by Sister Nabeelah Um Nadeem
As a Muslim woman who wears the niqaab (face-veil, headscarf, and jilbab), and after much research on the subject, I wish to increase awareness amongst sisters to take precaution in preventing vitamin-D deficiency. We may be at a slightly higher risk than others due to the lack of sun exposure because of the way we dress and due to the fact that many of us may rarely leave our homes.
People who are mostly susceptible are those who stay indoors most of the time, wear sunscreen constantly, who are vegetarians who cut out all forms of meat including fish...etc, or live in a location that lacks sufficient sunlight sometimes up to 6 months during the winter months.
Vitamin D keeps our bones strong, helps to prevent some cancers and benefits the immune system. Preliminary research suggests it may reduce the risks of breast, prostate and colon cancer. This vitamin is a hormone and is manufactured in the body. It helps the body utilize calcium and phosphorous and builds bones and teeth.
Your body can only make vitamin D under the proper conditions. It actually does not take much to do so and will not compromise our lifestyles.
It is recommended that you try to find a secluded place outdoors so that you can expose your face and hands to direct sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes only 2 or 3 times a week. (Remember too much sun is not good either and overexposure can lead to skin cancer). You will most likely manufacture enough Vitamin D to meet your needs and because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, you can store enough to supply you for days even months without sun exposure (according to many health specialists and Bill Sardi a health journalist and consumer advocate in CA).
It is also advised to take a daily multi-nutrient that contains at least 400IU of vitamin D3 (look for the word "cholecalciferol" on the label). Try and consume more vitamin D-rich foods like fish (salmon, sardines and tuna), fish oils, eggs, liver, milk, bran cereals and butter (avoid using margarine, it's liquefied plastic). In doing this your skin, nerves, heart, hormonal system, bones, teeth and joints will benefit. This also helps minimize bone loss, leading to osteoporosis. Studies have also shown that consistent weight-bearing exercise also increases bone density such as jogging, walking, weight-training, etc. (i.e. treadmill's are great!)
Rickets and Osteomalacia (adult form of rickets) is also caused by a lack of vitamin D in the body. This is when the bones become increasingly soft making them brittle and more flexible causing deformity to the body. Symptoms can include pain in the limbs, spine, throat, and pelvis also amenia and progressive weakness.
Vitamin D is formed in the skin by the action of short-wave ultra-violet light. Precursors of vitamin D in the skin are converted into cholecalciferol, a weak form of vitamin D3, which is then transported to the liver and kidneys where enzymes convert it to 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol, the more potent form of vitamin D3. Vitamin D precursors require cholesterol for conversion into the hormone-vitamin.
Without adequate sun exposure, vitamin D precursors turn to cholesterol instead of the vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamin D supplements are available. Vitamin D3 is believed to exhibit the most potent cancer-inhibiting properties and is the preferred form of the vitamin. Evidence of vitamin D's protective effect against cancer is compelling and it may also go beyond cancer prevention and provide tumour therapy. Much has been made of pharmaceutical angiogenesis inhibitors- agents that help inhibit the growth of new, undesirable blood vessels that tumours require for nutrient supply and growth. Laboratory tests have shown vitamin D to be a potent angiogenesis inhibitor. Vitamin D also works at another stage of cancer development. Tumour cells are young, immortal cells that never grow up, mature and die off. Because vitamin D derivatives have been shown to promote normal cell growth and maturation, drug companies are attempting to engineer patentable forms of vitamin D for anti-cancer therapy.
So my dear sisters, it does not require a whole lot to avoid vitamin-D deficiency. Only a small amount of sunlight and/or vitamin D supplements are required. If you do not have the convenience of you own privacy fenced-in yard, try to find a secluded place to expose only your face and hands for about 15 minutes such as a park for example, where no one else can see you. Choose the least busiest time to go.
You do not have to compromise the wearing of niqaab in doing so sisters. Remember, even sisters who do not wear niqaab who live in locations such as Canada, Alaska, etc where you lose much sunlight or even work indoors most of the day should take these extra precautions in order that we may all help to keep our bodies healthy.
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