Today we are on the whole a pretty healthy society compared to the past. Many of the illness that plagued our ancestors are no longer a problem. Diseases that I saw as a child are almost gone and forgotten. I remember when people worried about polio, now you rarely hear about it and only from a third world country. One reason that our health is good is that we have fortified a lot of different foods with vitamins. This has eliminated diseases like scurvy, rickets, pellagra and many others.
Now I know that food on the whole was better for you before we started playing games with genetics and artificial fertilizers. Unfortunately, many people used to get vitamin deficiency diseases due to poverty and lack of knowledge about the vitamins our bodies need. For us as preppers it is important that we take advantage of this knowledge and not make mistakes that led to vitamin deficiency diseases.
Rickets is a good example, it’s a disorder caused primarily by a lack of vitamin D. It leads to softening and weakening of the bones particularly in children.
We can get vitamin D in two ways. Vitamin D comes from food or is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. People who lack exposure to the sun for the following reasons often lack vitamin D.
- They live in climates with little exposure to sunlight
- They stay indoors for various reasons.
- They work indoors during the daylight hours
- They cover their body for religious reasons, often practically women.
People often fail to get vitamin D for their diet for the following reasons
- They are lactose intolerant (have trouble digesting milk products)
- They do not drink milk products
- They are vegetarians
In the 17th and 18th centuries, rickets was quite prevalent throughout most of the world. This resulted in many children having club feet, curved spines, bowlegs, knock knees, weak ankles and hip disease.
Rickets was often seen in infants, sometimes appearing as early as their second week of life. Rickets was especially prevalent in bottle feed babies, remember milk was not fortified with vitamin D. If a breast-feeding mother was vitamin D deficient, she would pass this along to her infant. In the United States alone records show that between 1910 and 1961 13,807 deaths were attributed to rickets, 8.387 to infants under 12 months of age.
Signs and symptoms of rickets
- Bone tenderness
- dental problems
- muscle weakness
- increased tendency for fractures (easily broken bones), especially greenstick fractures
- Skeletal deformity
- Toddlers: Bowed legs
- Older children: Knock-knees
- Pelvic deformity
- Spinal deformity
Fortunately, rickets is a fairly easy disease to prevent. It can be done through diet or exposure to the sun. You should make sure that children and expectant mothers eat vitamin D rich foods. This includes butter, eggs, fish liver oils, margarine, fortified milk and juice, portabella and shiitake mushrooms, and oily fishes such as tuna, herring, and salmon.
Everyone should be exposed to the sun at least twice a week for about 30 minutes, pregnant mothers more often. By exposure, I mean getting sun on your arms and legs, in other word shorts and a t-shirt. Darker-skinned people need to be exposed longer to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Do not use sun block and avoid being sunburned.
If you encounter someone who already has rickets, you can treat them by giving them extra vitamin D, calcium and phosphates.
Remember that I am not a Doctor and have not received any special medical training, if you encounter any of the these problems go and seek help from a trained medical professional if possible.