You've probably heard many times that vitamins play an essential role in the health of your body. Vitamin D is one of these important factors and ensures that bone health, muscles and the immune system function properly. If a vitamin D deficiency occurs, there are possible consequences that you should under no circumstances underestimate.
This article is intended to give you an understanding of the most important tasks of this vitamin, as well as the causes and consequences of a deficiency. In the following you will receive valuable tips on how to successfully treat a vitamin D deficiency and how to take precautionary measures to avoid suffering from such a deficiency in the first place.
the essentials in brief
- Vitamin D is a group of vitamins that play a key role in regulating calcium and phosphate levels, maintaining muscle performance and monitoring bone structure.
- A vitamin D deficiency occurs particularly often when too little time is spent in the sun and not enough vitamin D is ingested through food. The required amount differs according to skin type, location and season.
- The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are often non-specific and can also have other causes. However, the most common symptoms include hair loss, muscle weakness and bone pain.
Definition: What is a vitamin D deficiency?
A vitamin D deficiency occurs when the human body is undersupplied with vitamin D for a certain period of time and symptoms of a deteriorating state of health occur. These can be, for example, bone pain or muscle weakness and reduced muscle strength.
The term vitamin D stands for a group of fat-soluble vitamins that regulate calcium balance and the health of the cook.
In order to determine whether there is a vitamin D deficiency, the vitamin D serum level is measured by the doctor. However, it should be noted that the value is not stable but is subject to seasonal fluctuations. A low vitamin D value does not automatically indicate a deficiency, but the value must be measured more often or a reaction must be taken in the event of acute symptoms.
Background: What you should know about a vitamin D deficiency
Before you get all the important tips for remedying a vitamin D deficiency, we would like to answer the most frequently asked questions about vitamin D deficiency so that you get all the information you need.
Why is vitamin D so important for the body?
Vitamin D is produced in our skin when it is exposed to the sun in sufficient quantities and in good doses. The vitamin takes on important tasks so that our body can work perfectly. Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the calcium and phosphate levels and thus monitoring bone structure. Muscle performance is also influenced by the vitamin.
If the vitamin balance is disturbed and there is a lack of vitamin D, this has a significant impact on bone health. Because without vitamin D, not enough calcium can be absorbed and processed, so that the calcium dissolves out of the bones and they become unstable. In the worst case, decalcification and softening of the bones can accompany the vitamin D deficiency.
In addition, a connection between a vitamin D deficiency and diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attack risk, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cancer has been assumed for some time.(1,2,3)
What is the need for vitamin D?
On the one hand, the human body can produce vitamin D itself through sufficient exposure to the sun on the skin, on the other hand, the requirement is met through food. The amount that a person should take is determined by various factors such as age, lifestyle, skin type or time spent in nature.
Just a few minutes in the sun can ensure that the body can produce vitamin D. The amount depends on skin type and time of year, among other things (Image source: Jude Beck/ unsplash)
Basically, however, it can be said that adults can take in up to 1000 micrograms of vitamin D through food, children should not consume more than 50 micrograms.
How does a vitamin D deficiency come about?
Vitamin D deficiency occurs when the body does not receive enough input to make the vitamin or does not consume enough foods that contain vitamin D. Older people in particular are more likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency because the production activity of the vitamin decreases with age.
People with a darker skin color must also pay attention to their vitamin D balance, since pigmented skin absorbs UV light and thus reduces the production of vitamin D.
Basically it can be said that in spring and autumn it is recommended for people with dark skin to be exposed to the sun for 15-25 minutes a day. Lighter skinned types only need 10-20 minutes. Especially the face, the hands and if possible the legs should be exposed to the sun. In summer 10 to 15 minutes are enough, for light-skinned people 5-10 minutes. In winter, it must be checked individually whether the vitamin D level is balanced.
What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?
Since vitamin D affects a variety of processes in the body, the effects of vitamin D deficiency can manifest themselves in many different ways. Vitamin D not only protects bone health, but also the muscles, the immune system and the hair.
A number of symptoms can therefore occur. However, the signs of vitamin D deficiency are usually very unspecific and can also have other causes, which is why it is always necessary to consult a doctor. However, the following symptoms can be associated with a vitamin D deficiency:
- hair loss
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Muscle weakness, muscle pain, body aches
- Disturbed bone mineralization
- muscle cramps, migraines
How can I increase my vitamin D level?
A study by the Robert Koch Institute found that around half of Germans do not have an optimal supply of vitamin D, so that one can speak of a deficiency. The care is strongly dependent on various factors, such as diet, age, being outdoors or skin tone.
Vitamin D levels can be altered by three factors: diet, exposure, and supplements. We will show you exactly how to do this below.
Which vitamins belong to the vitamin D group and what is the deficiency?
Vitamin D consists of a group of different fat-soluble vitamins that are related to the regulation of calcium balance and bone mineralization (calciferols). When talking about vitamin D, most people mean the vitamin. Vitamins D1, D2, D4 and D5 are synthetic vitamins.
Above all, vitamins D2 and D3 are crucial. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol) can be taken as dietary supplements. Vitamin D2 is obtained from yeast by UV irradiation, vitamin D3 is obtained from wool fat (lanolin).
How does vitamin D deficiency manifest itself in children?
A vitamin D deficiency in children can trigger rickets in the first few years of life (4). This disease causes weakening of the bones, curvature of the spine, or muscle weakness due to the lack of calcium in the bones. Tooth eruption can also take longer and the general level of development can be delayed.
A study conducted with Japanese school children showed that supplemental vitamin D through diet or vitamin D supplements had a positive effect on the children's health.
For example, 19 percent of the children studied without vitamin D support developed influenza, in contrast to those taking more vitamin D, with only 11 percent of the children suffering from influenza. In addition, vitamin D supplementation in children with asthma reduced the frequency of attacks by 80 percent.(5)
What are the consequences of vitamin K deficiency during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, the consumption of vitamins and minerals increases. An adequate supply of vitamin D therefore seems very important for both the mother and the unborn child.
International studies show a connection between low vitamin D levels during pregnancy and the occurrence of pregnancy complications, which can manifest themselves in the form of high blood pressure and premature birth. A deficiency therefore seems to have negative consequences for the pregnant woman.(6)
What home remedies are there for vitamin D deficiency?
Since nutrition makes up part of the vitamin D household, it can be used to regulate the vitamin D level to some extent. In everyday life, care can be taken not only to spend enough time in the sun, but also to eat foods that are particularly rich in vitamin D.
Foods of animal origin in particular contain vitamin D, vegetarians and vegans can use chanterelles, mushrooms and avocados and, if in doubt, have to top up with supplements.
|food||Vitamin D per 100g|
How can I check my vitamin D levels?
If you have the above symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, you should definitely do an additional test to rule out other diseases. A blood test can give you a reliable answer about your vitamin D levels. You can have this done by your family doctor or test it at home with the help of a self-test.
The blood test takes a few drops of blood from your finger and then sends them to a lab to check your vitamin D levels. The so-called calcidiol 25-OH-vitamin D is looked at. Either your doctor will then tell you the results or you will receive them online.
|Vitamin Din nmol/l||interpretation|
|under 30||Poor supply|
|75-125||Adequate supply without additional health benefits.|
|Over 125||Possible oversupply, which can have negative health consequences for the body|
Vitamin D deficiency: The best tips for a balanced vitamin D household
In order to prevent a vitamin D deficiency from developing in the first place or to actively treat a deficiency, you can observe a few important points in relation to your everyday life.
In the following we will introduce you to the most important tips and tricks for a balanced vitamin D household and explain them in detail.
Increase vitamin D deficiency naturally
First, the natural ways to prevent vitamin D deficiency should be shown. There are two ways in which the body can be supplied with vitamin D: on the one hand through a vitamin D-rich diet, on the other hand through the body's own vitamin D formation in the skin when exposed to sunlight.
The body's own vitamin D production from solar radiation makes up the majority of the body's vitamin D supply. About 80-90 percent of the required vitamin can be absorbed if you stay outdoors regularly and let yourself be sufficiently exposed to the sun.
Depending on which part of the world you live in, the time of year, the cloudiness, but also your clothing, the levels of vitamin D production in the skin vary. In order to get enough vitamin D by spending time outdoors, the German Nutrition Society recommends uncovering your face, hands and arms and exposing them to the sun several times a week from spring to autumn and without sunscreen. The recommended time is 15-20 minutes.
Light skin types in particular should, however, correctly assess the intensity of the sun and avoid sunburn.
However, sunscreen can reduce the absorption of vitamin D. In winter, the intensity of the sun is lower, so not as much vitamin D can be formed in a short time. The body then uses vitamin D stored in fat and muscle tissue. To support the body, longer walks are recommended at lunchtime when the sun is high in the sky.
In addition to the body's own vitamin D production, it can also be ingested in small doses - around 10-20% - through food. Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, so vitamin D is mainly found in high-fat foods of animal origin.
Oily sea fish such as herring, salmon or mackerel in particular, but also egg yolks, mushrooms, avocados and cheese contain a quantity of vitamin D that should not be underestimated. If you make sure that you eat these vitamin D foods several times a week, you can develop a deficiency prevent vitamin D.
The German Society for Nutrition recommends that around 70 grams of fatty fish should be eaten per week, vegans can use avocados, mushrooms and chanterelles as alternative sources of vitamins. However, the vitamin D content of the vegetables is relatively low at a maximum of four micrograms per 100 grams, so vegans and vegetarians are recommended to take vitamin D3 supplements.
Improve vitamin D deficiency with supplements
If the vitamin D intake from sun exposure and food is not sufficient, supplements can be used. They are particularly suitable for people who belong to risk groups. But supplements for different people are also suitable for prevention.
Prevention for vitamin D deficiency
Taking vitamin D supplements can be useful for a number of reasons. First of all, the choice of foods that are high in vitamin D is limited. In addition, not every body produces the same amount of vitamin D from sunlight.
In principle, people are recommended to take vitamin D supplements if they belong to a risk group or if an improvement in vitamin D levels cannot be achieved through the body's own production or food intake.
The main risk groups include:
- People who are over 60 years old, as the body's own production of vitamin D decreases with age.
- People who cover their skin most of the time. So people who cover their bodies for religious or health reasons.
- People with a dark skin color because the high melanin content in the skin blocks UVB more strongly.
Therapy for vitamin D deficiency
If you have a vitamin deficiency, it can be remedied by taking vitamin D supplements. There are different types of preparations such as tablets, capsules or drops. These preparations may contain vitamins D2 or D3. With vitamin D3, a distinction is made between non-vegan and vegan D3, which mainly consists of plant products.
Vitamin D supplements can be used especially in the case of an existing deficiency. The capsules can also be used by vegans if they contain plant-based ingredients (Image source: Michele Blackwell/ unsplash)
The basic recommendation of the German Nutrition Society assumes that adults should consume around 20 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Depending on how severe your vitamin D deficiency is, you should take more or less of the vitamin. This should be discussed with a doctor.
When taking the supplements, care should be taken to ensure that the preparation is taken with a high-fat meal. Since vitamin D 3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, it should always be taken in conjunction with a high-fat food.
If there is a vitamin D deficiency, it can have very unpleasant consequences. Healthy bone structure and muscle strength in particular are influenced by vitamin D. Deficiency symptoms in young children or the elderly can lead to serious illnesses such as rickets.
However, a vitamin D deficiency can be easily prevented as long as you do not belong to a risk group. For this it is necessary that you eat a vitamin D-rich food in the form of fish or plants and, depending on your skin type and season, spend several minutes in the sun. It is also possible to take vitamin D supplements to compensate for the deficiency.
- A study with 1739 participants was able to show that people with low vitamin D levels had a 4.4- times more likely to have a heart attack than those with higher levels. It has also been proven that the blood pressure could be significantly reduced by the higher vitamin D level.
- In a study of more than 10,000 children, it was found that the administration of vitamin D in the first years of life resulted in these children having a 78% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
- In a study with 636 patients, it was shown that a specific vitamin D blood level can prevent the onset of can prevent breast cancer.
- An overview of 167 studies shows an association of low vitamin D levels and the development of rickets and an increased risk of developing osteoporosis in adulthood.
- The 2010 Japanese study showed that children who take extra vitamin D supplements during the winter are less likely to get the flu than children who do not take the supplements.
- The study with pregnant women found that there may be a connection between low vitamin D levels and the occurrence of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and premature birth.