What is different is that I do not fear the sun.  We need the sun and to be absolutely specific you need five minutes of sun in order to provide your body with enough vitamin D to function properly.

Vitamin D helps keep our bones and teeth strong.

Did you just zone out?  I's medical and medical is SCARY because getting in touch with our bodies feels overwhelming.  When we stop for a moment and understand that medical is miraculous then we can really say, "Subhanallah!"

So, let's look at the graphic again.  It's amazing actually.  Sunlight enters through our skin and our liver breaks it down into another chemical.  This is happening every time we expose ourselves to sunlight.  We don't know it's happening but subhanallah it is.  Then our kidneys break it down another way which in turns becomes vitamin D which works with calcium to strength our bones and teeth.  We don't have to buy anything, ask for anything, or make an appointment.  We simply have to allow The Light of Allah to enter into us without fear.

If you need to see this process in a rhyming cartoon video (and who doesn't?!) click here.

Without this essential nutrient there is a problem with weak bones.  There's a risk for the bones breaking.  The bones simply can't withstand the strain daily exersion puts on them.  The bones might not have an obvious break but rather painful hairline fractures which go undetected.

Sadly, if the person not getting enough vitamin D is a child, he or she might end up in the emergency room on mulitple visits with broken bones. Imagine how suspect the parents seem.  Is there some child abuse? Their kid keeps breaking bones!

There are many other medical reasons to make sure you have enough vitamin D.  Everything from psoriasis to diabetes, depression to asthma seems to improve with increased levels.  Even cancer risks have been reduced.  Fertility rates have been shown to increase!  It's truly amazing how much of our health is reliant on simple sun exposure.

Of course, children are dependant on their parents to give them what they need.  What's really sad with infants not getting enough vitamin D is that their bones are not even given the chance to form properly.  It can actually start within the womb if mom is not getting enough sunlight herself.  Then, as she breastfeeds, and continues to stay indoors (or outside but either too dark or too covered up) she is not supplying enough vitamin D in her milk.  If the baby is not given those precious five minutes a day (or 30 minutes a week) then the baby developes rickets.

Rickets is an old disease with new victims.  When it became really prevalent was during the Industrial Revolution. No longer were children playing in open fields.  Whole families left the countryside and piled into overcrowded tennement houses.  The quickly constructed homes were not made with windows.  England had placed a tax on property by the window. To get around paying more money, windows were eliminated. Suddenly, babies' bones began to malform.  A whole generation of working-class British children were permanently damaged from lack of sunlight and its ability to create vitamin D.

I would post pictures of the twisted arms and legs but they are truly too disturbing.  You feel sickened after viewing them.  If you so wish to see the worst cases, you can google them on your own.

Why are rickets happening now? 

All of us who love watching TV, searching the web, playing video games, and other sedentary activities put ourselves and our children at risk.  We avoid the sun and the sweat.  We don't like to exert or exercise.  If we are hijabis then we don't show our arms or legs; we only show our faces and hands.  If we are niqabis then we don't even show our faces.  That means that little to no sunlight is touching our skin.  If we do get sun, we might have tried to block it out with SPF.  Our babies and children are basically our appendages and helplessly follow our lifestyles.  Honestly?  It's sad.

I feel very passionately about this because I have been watching my latest rent-a-baby develop rickets.  My husband's nephew is the pride and joy of the family mashahallah.  He was born in March so that makes him almost six months old.  His arms and legs are showing signs of curving.  His feet don't point outward like my children's did (alhumdulillah) but rather the soles of his feet curl inwardly and face each other.  

This isn't the first time one of our children in the family home have shown signs of rickets.  The baby's sister was showing signs of bowed legs as well.  I intervened (at some risk to my standing in the family) and insisted that their first child be seen by a doctor.  This newest baby is bigger and the more fat you have the less able you are to hold onto your vitamin D since it is fat soluable.  He needs even more time in the sun.

These two children are not the only ones.  Rickets are prevalent in Egypt.  As I walk through the streets of Al-Haram, I see many young children with the tell-tale bowed legs.  There's no issue with SPF as no one puts sunscreen on their children here.  They are not especially dark---the darker the skin the less likely that sun is able to be absorbed.

The reason for the rise in rickets here is due to lifestyle.  A large number spend all of their hot days inside shuttered away and then come out after magrib when the sun goes down.  Essentially, they are raised nocturnally.  And then there's differences in a Muslim country where women are covered and not encouraged (rather even discouraged) from going out.

But it's not only Egypt!  70% of American children are showing low and deficient levels.  This is across all demographics.  See this CBS News report for more information.  I do think the doctor on the show promotes a product during the segment and would caution against believing that any product is more effective than sunlight (by the way, those gummi vitamins are not halal due to their pork gelatin).

Here's another report from Children's Hospital of Oakland.

If you need some star power behind your health reports, here's Oprah's favorite physician Dr. Oz on ABC's Good Morning America saying that the sun is the best source.  He has some important facts.  Find out what Diane Sawyer's vitamin D levels are and watch her take a cod liver oil shot.

What's strange is that it's not just countries above the 37th latitude where the sunlight is less (like the United Kingdom).  It's even happening in sun-drenched countries like Australia.  See this report from Down Under which stresses sun in moderation (a very Islamic ideal).

Back at my house, the baby's mom is a niqabi and spends every day inside the home.  I'm not saying that all niqabis are like my sister-in-law.  Many niqabis get out every day and I work with many of those ladies.  My sister-in-law is different.  She insisted for all those months that she didn't even have five minutes to spare.  She is very busy cooking and cleaning for the family however she is not the only one available to get the baby some sunlight.  She only had to ask but she didn't.

Now?  That sweet little boy has pronounced curved legs and somewhat in his arms as well.  He is taking vitamin D drops and is finally getting the sunshine he always needed.  The mom (alhumdulillah) finally sees some sense in what I've been stressing.

Is it enough?  Inshahallah.  Inshahallah the bones will straighten through this simple treatment but what a shame to take a baby; a precious gift from God and lose sight of responsibility God bestows on all parents.  We have to be caretakers and TAKE CARE of our children.  All living things need sunlight.  We can't say we are too busy or unconcerned to provide them with an essential element of their growth and development.

If you need to see a toddler with rickets click here.  The child is still very cute.  Mashahallah.  However, the bone development is such that the gait as he walks is a like a cowboy who just got off his horse.  He can't stay up and is constantly falling down.  It's not that he doesn't know how to walk; he simply can't!  Alhumdulillah, here he is again DANCING after effective treatment.

Here's a crawler with rickets from the same orphanage.  There's a great song accompanying it.  Gotta love reggae!  Alhumduilllah, here is the same little girl walking after she received care.

The only problem with these videos is that they are, as I said,  from an orphanage and I don't want you to think that if you're a middle-class or upper-class family then you don't have to be concerned.  Keep remembering that rickets is happening all over the world in every socio-economic bracket.

Since learning more about the disease, I am more committed to making sure my own son gets enough sunlight.

Can moms give certain foods to supply vitamin D?

There are foods high in vitamin D.  Fish oils (like that gastly cod liver oil) top the list.  Vitamin D milk was always thought to be a good choice but Dr. Oz is not endorsing it.  Butter is good (which makes me want to slather some golden goodness on a chunk of bread right now).  Kellogg's has started to add the vitamin in products like corn flakes and Rice Krispies.

Truly, the ability for the body to absorb vitamin D through foods is not as good as through sun exposure.  Not everything that's good for us can be cured by popping something in our mouth.  We have to be fully functional people in the world and take in all the blessings which the world holds for us.

Thank you for reading this, clicking on the links and becoming better informed.  What you just learned might help you, your children or someone else you love.  Inshahallah each bit of knowledge you gain is something you can never loose.  If each one of us commits to living smarter and better we can not only help ourselves but advance society as well.



egyptchick7 said...

Great post! I recently had my blood work and the doctor told me my Vitamin D levels were perfect ( all that tanning at the beach, I guess) and that is is rare to be at good levels...I took both Nutrition and Anatomy and Physiology classes and when you learn all the body does to do simple things. all the chemicals and elements created and needed, it really is a subhanallah moment...How our muscles move, for example, to me is an amazing mechanism, and how our heart pumps is breathtaking to learn too...

Anyways...more awareness is needed...people take the sun for granted sometimes...

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom EgyptChick,

In my mind I replied to you last month. In actuality, it's taken me a while. Glad you liked the post. It's been getting a lot of hits.

I'm HAPPY your levels are good. Alhumdulillah. "Rare to be at good levels," is an interesting comment from the doctor.

Glad you are internalizing all that body knowledge. Really the body is a miracle and awareness of how the body works within the world is key.

Love and (Sun)Light! ;)