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Vitamin D deficiency: signs, risks

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 163 views

Vitamin D deficiency usually occurs when the skin is not exposed to the sun enough. The body needs UV light for the body’s own production of vitamin D3. A deficiency can also be caused by diseases. Read more about the topic: How does a vitamin D deficiency develop and manifest itself? What to do about the undersupply?

Vitamin D deficiency: causes

Vitamin D deficiency (vitamin D3 deficiency) often occurs in people who spend most of their time indoors and rarely outdoors. The body covers most of its vitamin D requirements through its own production with the help of sunlight. However, if the skin is not “supplied” with enough UV rays, the required vitamin D must be supplied more through food or through supplementary preparations.

However, it is difficult to cover the estimated daily requirement of vitamin D through nutrition, even if you eat a balanced and varied diet. There are few foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D.

A vitamin D deficiency is correspondingly common in this country – consequences of a lifestyle that takes place more indoors than outdoors and the low vitamin D occurrence in food. In addition, diseases are sometimes responsible for low vitamin D levels.

In summary, there is a risk of vitamin D deficiency with:

  • Too little sun exposure (especially in old people and residents as well as in people who hardly expose skin surfaces to the sun through clothing such as religious habit or chador)
  • malnutrition
  • Disturbed utilization and absorption of vitamin D (e.g. in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, celiac disease, after major gastrointestinal surgery)
  • increased need (pregnancy and lactation, children)
  • Taking certain medications (e.g. anti-epileptic drugs)
  • increased excretion of vitamin D via the kidneys (renal insufficiency, nephrotic syndrome )

Vitamin D deficiency: symptoms

There are many symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, because the body needs vitamin D for a wide variety of processes. One of its main tasks is bone health. Vitamin D also supports the immune system, the muscles and the hair , for example .

Here are some possible effects of vitamin D deficiency:

  • hair loss
  • increased susceptibility to infection
  • Muscle weakness, muscle pain, body aches
  • disturbed bone mineralization (rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults) with bone pain and deformation
  • Neuromuscular hyperexcitability (tetany) due to calcium deficiency as a result of vitamin D deficiency with abnormal sensations (e.g. of the lips and fingers), muscle cramps, migraines, etc.

Vitamin D deficiency: depression, cancer & Co.

Apart from the vitamin D deficiency symptoms mentioned above, there are still some serious diseases that can be linked to a vitamin D deficiency: depression, cancer, cardiovascular diseases (e.g. heart attack, stroke), respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma), metabolic diseases (e.g Type 2 diabetes) and autoimmune diseases (such as multiple sclerosis) are among them. Several studies have found a connection between a low vitamin D level in the blood and diseases such as diabetes and rheumatism. Winter depression could also be fueled by vitamin D deficiency, researchers suspect. For many people, the blood level of the sun vitamin D plummets in the dark, cold season – as does the mood.

For the most part, however, it is not clear whether the lack of vitamin D is the cause or a consequence of such diseases or whether an increased intake of vitamin D can help against the diseases mentioned. The connections discovered need to be researched in more detail.

According to the current state of knowledge, it is certain that a good supply of vitamin D can reduce the risk of falls, broken bones, loss of strength, mobility and balance impairments and premature death in older people.

Vitamin D deficiency in children

Children’s bodies are constantly changing and growing. An adequate supply of nutrients and vitamins is all the more important. Especially without sufficient vitamin D, the bones are not able to incorporate minerals from the blood into the bone substance. As a result, the bones remain soft and deform. Doctors then speak of rickets.

Babies have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency and the resulting rickets – on the one hand because breast milk contains little vitamin D, on the other hand because the baby’s delicate skin should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Therefore, the German Society for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine recommends that all babies should receive a vitamin D tablet daily from the end of the first week of life until the end of the first year of life to prevent rickets. This recommendation applies to both breastfed and non-breastfed infants.

Vitamin D deficiency: testing and diagnostics

If a vitamin D deficiency is suspected, a blood sample is taken to measure the serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH vitamin D). This is the storage form of vitamin D. It reflects the vitamin D supply through self-production and intake through food.

If the doctor suspects a disorder of the vitamin D metabolism or an increased calcium level, the blood level of the hormone calcitriol (1,25-vitamin D3) is measured in the blood. This is the biologically active form of vitamin D.

There are now home test kits. With such a vitamin D test, you usually prick your finger and send the blood sample to the laboratory specified on the package or an enclosed information sheet. A few days later you get the result.

Vitamin D deficiency: therapy

What to do with vitamin D deficiency? It can be balanced in a number of ways, although of course it depends on what caused it. Usually the cause is a lack of exposure to the sun. Then it can be enough to go outside regularly with your face, arms and hands uncovered and without sunscreento expose to the sun. How long this sun exposure should last for sufficient vitamin D production depends, among other things, on the time of year and day, latitude and skin type. The skin should get enough sun, but not too much, so as not to increase the risk of skin cancer. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the following recommendations apply to our latitudes for the duration of exposure to sunlight in order to ensure good vitamin D production:

Sunlight exposure for skin type I/II * Sunlight exposure for skin type III **
March to May 10-20 minutes 15 to 25 minutes
June to August 5-10 minutes 10 to 15 minutes
September to October 10-20 minutes 15 to 25 minutes

* Skin type I/II: light to very light skin colour, light red or blond hair, blue or green eyes

** Skin type III: medium skin tone, dark hair, brown eyes

Outside of midday (from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) you can stay in the sun twice as long as stated, according to the DGE.

Vitamin D: Lamps with UV radiation make sense?

The artificial UV radiation in solariums is not a suitable substitute for sunlight. It is not suitable for treating vitamin D deficiency: it also contains UV-B rays – that part of the UV radiation that the body can use to produce vitamin D and thus to combat vitamin D deficiency. Solarium light also contains UV-A radiation, much more than sunlight. In addition to premature skin aging, this type of radiation causes an increased risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin D in foods

The intake of vitamin D from food only covers a small part of our vitamin D requirement. Nevertheless, you should regularly eat foods that contain the sun vitamin. You can find out what these are in the article Vitamin D foods .

vitamin D supplements

If a vitamin D deficiency cannot be compensated for by exposure to the sun and diet, vitamin D supplements can help. Talk to your doctor whether such preparations make sense in your case and what dosage is advisable. This should be high enough to compensate for the vitamin D deficiency, but not too high to avoid risking an overdose in the long run.

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