Sunshine Vitamin: Correcting and Detecting Vitamin D Deficiency

Author: Henrik Aulbach



Lesezeit: 4 min

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that influences numerous bodily functions. It plays a role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones, as well as in the normal functioning of the immune and nervous systems. Consequently, vitamin D deficiency can have far-reaching consequences. Therefore, it's important to detect and treat vitamin D deficiency early.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D belongs to the fat-soluble vitamins and is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. It is involved in maintaining healthy bones and teeth through its role in the calcium and phosphate metabolism. It also influences aspects like the nervous system and the immune system. As an essential vitamin, we rely on external sources for its intake.

There are basically two main forms of vitamin D: Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). The first form is produced when UV rays from the sun interact with plant-based organisms like mushrooms. Cholecalciferol is formed when UV-B rays hit the skin. 

In the body, vitamin D2 or D3 is metabolized into calcitriol in the liver and kidneys. This active form of vitamin D is involved in metabolic processes, such as regulating calcium and phosphate metabolism. 

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

The human body is capable of producing vitamin D on its own when exposed to UV-B radiation from the sun. Therefore, individuals with vitamin D deficiency are recommended to engage in daily sun exposure. Midday is the best time for the skin's synthesis of vitamin D. It's worth noting that vitamin D cannot be synthesized through windows as they filter out the necessary UV-B radiation.

Additionally, people can obtain vitamin D from their diet. The following sources are particularly noteworthy:

  • Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel are rich in vitamin D and can be consumed more when there's a deficiency.
  • Fish Liver Oil: Fish liver oil contains a significant amount of vitamin D, especially cod liver oil supplements are recommended. Please ensure sustainable sourcing if purchasing such supplements.
  • Egg Yolk: Egg yolks also contain a good amount of vitamin D, though the exact content may vary depending on the chicken breed, feed, and environment.
  • Mushrooms: Certain types of mushrooms contain relatively high levels of vitamin D, especially when exposed to UV-B radiation. Examples include dried shiitake mushrooms.
  • Fortified Foods: Certain countries, especially in Nordic regions, fortify foods such as dairy products, margarine, or cereals with vitamin D to prevent deficiency in the population. 

What are Possible Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Several factors can contribute to vitamin D deficiency. If you suspect this, it's important to consult a doctor. In principle, the following causes could lead to or exacerbate a vitamin D deficiency:

  • Inadequate Sunlight Exposure: Spending little time in sunlight leads to reduced self-production of vitamin D.
  • Geographical Location and Season: The farther away from the equator one lives, the lower the intensity of sunlight. In Iceland, for instance, vitamin D supplementation is a common practice.
  • Darker Skin Tone: Higher melanin content in the skin absorbs more UV-B rays, resulting in reduced vitamin D synthesis.
  • Age: Aging skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D.
  • Diet: Insufficient intake of vitamin D-rich foods can contribute to deficiency.
  • Fat Absorption: Impaired fat absorption in the intestines can result in reduced uptake of fat-soluble vitamin D.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

The symptoms are often non-specific and not explicitly indicative of a vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, seeking a doctor's evaluation is important. The following symptoms may occur:

  • Fatigue and Exhaustion
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Bone Pain
  • Osteoporosis with Prolonged Deficiency
  • Increased Infections
  • Mood Swings
  • Hair Loss
  • Delayed Wound Healing

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's advisable to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency

In order to address the Vitamin D deficiency with your doctor, a diagnosis is necessary. Diagnosis is easily and quickly done through a blood test. This involves measuring the 25-hydroxyvitamin D level, also known as 25(OH)D level. This measures a breakdown product of vitamin D. Results are provided in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Values between 20 and 50 may be considered insufficient. An official vitamin D level above 30 is considered sufficient.

Prevention and Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency

To prevent Vitamin D deficiency, three factors are recommended: increased sunlight exposure, vitamin D-rich diet, and vitamin D supplements. However, supplements should only be taken when deficiency is highly likely, as excessive vitamin D can be harmful. Increased sunlight exposure is considered the best preventive measure.

Treatment for Vitamin D deficiency usually involves supplementation. Your doctor will discuss the correct dosage and frequency of intake, as these depend on the severity of the deficiency. Over time, lifestyle changes and dietary optimizations can help, with supplementation remaining the preferred treatment method. The goal is ultimately to replenish Vitamin D stores.

Vitamin D Deficiency: Frequently Asked Questions

What happens with Vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D is involved in numerous metabolic processes in the body. These processes don't function properly with a deficiency, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, or osteoporosis. If you notice symptoms of such deficiency, please consult a doctor promptly.

How does a Vitamin D Deficiency Manifest?

A Vitamin D deficiency can manifest through the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue and Exhaustion
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Bone Pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Increased Infections
  • Mood Swings
  • Hair Loss
  • Delayed Wound Healing

What is a Normal Vitamin D Level?

In blood tests, the 25-hydroxyvitamin D level is usually measured. This assesses breakdown products of vitamin D to infer the active vitamin D value. An officially recognized deficiency is present if the level is less than 30 ng/mL. Values below 50 ng/mL can be considered insufficient.

What Does Vitamin D Have?

Vitamin D is particularly found in the following foods:

  • Fish
  • Fish Liver Oil
  • Egg Yolks
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified Foods

Alternatively, increased sunlight exposure is highly recommended for more Vitamin D in circulation.

How Important is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is very important; a deficiency can have far-reaching consequences. Specifically, Osteoporosis and Osteomalacia are noteworthy. In addition, a lack of Vitamin D can significantly impact the quality of life, causing increased fatigue, hair loss, bone pain, and muscle weakness. Delayed wound healing can also lead to significant issues.

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