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Vitamin is also called sunshine vitamin as it can be synthesized by animals with the help of sunlight vitamin D maintains optimal levels of calcium and potassium in the body. This makes it essential for bone growth and repair vitamin D also strengthens the immune system and prevents secretion of parathyroid hormone. Synthesis of vitamin d in the skin is determined by many factors including geography, season, cloud cover, time of the day and any other factors that can affect the skin’s exposure to sunlight. Lack of vitamin D can cause severe disorders including rickets, osteomalacia, osteoporosis and also increases the probability of getting diseases e.g multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, cancer among others. But what causes vitamin D deficiency among Muslim women?
Recent and past studies have shown a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Muslim women and their children. In 2001, the University of Chicago conducted a study on religious causes of vitamin D deficiency among women and concluded that Muslim women were the most affected. Similar studies were conducted in Sweden and Australia in 1996 and 2002 respectively. Both the studies highlighted Muslim women as a definite risk group to vitamin D deficiency .Both the studies indicated that close to 10 percent of Muslim women suffer from vitamin D deficiency related ailments at different times of their lives (Walter and Boron 65).
In most cases vitamin D deficiency in Muslim women is as a result of their lifestyle. This is due to the fact that vitamin D being a fat soluble vitamin is synthesized through the reaction of sunlight on our skins. In this case, sunlight converts 7-DHC into vitamin D after being exposed to some receptors found on our skins. About 70 percent of Muslim women wear a black religious dressing that also covers their faces (hijab) .The study carried out by university of Chicago indicated that 51 percent of all Muslim women in the US wear hijab either throughout the day or at different times of the day. Unfortunately black does not allow UV lights to pass through. Therefore for Muslim women, their black clothing does not allow the UV rays to act on the skin and produce vitamin D (Van Den Berg 178).
As earlier stated, vitamin D increases calcium absorption in the body. This is the reason why many Muslim women suffer from Osteomalacia a bone growth and structure disorder. This is because their calcium absorption is not adequate for proper bone development. It is also important to note that children born of these women do suffer from rickets which is also as a result of vitamin D deficiency. The solution to this problem could be direct intake of calcium tablets. Unfortunately, this is not as simple in human beings (Holick 375).
Muslim women and indeed anyone who is deficient of vitamin D also risk getting parathyroid adenoma. This is because hormonal regulation in the body is such that a decrease in one hormone leads to an increase in the other. As seen above, so much vitamin D is required for bone formation. Hence, if the women are sunlight deficient, and also deficient in foods rich in vitamin D, their bodies compensate through production of PTH. However PTH does not compensate enough though it continues to be produced. This eventually leads to hyperparathyroidism and therefore increases the chance of getting parathyroid adenoma (Haddad and Wortsman 2554).
Vitamin D deficiency in these women also has other negative health effects. Such effects include cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure among others. Unfortunately, the women are ignorant of the fact that their illnesses are brought about by deficiency in vitamin D. They also don’t know that the deficiency is caused by covering their bodies as ordered in their religion. They just believe that women should wear hijabs and other forms of clothing for their bodies to be modest and that this is a command form God. In most cases this women don’t even have access to formal education through which they would be enlightened on the importance of vitamin D. Therefore in most cases, these women have continued suffering blindly (Norman 1109)
As seen from above, the alarming rate of vitamin D deficiency in Muslim women is most likely caused by their way of dressing. This can be explained by the fact that of all Muslim women who suffer from these ailments, 80 percent wear hijab. It would therefore be advisable for them not to wear exclusively black clothing. They also need to include vitamin D rich diets in their food budgets. By so doing, they will be able to reduce their risk of getting deficient in vitamin D. This will in turn reduce their exposure to the risks earlier mentioned.