Dear Pharmacist: My friends daughter has rickets, I didn’t think that was possible in this day and age. How do I protect my kids? --A.E., Boston, Mass.
Rickets is the result of vitamin D deficiency and it causes bowed legs and spinal deformity in children. Low D in adults contributes to osteoporosis. Vitamin D turns into a hormone in your body, and emerging studies suggest that statin cholesterol-lowering drugs are drug muggers of vitamin D (and CoQ10).
You can test your vitamin D levels, the blood test is inexpensive. Just as an aside, if you are low in D, you are probably low in A too. Upping your vitamin D with supplementation can help offset drug mugging from statins, control auto-immune disorders, improve blood sugar levels, reduce cell damage that leads to cancer, and help with conjunctivitis. People with gluten intolerance (and Celiac disease) need to know vitamin D is essential to close “tight junctions” so unwanted proteins do not leak out into your bloodstream. Vitamin D keeps zonulin in check so simply put, a deficiency in vitamin D can worsen intestinal hyperpermeability and increase auto-antibodies.
Back to rickets, since that is my focus today.
Why is rickets making a comeback? I can answer that in a single word: Sunscreen. Early last year a smattering of stories alerted people in the United Kingdom that a 12 year-old girl complaining of aching legs had been found so deficient in vitamin D that she was in a pre-rickets condition. It turned out her mom had been slathering her with SPF 50 sunscreen every day before she went outdoors. A number of UK doctors then stepped forward to acknowledge that rickets was becoming more common.
Rickets can cause deformed legs and spines and that simply should not be happening. If you want to protect your kids, let them get some of the sunshine vitamin! You can eat it too. Vitamin D is found in cod liver oil, wild-caught, cold-water seafood and egg yolks. Some people shy away from seafood (due to mercury concerns) and from eggs (because of cholesterol concerns which I don’t agree with). Milk and cereals fortified with Vitamin D may not be ideal either, due to dairy or grain sensitivities.
So what are you going to do?
Even if you have a healthy diet of lean grass-fed meats, organic fruits and vegetables, and nuts, I still think you should bare some skin in the sun. At this time of year, getting sunshine for 10 to 20 minutes several days a week is impossible if you live in the northern latitudes.
Also, depending on upbringing, religious beliefs and personal preferences, some parents teach modesty with their daughters. They insist on long sleeves, skirts, pants or head cover-ups. If this is the case, a D supplement is particularly essential in reducing risk for rickets and adult-onset auto-immune disorders.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your disease. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. To ask her a question or to learn more about your health, visit DearPharmacist.com.