Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in adults
The term vitamin D is used to summarize various fat-soluble vitamins that regulate the calcium balance and are involved in the mineralization of the bone. On the one hand, the body absorbs vitamin D from food, on the other hand it can produce it even under the influence of sunlight.
90 percent of vitamin D is produced by the body itself with the help of the sun. Dietary vitamin D intake is only about ten percent. Sun rays and the skin are important in vitamin D production (endogenous synthesis). The body hardly produces vitamin D in winter, because it needs UVB to make provitamin D3. Then this is converted by the liver cells in the storage form calcifediol, which regulates the bone and calcium metabolism.
What is the role of vitamin D in the body?
What is vitamin D good for? The main vitamin D function in the body is in the area of the bones. But the vitamin has many other tasks, so you should pay special attention to the vitamin D intake.
Healthy levels of vitamin D ensure that bone stem cells form, and vitamin D is important for the metabolism of the mineral phosphate, which is bound in the human body in bones and teeth.
In addition, vitamin D regulates the calcium balance. This mineral is instrumental in building and maintaining bones and teeth.
Other functions of vitamin D, however, which are not sufficiently scientifically proven:
- Support immune system
- Anti-carcinogenic effect (tumor preventive)
- Protection against Parkinson’s and dementia
- Reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis
- Protection against rickets
- Symptom relief in asthma
- Protection against depression
How much vitamin D do you need now? According to estimates of experts, the vitamin D requirement of an adult is 20 μg daily of vitamin D. Infants need half of them. Dietary intake is usually not enough to reach that level unless the body produces vitamin D, and the DGE recommends taking a supplement containing vitamin D.
Previously, children had to take cod liver oil that was rich of natural vitamin D, nowadays there are tasteless pills and tablets with vitamin D. Babies need the vitamin (and possibly even as a baby in the form of a substitution) to prevent rickets, the lack of mineralization of the bones.
Vegans should pay particular attention to their vitamin D value, or the appropriate nutritional choices and enough time in the sun. Vitamin D is only contained in a few vegan foods, for example in avocado or mushrooms.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. The human body can produce this vitamin from cholesterol – provided that it gets enough sun, otherwise a vitamin D deficiency can arise. Because humans need UV light for the body’s own production of vitamin D3. Deficiency causes can also be diseases or intake disorders.
Vitamin D deficiency causes
Vitamin D deficiency is often caused by too much time indoors. Because to be able to produce vitamin D, the body needs sunlight. If the skin is not “supplied” with sufficient UV rays, vitamin D must be taken in through the diet or via supplemental preparations.
Even with a balanced diet, it is difficult to cover the daily amount recommended by experts of 20 micrograms for adults – this is the recommendation value if no significant amount of vitamin D is generated by the sun – as it there are hardly any foods that contain the sun’s vitamin in sufficient quantities.
Among other things, it comes to a vitamin D3 deficiency:
- Too little sun exposure: especially old people and home residents or by clothing
- Reduced intake of vitamin D from the intestine (celiac disease)
- In case of increased need (pregnancy and lactation, children)
- When taking certain medications (antiepileptic drugs)
- With increased excretion via the kidneys
- In nephrotic syndrome
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms
There are many symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, because the body needs vitamin D for various processes. One of its main responsibilities is bone health, but vitamin D also supports the immune system and affects hair health. Vitamin D deficiency can affect both the concentration and the cardiovascular system or the muscles.
Among other things, effects of vitamin D deficiency are:
- Hair loss
- Concentration problems
- Stunted growth
- Sleep disorders
- Reduced muscle tension and strength
- Epileptic seizures
Vitamin D deficiency depression and other serious illnesses
However, the vitamin D deficiency symptoms are not limited to the above. There are some disorders that are associated with a lack of vitamin D. Depression, for example, multiple sclerosis, asthma or cancer. Many recent studies suggest that insufficient vitamin D may be responsible for both increased risk of certain cancers as well as cardiovascular, metabolic and autoimmune diseases.
Numerous studies have found evidence that vitamin D can stop multiple sclerosis. The background is that it prevents aggressive immune cells from invading the central nervous system and damaging the neurons there. Also, the frequency of asthma attacks should be reduced by enough vitamin D in the blood.
Those who enjoy the sun outside in good weather may also be protected from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Scientists were able to show that, at least in older people, the risk of memory loss is significantly higher if there is a deficiency. Vitamin D could affect forgetfulness and memory disorders.
Vitamin D deficiency in children
In children, the body is in constant change and growth. All the more important is an adequate supply of nutrients and vitamins. Especially without sufficient vitamin D, the bones are not able to incorporate minerals from the blood into the bone substance. There is an increased softness and bending tendency of the bones.
Particularly immature premature babies, as well as children who have been breastfed for more than six months and do not receive calcium-containing complementary foods and are given strict vegetarian nutrition, may be deficient in vitamin D deficiency. The result may be severe changes in the skeletal system (rickets).
Vitamin D deficiency test and diagnostics
If there is a suspicion of a vitamin D deficiency, the serum level is checked, or the marker 25-hydroxyvitamin, the storage form of vitamin D. It reflects the vitamin D intake (own production and food).
Meanwhile, there are also test kits for the home. In such a vitamin D test, one usually pokes in the finger and sends the blood sample to the lab indicated on the package or slip. A few days later you will get the result.
Vitamin D deficiency treatment
What to do if vitamin D deficiency? You can balance it in different ways. If it is detected early, it can help to go outside consciously and regularly (three to five times a week) and expose 18 to 20 percent of the body area to the sun. This corresponds to bared hands, forearms and the face. However, since you should be exposed to the sun, you should not stay outside too long – depending on the skin type, between five and 15 minutes for enough vitamin D.
According to current knowledge, lamps or solarium are no substitute for sunlight. For vitamin D deficiency treatment, they are not suitable for various reasons.
The body needs UVB radiation for the synthesis of sun vitamin and to avoid vitamin D deficiency. Solarium light mainly consists of UVA radiation.
Vitamin D food
In sun-poor months, you should therefore pay more attention to vitamin D-containing foods see article Vitamin D to take food.
Permanent or severe vitamin D deficiency can be compensated by preparations. But talk to a doctor before you take tablets and pills to control the vitamin D deficiency.