Vitamin D deficiency, the effects and what you can do about it

Vitamin D deficiency, the effects and what you can do about it

In winter, it is a topic that accompanies some journal articles and also doctor’s discussions: The vitamin D deficiency. In this darker season, we lack the UV-B radiation of the sun, which creates vitamin D3 in our skin via the so-called synthesis process.

In addition, it is also cold, which is why we usually only get sun behind the window glass on the skin or protect ourselves from the cold with thick clothing. Both completely block the radiation. Even a visit to the solarium does not help, as they mainly work with UV-A radiation.

Depending on the skin type, however, this is not always easy or unpleasantly hot even in the summer months. This can lead to a vitamin D3 deficiency. What you can do about this problem or what it means for you at all, we will look at in the next paragraphs.

Let’s start with a question that will interest you.

Is vitamin D deficiency a common problem?

As early as 2016, a meta-study that examined over 50,000 Europeans provided an answer to this question. According to this study, 13% of the population suffers from a deficiency. Especially in the colder months between October and March, it was even 17.7%.

Especially for Germany , the Robert Koch Institute collected data on the health of adults between 2008 and 2011: The DEGS1 study. This paints an even worse picture, especially for Germany between November and April. At least a quarter of the German population suffers from a severe vitamin D deficiency. Especially in February and March , it is even more than half of the German citizens.

So you could hardly answer the question more clearly: Yes, especially in winter this is a very common problem.

Overall, however, it does not make sense to simply take vitamin D. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends in case of suspicion to have the vitamin D level determined by the laboratory via the family doctor.

For risk groups , however, the recommendation is clear and clear: You should take vitamin D3 supplements in addition to a healthy diet.

Wait, risk groups?

Are you part of a risk group for vitamin D deficiency?

The most common risk group consists of people over the age of 65, because their skin can absorb less vitamin D from the sun. In addition, people over this age are often more immobile and, in the worst case, bedridden. So you can only spend insufficient time outdoors.

People who belong to the risk group for skin cancer , or who suffer from other skin diseases , also do not have the option to be outside with exposed skin for a particularly long time. They simply can’t do that for health reasons.

For these groups, therefore, a daily vitamin D supplementation is also recommended by science – completely independent of the other factors.

But it also affects the youngest: infants. Their skin is still very sensitive and it is difficult for them to regulate heat. Therefore, they should not yet be directly exposed to solar radiation.

For this reason, a vitamin D deficiency is also the rule in infants. But that’s not all, because children and young people are also affected. It affects the following young people:

  • Breastfed infants without the recommended additional vitamin D addition
  • Dark-skinned children and adolescents in the northern regions of Europe
  • Children and adolescents who (can) hardly move in the sun
  • Overweight children

However, it is also chronic diseases that can make it difficult for us to absorb vitamin D. Liver or kidney disease are the usual causes here.

If you are part of a risk group or still suspect that you suffer from vitamin D deficiency, you are probably wondering:

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

The vitamin D deficiency symptoms is such a thing, because rarely you can actually recognize the deficiency by the symptoms. Why is that?

There are countless studies that assign various symptoms to the deficiency. Unfortunately, this is where the problem lies, because according to the American Institute of Medicine, most studies have insufficient evidence, so that individual symptoms cannot be precisely attributed to a vitamin D deficiency. The exception is bone diseases, which we will therefore discuss in more detail. In the studies, they are the only ones clearly attributable to a deficiency.

It is mainly pain that suffers those affected: diffuse bone and muscle pain. It can also lead to muscle weakness or even increased bone fractures.

Bone problems also include bone bending. Especially the knees and legs are particularly affected here. The laterally displaced and twisted spine – scoliosis for short – is also a typical symptom. In children, this leads to classical rickets or other manifestations such as a bell thorax or a rachitic rosary.

In the case of the muscle pain already mentioned, one could list as many individual diseases as tetany or muscular hypotension. Overall, however, there are changes in the nervous system that cause either convulsions, tingling or extremely poorly developed body tension in infants and children. Motor development is also severely impaired.

Nerves and muscles: Epileptic seizures can also be a symptom. Cardiac arrhythmias, increased susceptibility to infections or other symptoms may occur.

Here, however, we are already on rather thin ice again. Whether taking vitamin D actually has a preventive effect on cardiovascular diseases is more than just controversial. The DGE does not currently assume this.

The higher susceptibility to infections is still being researched. In May 2021, a meta-study concluded that vitamin D deficiency leads to an increased risk of respiratory disease.

More severe, chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus or lupus could be related to a vitamin D deficiency. Here, however, there is still a lack of further studies. This is not the case with type 2 diabetes mellitus: Vitamin D has no influence here.

In the case of asthma, one is even more uncertain, because one has not yet determined exactly whether vitamin D deficiency would actually be disadvantageous for those affected.

A connection with cancer has also been refuted in the meantime.

Symptoms in the elderly

In people over the age of 65, there are similar symptoms that are due to a vitamin D deficiency:

  • Classic bone diseases: osteoporosis and perhaps also osteopenia
  • The risk of falling is increased: A muscle deficit via problems with the nerves as well as weak bones lead to an increased risk of falls. However, there are also studies that contradict this.
  • Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s disease is more common in older people with vitamin D deficiency
  • Sleep disorders: Sleep apnea (short respiratory arrest during sleep), annoying, long periods of falling asleep and fatigue throughout the day are common phenomena

Vitamin D symptoms? Good question!

So as you can see, it is not so easy to name the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency . They are difficult to determine and, apart from particularly conspicuous bone diseases, can hardly be pinned down exactly to the deficiency.

The fact is that we get some problems with too little vitamin D. It means avoiding a deficiency as much as possible.

So if you rarely go out in the sun – also for health reasons – it is especially important to look at the vitamin D level. About the diet, it is mainly fatty fish that can help here.

If in doubt, a blood test with your doctor will show you whether you suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. The statistics show that it is a more common phenomenon in Germany than expected.

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