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EXTRA FIREPOWER: VITAMINS AND MICROELEMENTS

EXTRA FIREPOWER: VITAMINS AND MICROELEMENTS

IMAGINE you are at war and your opponent has great advantage over you, what odds do you have to win? Honestly, at most you might incur serious injuries but at worst life itself might be lost.
Such a scenario happened in 1986 when FBI agents (USA) faced two powerfully armed ex military now dangerous criminals, William Russell and Michael Platt. Even if they were a lot, about 14 in number the agents were outgunned and two lost their lives with six injured before killing the criminals.
There was another situation in 1997 at Bank of America branch in North Hollywood where two gunmen Larry Phillips Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu stood against a lot of police for 44 minutes until a SWAT team came to help put them down.
In both scenarios the bad guys had an advantage because they had extra firepower. This series I want to talk about how we can enhance our fight against SARSCOV2 by having extra fire power.
Other than vaccines we also need supportive substances which include vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Particularly, we will look at vitamins especially vitamins C, B and D as well as elements like Zinc that are said to be helpful in the fight against Covid-19. These are usually given as part of treatment for Covid-19. But how really do they help and can they still be taken even when one has no Covid-19? Let us find out.
VITAMINS

What are vitamins?
The word “vitamin” comes from Latin “vita” meaning “life” and “amine” from amino acids because vitamins were originally thought to be form amino acids, the building blocks of protein, coined in 1912 by Polish biochemist Casimir Funk,
In simple terms vitamins are substances that are essential micronutrients which an organism needs in small quantities for the proper functioning of its metabolism. Their absence or deficiency cause a lot of health problems and can even lead to death.
These essential nutrients cannot be synthesised in the body, either at all or not in sufficient quantities, and therefore must be obtained through the diet.
There are number of vitamins designated with a letter of the English alphabet but also have scientific names. Examples are Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, H, K, PP.
Main source of vitamins are simple natural foods like fruits and vegetables while some from animal products like vitamin B12 and one from sunlight (vitamin D). Also most commonly as dietary supplements.
The value of eating certain foods to maintain health was recognised long before vitamins were identified. The ancient Egyptians knew that feeding liver to a person may help with night blindness, an illness now known to be caused by a vitamin A deficiency.
MINERALS AND TRACE ELEMENTS
This is another group of substances that are very important to the body though they are needed in smaller amounts their absence can cause serious problems.
For example the lack of enough folic acid during pregnancy may lead to children born with some defects like Spina bifida, where the back is not fully formed and part of the spinal cord is out.
The deficiency of iron is another problem that may lead to anaemia which can be fatal if not corrected. Lack of calcium can lead to problems with bones, nerves and coordination.
Other elements are zinc, magnesium, potassium, omega fatty acids from fish oils just to mention a few.

DEFICIENCIES
As stated, lack of vitamins can cause a lot of problems, some of the signs and symptoms that one is having some deficiencies may include.
• Gums that bleed easily.
• Extreme hair loss.
• Poor condition of skin and nails.
• Bone or joint pain
• Serious tiredness
• Irregular heartbeat
• Vision changes
• Wounds that heal slowly
SOME COMMON CAUSES OF DEFICIENCIES
Other than poor diet, there are some conditions that predispose one to having deficiencies and the following are some.

  1. Pregnancy
    A lot of changes happen during pregnancy, one being the extra demand for nutrients for the growing baby and the mother. You may not get enough iron from food, especially if you get morning sickness. And all women who are pregnant, or trying to be, should take folic acid. Prenatal vitamins give you “an extra cushion of safety,” says Van Horn Linda, a Professor of preventive medicine at North Western University, USA.
  2. When on a restricted diet.
    People that abstain from certain foods for various reasons tend to have some challenges. For example the vegetarians especially, the vegans who don’t eat even eggs or milk and if you don’t take supplements, may be at risk of B12 deficiency which leads to pernicious anaemia.
  3. Elderly
    As we age some processes start malfunctioning and this leads to a lot of problems. It is common for people over the age of 50 to have problems with vitamin D and B 12 absorption.
  4. After gastric bypass surgery

Those who may have had surgeries on their stomach for various reasons usually have problems with absorption of nutrients.

  1. People who have certain genetic or health conditions.
    Certain conditions especially those involving the gut, certain immune diseases including cancer tend to cause problems with absorption of nutrients. Equally are chronic alcoholics. More so certain races like darker skinned people(like myself) have very poor absorption of vitamin D from the sun because of too much melanin.
    DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
    Since source of vitamins from food is not always adequate, dietary supplements have been manufactured to help cushion this problem. Often they contain vitamins, but may also include other ingredients, such as minerals, herbs, and botanicals.
    Just how good are supplements, how much should be taken and if there are any side effects will be covered along the way. In as much as there is deficiency there can also be hypervitaminosis, that is taking too much supplements, way more than the recommended daily amount.
    This can also even lead to a lot of problems such as foetal retinoid syndrome which is a pattern of mental and physical birth defects (congenital malformations) that can result from a mother taking retinoids (vitamin A containing substances) during pregnancy.

PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE

The best is not to get infected with Covid-19 in the first place. Of course vaccines can help with that but as said time and again vaccines alone are not enough.
This is the reason why we need an extra line of defence and armoury. We need to ensure we are knowledgeable about the value of some vitamins and minerals, how to source them, what the right amount etcetera and also how to look out for deficiencies.
This knowledge is not only limited to Covid-19 but is meant for general improvement of health.
Please let us continue to be vigilant against Covid-19. On the same subject of prevention, especially in cities, there is a lot to be desired in terms of hygiene and cleanliness.
Some outbreaks such as Typhoid and Cholera can easily be prevented by good hygiene practices which need to be preached even more as we approach the rain season. Prevention is the best cure.
God forbid there is an outbreak of cholera, typhoid and Covid at the same time. This would put a very huge burden on health care workers and other response units such as the police.
Please let us keep Zambia clean. Rwanda has shown that clean cities are not just possible but can be sustained. Always remember prevention is the best cure.
ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION, UNTIL THEN ALUTA CONTINUA.

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