In many cases, the modern human lifestyle consists only of sitting for hours in front of the computer, in an office isolated from the outside world and not being sure when you last felt the warm sunshine. The result that afflicts much of humanity today is vitamin D deficiency.
A vitamin D deficiency is not something to be underestimated, as it leads to serious damage to the largest organ that humans have, namely the skin. In this article we would like to explain to you what the causes can be and with which means and therapies you can counteract vitamin D deficiency.
the essentials in brief
- Vitamin D is a special vitamin that the body can produce itself with the help of sunlight. It can also be ingested through food. Vitamin D deficiency can occur when there is infrequent exposure to the sun or when local weather conditions mean there is rarely sunny weather.
- The skin is very dependent on vitamin D as it is essential for the health and protection of skin cells. It acts as a natural remedy for skin diseases such as neurodermatitis, psoriasis and can have a positive effect on skin cancer.
- There are various healing methods to treat vitamin D deficiency. A possible deficiency can first be detected with a vitamin D test in order to be subsequently treated with preparations and therapies
Definition: What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a vitamin that is responsible for calcium balance and bone mineralization. The body is able to produce this vitamin itself through exposure to UV-B radiation. This contact occurs purely through the help of sunlight irradiation of the skin, hence the name sun vitamin.(1)
Diet is also an important source of vitamin D. However, the majority of vitamin D absorption in the body takes place with the help of sunlight, an estimated 80 to 90 percent, as it is rather rare in the diet.
Background: What you should know about vitamin D and its effects on the skin
In this section we take a closer look at the background of vitamin D. Here we explain, for example, the influence of vitamin D on your body, the causes of a vitamin D deficiency and the health-promoting properties of vitamin D.
How does vitamin D work in your body?
Basically everyone already has vitamin D in their body, as an inactive precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol. The action of UV radiation on the skin triggers an activation and a conversion step takes place. From this, the body develops the hormone “calcitriol”, which supplies the bones with calcium and modulates the immune system. (1)
In addition, vitamin D plays an important role in the regulation of mental activity and muscle function.
Vitamin D ensures a healthy and functioning thought and muscle process.
For this reason, vitamin D is also particularly important for pregnant women and infants, since an infant goes through a great deal of further development in the womb and in its first year of life.
Most of us are also familiar with a change in mood when the first sunny days appear in spring, chasing away the cold, gloomy winter. The first rays of sunshine often trigger a pleasant feeling in us. This is because vitamin D regulates the hormone serotonin in the brain, which is also known as the "happiness hormone" and triggers a positive feeling of well-being in the body.
vitamin D and skin
The skin is the central mediator in the absorption of vitamin D. When the sun's rays hit the skin, it triggers a chemical process that distributes the vitamin through the blood in the body.
At the same time, the health and protection of the skin depends on vitamin D and it often acts as a remedy for various skin diseases. Vitamin D is responsible for essential processes in our skin.(8)
|Functions of vitamin D|
|cell division||Human skin is able to regenerate forty thousand skin cells per minute. This process can now succeed thanks to the vitamin D in the body. Special cells on the upper skin layer, the so-called keratinocytes, are responsible for constantly renewing the skin. However, this supply of cells is not limitless. The skin must therefore be supplied with new keratinocytes, otherwise the skin threatens to dry out, wrinkles form and the body becomes a fodder for foreign bodies and germs. Vitamin D plays the role of the messenger substance that supplies the skin with new cells. Accordingly, the more vitamin D the body absorbs, the healthier the skin.|
|defensive barrier||The skin is crystal clear, the largest organ that the body has and also the most important organ in terms of defense. It is the outer protective wall that protects our body from germs and pathogens. Vitamin D is an important element that strengthens this protection. The vitamin fulfills a wide variety of tasks. On the one hand, it is responsible for fighting off bacteria with the body's own antibodies. On the other hand, it serves to regulate and maintain the skin barrier. In addition, vitamin D protects our wounds from infection, inflammation and is dedicated to healing the skin.|
|Protection against radiation damage||While spending time under the bright sun can stimulate our vitamin D balance, there is still a risk that too much sun exposure will do more harm than good. This can lead to premature death of skin cells and a resulting aging process, including genetic defects and skin cancer. The wonderful thing about vitamin D, however, is that it is not only produced by UV radiation, but also protects us from its negative effects.|
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
The required level of vitamin D varies from person to person. Some bodies make the vitamin faster, while other bodies take longer or simply need more vitamin D.
For example, vitamin D production in older people slows down significantly, so that they need longer to produce the necessary amount. In pregnant women, the need for the vitamin increases because the child in the womb must also be cared for.
Regardless of age and gender, skin color is also a factor in vitamin D production. Light-skinned people can produce the vitamin more quickly than dark-skinned people.
Vitamin D deficiency and its causes
While most of the vitamin D that the body needs is absorbed through the UV rays of sunlight, people who are isolated from the outside world only get vitamin D through their food.
In addition to these factors, other reasons are also to blame for insufficient vitamin D intake. (5,7,10)
The amount of sun exposure that you can take in daily depends on the latitude and the region in which you live. As a rule, you can narrow down an area on the map of Europe that is lucky enough to be supplied with enough sun in the summer months.
This area is located between the northern part of Barcelona (42nd latitude) and south of Berlin (52nd latitude). Anything north of Berlin suffers from a lack of sunshine even in summer.
Unfortunately, there are only a few foods that contain the required vitamin. As a result, even with a healthy and varied diet, a person cannot achieve their minimum level of vitamin D. These consequences result in a vitamin D deficiency.
While vitamin D isn't found in many foods, it's still important to get the benefits of the foods that contain it. Therefore, consuming foods such as eggs, cheese, avocados, various types of mushrooms, cod liver oil, eel, herring, salmon, oysters or tuna can have a strong positive effect on your vitamin D levels.
occupation and clothing
If you, like many people, carry out your work in front of a screen in closed rooms, you suffer from the same problem as everyone else, namely a vitamin D deficiency.
It is usually the case in summer that you can enjoy the last moments of the setting sun before the evening, but of course the weak UV radiation cannot have the same effect as hours before.
In addition, in some professions you like to walk around in long clothes, which also protect your skin from the sun. Unfortunately, the face and arms are often not sufficient to produce enough vitamin D.
Older people are particularly at risk of vitamin D deficiency for a variety of reasons. The main reason is that the older you get, the less vitamin D you produce and the more UV radiation you have to be exposed to.
It is often the case that with increasing age the freedom of movement is restricted depending on the individual and therefore older people spend less time outdoors.
As far as food intake is concerned, it is also usually the case that seniors feel less appetite and therefore vitamin D absorption through food is not promoted. In addition, the ability to absorb nutrients decreases with age.
Skin tone and pigmentation are key criteria in determining the causes of vitamin D deficiency. In areas with little sun exposure, human skin has evolved to such an extent that lighter skin tones synthesize vitamin D more quickly.
In contrast, people with dark skin produce the vitamin much more slowly because they originally come from sunnier areas.
However, the probability is now very high that people with dark pigmentation who live in northern latitudes will suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Because their skin is not adapted to the local climate.
sunscreens and sunblocks
Sunscreen is basically an important tool that you shouldn't forget when staying in sunny weather for a long time. However, it must also be used in the right cases.
Many people don't go out in the sun these days without smearing a layer of sunscreen on their skin. However, they neglect the fact that the cream also prevents the skin from absorbing enough sun rays.
Of course, the dangers that can emanate from UV radiation should not be downplayed. However, there is no reason to avoid them altogether, as they are essential for vitamin D production.
Vitamin D and skin diseases
The regenerative properties of vitamin D are the reason why it is also used to treat many skin diseases. These skin diseases include in particular neurodermatitis and psoriasis.
Vitamin D is a positive treatment option for neurodermatitis and psoriasis, which are caused by malfunctions in the immune system.
Both of these skin diseases are based on a defect in the skin barrier and disruption of the keratinocytes, as a result of which pro-inflammatory messenger substances are released. Sufficient vitamin D in the body can regulate the release of these messenger substances and thereby alleviate the symptoms. (9)
Vitamin D and skin cancer
The production of vitamin D and the development of skin cancer have one thing in common. Both are caused by UV radiation.
The fear of skin cancer has enticed many people to stay out of the sun and not to leave the house without sunscreen. Inevitably, the number of people suffering from vitamin D deficiency has increased. (3)
Again, there are studies showing that vitamin D reduces the risk of skin cancer. On the one hand, it is known that vitamin D prevents damage to cells and DNA and can thus reduce sensitivity to UV radiation.
Current research shows that sun avoidance and the constant use of sunscreen can pose health risks.(4)
So some of today's researchers are convinced that getting enough sun can prevent the dangers of skin cancer, while others claim the opposite. (6)
What to do against vitamin D deficiency: the best solutions
In this chapter you will learn what options there are to treat vitamin D deficiency and which ones may be right for you. However, we advise you to always consult your doctor before making a decision.
Vitamin D test
A test can be carried out to confirm the suspicion of vitamin D deficiency. The serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH vitamin D), the storage form of the vitamin, is measured by taking a blood sample. This gives you an accurate picture of the vitamin D balance in the body. (1,2)
A test can be used to determine the vitamin D concentration in the blood. You can determine whether you have a vitamin D deficiency or whether you are still in the green. (Image source: Hush Naidoo / unsplash)
For example, a concentration of 41 to 60 nanograms per milliliter of 25-OH vitamin D would mean that you have a good vitamin D supply. 31 to 40 nanograms per milliliter would indicate sufficient vitamin D intake. A value of 11 to 30 nanograms per milliliter would ultimately indicate a long-term vitamin D deficiency.
Unfortunately, for some people there is a high probability of suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. These people are therefore all the more dependent on a vitamin D test. It is particularly advisable to get tested if you have these signs:
- Old age - 60 years or older
- Dark skin type
- little to infrequent exposure to the sun
- Intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease
- Complaints such as chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle and bone pain or constant infections
vitamin D and sunlight
The human body is able to produce the vitamin itself through exposure to the sun. Therefore, regular exposure to the sun is sufficient for the skin to produce enough vitamin D.
It is therefore important to take advantage of the numerous hours of sunshine, especially in summer. Be it through walks, bike tours or sunbathing.
But you should remember two important things:
- You should n't take a shower after sunbathing
- If you have redness on your skin, apply sunscreen or get out of the sun
Now it is the case that vitamin D is formed in the skin. It takes an average of 48 hours for this vitamin D to get through the skin into your blood. However, a shower after staying in the sun would only prevent this procedure, since it would only be washed off by the water.
Sunbathing helps the skin produce vitamin D naturally. Sunscreen should not be applied too early because it inhibits vitamin D production. (Image source: Maciej Serafinowicz / unsplash)
After prolonged exposure to sunlight, skin naturally begins to redden and sunburn can occur.
This redness is the first sign that the skin is only producing very little vitamin D and it is time to go into the shade again. Another option would be to apply sunscreen to prevent further damage to the skin.
Vitamin D in foods
Unfortunately, vitamin D is difficult to find in food. That's why only 10 to 20 percent of our total vitamin D intake comes from diet.
The vitamin is mainly found in animal foods. Especially in fish such as herring, mackerel and various types of salmon.
It can also be found in cod liver oil (fish oil), egg yolk, milk and fortified foods such as margarine or butter. In plant foods, it is found in various edible mushrooms and avocados.
vitamin D supplements
Due to the fact that in some regions the lack of contact with the sun during the winter months is unavoidable and the modern lifestyle tends more and more to people spending most of their time in their own four walls, vitamin D deficiency is becoming a more and more widespread problem .
In addition, switching to a vitamin D-rich diet is not the best solution. In order to meet the body's required amount of vitamin D, it usually makes sense to use vitamin D supplements. We have provided you with some useful products for this.
Vitamin D supplements help you to treat a vitamin D deficiency and its health restrictions. (Image source: Michele Balckwell / unsplash)
Note that supplements should always be taken in consultation with your doctor.
The following product types are available:
- The best quality vitamin D3 tablets
- The best vitamin D3 drops made from the purest ingredients
- The vitamin D3 + K2 depot for a healthy mind and body
Vitamin D Therapy
In extreme cases, where severe symptoms of vitamin D deficiency have already developed, it is advisable to start vitamin D therapy.
The course of a therapy then proceeds as follows in 2 steps:
- High-dose initial therapy
- maintenance therapy
During the high-dose initial therapy, the first goal is to get your vitamin D balance back on its feet and replenish your stores. You will start with a high dosage in the form of injections and preparations. The amount of the dosage is then lowered more and more in the course of the therapy.
Once you've gotten past this stage and your vitamin D levels have stabilized again, it's time to start maintenance therapy.
The aim of them is to keep your vitamin D intake at a constant level and to prevent future risks of vitamin D deficiency.
The only side effects that can occur with this therapy are a lack of vitamin K and magnesium. Therefore, you should always make sure that you take the necessary amount of it.
- Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506
- Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2020 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [web]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan
- Tang JY, Fu T, Lau C, Oh DH, Bikle DD, Asgari MM. Vitamin D in cutaneous carcinogenesis: part II. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Nov;67(5):817.e1-11; quiz 827-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2012.07.022. PMID: 23062904; PMCID: PMC3706259.
- Nemazannikova N, Antonas K, Dass CR. Role of vitamin D metabolism in cutaneous tumor formation and progression. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2013 Jan;65(1):2-10. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2012.01527.x. Epub 2012 Apr 25. PMID: 23215682.
- Boucher BJ. The problems of vitamin d insufficiency in older people. Aging Dis. 2012;3(4):313-329.
- Kennedy C, Bajdik CD, Willemze R, De Gruijl FR, Bouwes Bavinck JN; Leiden Skin Cancer Study. The influence of painful sunburns and lifetime sun exposure on the risk of actinic keratoses, seborrheic warts, melanocytic nevi, atypical nevi, and skin cancer. J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Jun;120(6):1087-93. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.2003.12246.x. PMID: 12787139.
- N Binkley, R Novotny, D Krueger, T Kawahara, YG Daida, G Lensmeyer, BW Hollis, MK Drezner. Low vitamin D status despite abundant sun exposure. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jun;92(6):2130-5. doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-2250. Epub 2007 Apr 10. PMID: 17426097.
- Umar M, Sastry KS, Al Ali F, Al-Khulaifi M, Wang E, Chouchane AI. Vitamin D and the Pathophysiology of Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2018;31(2):74-86. doi: 10.1159/000485132. Epub 2018 Jan 6. PMID: 29306952.
- Holick MF, Smith E, Pincus S. Skin as the site of vitamin D synthesis and target tissue for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Use of calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) for treatment of psoriasis. Arch Dermatol. 1987 Dec;123(12):1677-1683a. PMID: 2825606.
- Tsiaras WG, Weinstock MA. Factors influencing vitamin D status. Acta Derm Venereol. 2011 Mar;91(2):115-24. doi: 10.2340/00015555-0980. PMID: 21384086.