The powerful vitamin A and what happens in vitamin deficiency

Dear Dr. Mo: You’ve mentioned that Squash is rich in vitamin A but cautioned not to take too much of it. How can vitamins hurt us? Specifically, why is vitamin A important and how can it be harmful? What’s happening in vitamins deficiency?

Squash and pumpkins are awesome sources of vitamin A

Squash and pumpkins are awesome sources of vitamin A

Dear reader: Vitamin A has many vital functions and people associate it with good vision and this is certainly true. This vitamin along with vitamins D,E and K is not water soluble, which means they are not easily removed from our body and can hang on for a long time in our fat tissue, being fat-soluble. That’s why too much of it will stick around and cause problems. Apart from good vision, here are a few other equally significant roles of vitamin A in normal, deficient and excess situation:

1. It is a cofactor for a hormone called PTH (Parathyroid hormone) and this means that without it the hormone cannot function properly. PTH is necessary for Calcium balance in our body – this means that PTH controls the levels of Calcium in our blood; it affects the strength and health of our bones, the absorption of Calcium from our gut etc. Except for bone health, Calcium is also very important in cellular functioning and without it (or with too much of it) many of our vital processes stop or become excessive (for example, muscle contractions including heart, secretion of hormones like for instance insulin etc..).
Contrary to deficiency, vitamin A excess will cause PTH to work too much and increase levels of Calcium at the expense of our bones; too much Calcium will cause problems with muscle contractions known as tetanic contractions, our heart will not beat properly, kidneys may develop stones, Calcium will leak out into urine and the entire system will be thrown off balance.

2. It’s necessary for production of the fluid that cushions and maintains our brain and spinal cord called Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) – in vitamin A deficiency the CSF production is low but the body doesn’t know it; on the flip side of it, if vitamin A is in excess, too much CSF will cause dangerous increase in pressure in the skull which manifests itself with strong headaches and optic nerve swelling and can lead if left untreated to blindness and/or even death via something called brain herniation.

3. It’s crucial in maturation of cells such as the ones in hair, skin and eyes or linings of our organs like the lungs or intestines. So if for example a child is recovering from Measles, a doctor may give some vitamin A to speed up the regeneration of the child’s worn away cells in the lungs. We also give vitamin A to transform one exceptionally lethal type of Leukemia called PML (Pro-Myeloblastic Leukemia) into one less lethal called AML to help patients live longer with the disease. Vitamin A is used in Dermatology to manage some diseases etc. Continue reading

Tired legs, fatigue and Low Energy State – what’s the connection?

Dear Dr. Mo: I feel tired and my legs feel tired and not just in the morning but sometimes during the day and in the evening. What could be causing me to feel low like that?

Dear reader: Feeling tired, sleepy and lacking energy is called fatigue and all these symptoms are our body’s response to something we call Low Energy State.

Legs can be just tired from too much use

Legs can be just tired from too much use

Weakness is usually one of the first symptoms of any medical condition (as 90% of them are tied to Low Energy State) and it should not be ignored. Together with shortness of breath these two are the most common first presentation of majority of illnesses.

If weakness/fatigue doesn’t go away after enough sleep, good nutrition and reduced stress a doctor should check it out.

Tiredness in legs can commonly be just a result of too much walking, standing or running but if it doesn’t go away or keeps coming back even without excessive physical exertion then you may be in a Low Energy State for some reason that you should discover and correct asap.

Now, a whole variety of reasons exist that result in Low Energy State, which then goes on to cause weakness, fatigue and more specifically, tired legs among other symptoms. These can include:

Lifestyle reasons – feelings of fatigue are most commonly caused by (before we jump to illnesses) sleep deprivation and other sleep disorders (like apnea), overwork (or working in shifts), sedentary behavior (lack of exercise) or unhealthy habits (like smoking, alcohol consumption, drug abuse, skipping meals and inappropriate dieting);

Medical reasons – unrelenting weakness may signal an underlying illness, such as a thyroid dysfunction (hypothyroidism), heart disease, diabetes, cancer, anemia, infection etc. All these deprive us of energy for cells’ functioning and cause exhaustion and fatigue; Continue reading

If you don’t have your health, everything is ruined

Dear readers: In a recent interview for Esquire, titled “What I’ve Learned”, Woody Allen says an interesting and important thing he’d learned from his dad: “My dad didn’t even teach me how to shave — I learned that from a cabdriver. But the biggest lesson he imparted is that if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. No matter how great things are going for you, if you have a toothache, if you have a sore throat, if you’re nauseated, or, God forbid, you have some serious thing wrong with you — everything is ruined..

Image credit: www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com

Image credit: www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com

Inspired by Mr. Allen’s lesson from his father, and in relation to my recent post in which I wrote about some cool health benefits of Butternut Squash that even made it to the list of those healthful foods that can heal your tired legs, I’ve decided to share with you one simple recipe for a quick, healthy and easy way to make a very tasty Squash.

Here’s how to do it: Continue reading

Tired legs? Try these 5 dietary tweaks to help your tired legs

Legs could be windows into health - if they're tired, you need a recharge

Legs could be windows into health – if they’re tired, you need a recharge

Dear Dr. Mo: My legs feel tired relatively often and I’d like to know if there is something I can do about it? Should I be worried?

Dear reader: The feeling of tiredness in legs is a relatively common complaint and the reasons for this feeling could be different. If the feeling is more than just tiredness and it extends into pain and cramps, swelling, numbness and other more severe symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately as these could signal a more serious underlying condition.

That said, check out my earlier post on the Tired legs in the morning and the possible causes as well as several things you can do about it.

Use a healthy diet in your favour to get rid of tiredness in your legs and in some instances even pain (but like I said, for pain, always see your doctor first and discuss your options, including your diet).

Include foods that are rich in calcium, fiber, proteins and vitamin E in your diet as well as foods that will clean up your blood vessels  and regulate your blood pressure. These ingredients will maintain your health and specifically improve the strength and fitness of your legs.

What exactly do I mean? Here are 5 important points that you can use in your diet to improve the health of your legs and reduce the feeling of tiredness:

1. Try these 4 foods to keep you blood vessels clean from cholesterol plaques – healthy blood vessels also mean good blood supply to your legs, and well fed legs are fit and recover quickly from walking, running, jumping or just simply standing.

2. For blood pressure regulation try Beets, which can help to regulate mild hypertension (high normal and even stage 1)

3. Eat weekly some Butternut Squash and spinach for a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins A, E, C and B

And fiber is a necessity in any healthy diet, for good digestion and a healthy weight.  Continue reading

Tired legs in the morning – why is this and what to do?

Dear Dr. Mo: My legs feel tired when I wake up. What could be wrong and what to do?

Dear reader: A feeling of tiredness and heaviness in legs is a symptom, which can accompany many health-related disorders, ranging from those as mild as insufficient sleep and rest to more severe ones like Fibromyalgia or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For most of people, tired and achy legs is an experience, which occasionally comes and goes without any medical intervention.  This is usually from standing or sitting for longer periods of time and the problem goes away once the legs are rested or moved to a more comfortable position – crossing your legs often for instance or wearing uncomfortable shoes may contribute to discomfort.

Elevating your legs may help relieve some discomfort

In your case, however, waking up to a discomforting feeling of tired and heavy legs may not be caused by the lack of rest alone and it could be due to insufficient sleep or poor sleep quality.
If you generally feel tired in the morning, it may mean that your brain and other parts of your body (including legs) aren’t getting enough oxygen during sleep – this could be due to breathing problems like snoring or deviations in your nasal cavity (narrow or bent passageways in your nose), inflammation of sinuses, seasonal or other types of allergies which congest the nose, viral or bacterial infections of your upper respiratory system (nose and throat) and a more serious condition in which a person stops breathing all together for several seconds during sleep – this is called sleep apnea.

Feeling of tiredness can also come from the vitamin D deficiency and this has become a relatively recent discovery that a vitamin D deficiency is not only bad for bones and heart, it affects the rest of our body as well and you may feel fatigued and tired as a consequence.

Most of the time, the cause of this uncomfortable feeling is too much strain on your legs during day (either by walking/running or sitting for too long) and not enough of good quality sleep in a well aired room during night.
Also, don’t forget your head – stress, agitation and anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns and add to the feeling of tiredness in the morning.  Continue reading