Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vitamins and their role in relationships


This post is a much delayed one because I did not have the time to think about this. Only when my better half made me realize how important a role Vitamins could play in relationships did I feel the importance of sharing this on a public forum.

Before I start discussing about this in details I would like to bring to the notice of my readers that I am a Biochemist and it makes me well aware of the metabolism and role of vitamins in our body. I would avoid using too many technical terms here.

So, let me share few instances which have made me believe in the fact that vitamins as the name says – Vital amines, play a very important role in not only maintaining the normal metabolism of our body but are also essential in leading a peaceful life.

We all have read about different types of vitamins and the deficiency conditions associated with these in our school days but apart from remembering the names of the diseases and the daily dietary supplements which are rich in specific vitamins we wouldn’t have been conscious about the absence of essential vitamins  from our diet. With changing lifestyle our dietary habits have been modified to suit our busy schedule. We do not always eat healthy despite having a clear picture of what is good and what is not good for us.

Among these vitamins, the most rampant yet ignored deficiencies seen in individuals are related to Vitamin B 12 (Cyanocobalamin) and Vitamin D. Research says that low levels of these two vitamins can affect the mental as well as physical health of an individual. These two vitamins go hand in hand in maintaining the function of the central nervous system and also reflect on the bone health. Extensive research has proved that severe deficiencies of these vitamins are linked to psychiatric problems too. Although, Vitamin D is still under the scrutiny of research when it comes to mental health conditions, there have also been studies to prove the same. They are also essential for maintain the normal metabolism of the body.

Symptoms can be varied, among them, the commonly seen features can be fatigue, tiredness, irritability, headache, body pain, muscle spasms, bone weakness, the person is always low on energy, finds difficulty in concentrating and it can also lead one to depression. These symptoms can mimic a severe psychiatric problem which can be easily cured by just a vitamin supplementation in adequate doses. They can be sneaky and harmful if not detected early. It is like a silent epidemic leading to severe consequences.

I have been aware of all this in theory as well as in practice. The irony of the fact is that when I had a mixture of such symptoms I couldn’t identify them myself neither did the clinician whom I had consulted. It happened exactly a year back. I started feeling pain one day suddenly in my left heel.  I ignored the symptom thinking it was because of wearing moderate heel slippers for a long time. After 3-4 days, the pain reduced and I felt normal. One day I walked barefoot in a marriage function hall. That night I had terrible pain. I had to keep my feet in hot water to reduce the pain. I thought that I might have stepped on something sharp unknowingly and also the after effects of wearing the heel slippers could have increased the pain. Days passed this way and my pain kept shooting up and then went down. I felt normal when I walked at home wearing soft spongy slippers and also when I wore good sport shoes. The pain used to increase extremely when I stepped on the floor after waking up. The pain was terrible. I couldn’t put my bare feet down. I immediately had to put my slippers on in order to walk normally. I thought it was just that injury which was causing the pain. I did not take any pain killers till then. I just kept my feet in hot water and made sure I did not walk barefoot. The pain radiated to my head. It was terrible to feel that pain when I put my feet down after waking up. Three months passed by this way and my pain did not vanish completely. At times it was not there but sometimes it came back with full force. I consulted an orthopedic doctor in a very good multi-speciality hospital. He gave it a technical name and suggested some medications along with some foot exercises. The major part of my medication was the pain killer. I did not take the pain killer and instead took the collagen and elastin fiber strengthening supplement. I followed simple foot exercises he suggested me. The pain did come down within two months but did not vanish either. It used to appear suddenly in the morning making my day start with pain. Once I was on the move, I felt absolutely normal. I did not want to go to the doctor again until I completed the course of my supplements. I used to feel very low when I had that pain. I was so comfortable walking barefoot just months ago and now I wasn’t even able to stand barefoot for more than five minutes.

I was also getting very irritated those days quite easily. It was mainly because of the pain with reasons not clearly known. I was expecting the pain to leave me soon but it did not. It kept coming back and radiated to my brain. I felt extremely exhausted and fatigued by the end of the day. I started feeling tired always and slept a lot. Waking up in the morning early was getting difficult for me. I even felt tired climbing up just 40 steps at an age when I should be running marathons. I always felt low on morale and kept telling myself that I was tired. I used to get angry at my own self for reasons unknown. My brain was working normally and I was doing everything that a normal human being would do but I did not have that happiness. There was nothing wrong at home or at my work place. I was normal on the outside but internally something was not keeping me happy. It was exactly one year post marriage and I must say that I am very lucky to have the best person by my side as my life partner. We did have disagreements but those days I was not normal. I was not being happy for what was there around. I was completely disheartened and sad with my own self. It reflected often on my husband also. He was absolutely clueless seeing me unhappy. It so happened that at the same time my parents were also at home and had come to stay over for a couple of months. For any girl it should be a happy and a proud moment when her parents spend more time with her at her house after marriage. They are able to be a part of her day to day life post marriage and are able to see her happily married. Unfortunately my face reflected happiness but not my behaviour. I was becoming extremely irritable not only with myself but also with my parents. I was normal for the external world but for my close ones I was not my original self. I love writing and I have always written in my diary if not as blog posts. My blog had become dormant. I stopped writing my diary and I justified myself by saying that I was too busy juggling with personal and professional life after marriage. I used to write even when I was sad but those days I did not even feel like taking out my diary. I cried a lot without any reason. Initially my parents suspected that I was not happy in my married life but when they had a heartfelt conversation with me they understood I was extremely happy. They also were more than satisfied seeing me with my better half. Soon, they started having doubts with just my changed behaviour. Multiple counselling sessions were there at home but nothing worked. I still cried for no reason at times. It was not just crying, I wailed as if something intricate has been taken away from me. I had everything that any normal human being should have. I was thankful to god for everything but I was still unhappy with god knows what!!  I had terrible dreams at times; I woke up crying very frequently and refused to wake up early. My parents urged me to start going for a morning walk. I did that too but it did not help me much.

Then one fine day my husband and I sat and discussed in depth about all the problems that I was going through. He actually sat and wrote everything that I was feeling, irrespective of it being good or bad. It made me feel a little better. There wasn’t any problem anyway that we needed to solve my troubles. It was mainly my fatigue and my heel pain that was making me feel more irritated.

My husband told me to consult the doctor again and also get my Vitamin D levels checked because he had faced a similar problem two years back . He fell down while playing Table Tennis, because of which he ended up with a tail bone (Coccyx) injury. It was not cured completely despite him leaving biking for 1 year, taking pain killers and Vitamin D supplements and also following strict instructions from doctors to use the ring cushion. MRI, X-ray, everything seemed normal. Finally, an orthopaedic doctor suggested him to get his Vitamin B12 levels checked. They obviously were low. Three months of those supplements with adequate precautions for one year did away with his pain completely. That person who couldn’t sit for 5 minutes without the ring cushion was able to sit through our entire wedding proceedings comfortably. Considering that in a Tam-Brahm wedding the rituals require you to sit for a long time on the floor.

That night I slept a little peacefully but tears did not stop rolling. I am generally a very sensitive person and I get too emotional but these emotions were not seen coming from my original self. My parents told me that I had changed but I was not aware in what way. One fine morning my dad had to get a routine blood check-up done – Blood sugar and Lipid Profile. We had called a technician from a lab for home collection. While he was giving his sample something struck me. I thought I could also get my Vitamin D level checked apart from getting my blood counts, blood sugar and lipid profile done. While that technician was drawing my blood I thought, I should get my Vitamin B12 also checked thinking that it could also be one of the reasons of my pain. I linked it with my husband’s symptoms back then and asked him to add this test too. After all, with the development of science I knew one vial of blood would be enough for at least three of these tests. I went to office and got so busy with work that I almost forgot that I could expect my blood reports by evening. I was checking my mail casually when my reports popped up. Dad’s reports were yet to come. I was too shocked after checking my mail. I was severely deficient in Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Rest all reports were normal. They were even lower that I had expected. Even my husband did not have such low levels despite his prolonged pain. I called my parents immediately, still in a state of shock. Since I understand the biochemical levels and numbers I knew it was not normal. Dad took me to our family physician immediately. Seeing my reports she questioned me about all those symptoms that I had been feeling and also asked me the reason for getting these tests done. When I explained to her about my symptoms she prescribed medicines for me immediately. My Vitamin B12 levels were so low that I had to take injections every week along with tablets. My medicine course lasted for almost 3-4 months.

When I came back home my parents and my husband were almost in the state to pity my condition. They stood by me giving me the confidence that the medications would relieve me of all pain. They were more relieved now because we all got to know the exact reason for my changed behaviour and problems. Clinically my condition could have worsened and could have led to depression had I not taken that step to do this self-checking. That is when I started reading up a lot on this and referred all possible scientific journals related to this. The results and conclusion of the research studies were shocking. I had suffered only a part of those deficiency symptoms. Vitamin B12 deficiencies could be leading to multiple problems which we will not be aware of. I realized that I did get pricked in my heel and the pain heightened because my bones were weak and bones always have nerves running along with the muscles and blood vessels. That is where Vitamin D and B12 come in. Vitamin B12 deficiency was making my nerves easily susceptible to pain, in any form. 

The medicines started showing their effects within a week. My parents went back home by then. I was feeling so much normal. At times I used to even feel like running away to the Himalayas away from everyone. I am not such a person who is known to run away from people. I love being with people and enjoy life as it is. At the same time I also started practicing Yoga. I could see drastic changes with medications. Yoga also helped me be in control. I was basically boosting my immune system as well my general physical health. I am so glad to say that the symptoms were nowhere to be seen after 2 weeks of medications. My heel pain also reduced a lot. It was practically not there. I still had that pain but I managed to overcome it. I started being active on my blog again. I started writing frequently and was feeling too excited about it. I went to my orthopedic doctor telling him about my progress and showed him my reports. He concluded only then saying that the pain could have been mainly because of these deficiencies.

I still wanted to test my physical strength. After 4 months of medication, I registered for my first 5k (Pinkathon) in February 2015.  I have never managed to complete a 2 km run continuously in so many years and here I was confident enough to go for a 5k run . I went for my first training run when my day was made after merely seeing Milind Soman. That 5k run experience was normal. It was more of a walk than run. I pulled it through but the after effects were only seen when I came back. I had to again put my feet in hot water and also take pain killer. I slept for almost 3 hours. The week after that, I had another training run and the surprise was that Milind Soman himself was going to run with us.  It was sheer happiness for me. My day was made. Problem started after the first kilometer. I couldn’t run. I just walked. I jogged a bit but walked more. Those who were with me had gone ahead and I was just left with a few women behind. I managed to complete the run and came back home. One more pain killer and I slept for almost half a day. Three days later was the actual 5k. My first ever run in a marathon. I was too skeptical and I kept myself ready with pain killers. Luckily I felt more comfortable on the day of the run. 5k seemed easy. I took a little extra time that a regular runner would take but keeping my pace slow and steady I managed to pull through without any problems. Three months back I was not able to stand barefoot and climb 40 steps easily; here I was holding the medal proudly in my hand after successful completion my first 5k. I had triumphed over my pain that day. Slowly I started gaining my strength and stamina back. I did another TCS 10k with my husband and later ended up doing another 5k at the Bengaluru Marathon. 

Thanks to the timely intervention of my vitamin supplements and the constant support of my husband. Without him by my side nothing could have been possible.


This is just my part of the story. There are many friends and relatives around me in whom I identified such symptoms and got them checked. Symptoms can be different for different people. Awareness is what is important. Only now has the awareness increased among clinicians too. Only a handful of good clinicians are there who suggest their patients to get these vitamin levels tested. The best part is that the tests are easily available and done, although a bit on the expensive side but the treatment is simple. One has to just consult a physician and follows simple dietary changes along with external medication. Vegetarians are seen to have more of Vitamin B12 deficiency but these days that notion has also changed.

In case you are facing any such symptoms without any other physical ailments it is better to consult a clinician and get yourself thoroughly checked. The earlier the better as it reflects on the physical and mental health. When these two go bad, relationships also tend to get affected. They tend to weaken you even emotionally. 


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