Vitamin deficiency: symptoms, causes and treatment

Vitamins are vital. However, an unbalanced diet can lead to deficiency. All information at a glance.

Vitamins are vital. Among other things, they are responsible for the normal functioning of the immune system and organs, participate in metabolic processes and are necessary for the human organism to develop from infancy through child to adulthood. More than a dozen vitamins are known, all with special tasks and properties. In addition to vitamin D, which we can create through contact with sunlight, we must take in the substances through food. If this does not happen, numerous deficiency symptoms may appear. In the same way, an overdose of vitamins can damage the human body.

What are vitamins?

The Society for Applied Vitamin Research (GVF) defines vitamins as “organic compounds that contribute to the maintenance of physiological functions.” In the search for causes of deficiency symptoms, most vitamins were discovered between 1920 and 1940. The body cannot produce vitamins on its own to meet its needs. They mostly come from living things, bacteria, plants and animals. Humans absorb vitamins from food. The body can make enough vitamin D on its own: direct contact with sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin.

Vitamins: What is the daily requirement?

The data is provided by the Consumer Advisory Center, which uses reference values ​​valid for Germany, Austria and Switzerland – the so-called DA-CH reference values. Unless otherwise stated, information is for adults.

  • Vitamin A: 0.8 mg for women, 1 mg for men
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 1 mg for women, 1.2 mg for men
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1.1 mg for women, 1.4 mg for men
  • Niacin/nicotinic acid amide (formerly: Vitamin B3): 12 mg for women, 15 mg for men
  • pantothenic acid (also Vitamin B5): 6 mg (estimated value)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 1.2 mg for women, 1.5 mg for men
  • Biotin (also Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H): 30 to 60 µg (estimated value)
  • folate (also Vitamin B9): 300 µg
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): 4 µg (estimated value)
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): 95 mg for women, 110 mg for men / for smokers 135 mg for women, 155 mg for men
  • Vitamin D: estimated value in the absence of own production it is 20 µg / infants up to 18 months receive 10 to 12.5 µg per day through a drug for supplementation
  • Vitamin E: 12 mg for women, 14 mg for men (estimates)
  • Vitamin K: 60 µg for women, 70 µg for men (estimates)

How common is vitamin deficiency in Germany?

“Germany is not a vitamin-deficient country,” the German Nutrition Society (DGE) said in a statement. “The vast majority of people in Germany are sufficiently supplied with vitamins,” says the DGE, referring to representative studies. For example, vitamin B3 deficiency is rather rare in industrialized countries such as Germany, according to the DGE. And vitamin C deficiency is also rare, as enough is received through the normal diet.

A special case is a dose of vitamin D that is not taken in with food. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) warns of the risk of insufficient supply. Due to the geographical location, the own production of vitamin D in Germany is only possible from March to October, the RKI points out. The body is able to create reserves, which it then uses in the winter months. However, UV-B radiation can also be reduced by up to 90 percent in summer, for example in adverse weather such as heavy cloud cover. However, vitamin D deficiency is only talked about when there is not enough vitamin D in the body for a long time.

Against Deficiency Symptoms: How Do I Get Enough Vitamins?

The DGE recommends a mixed diet that includes five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. This means that most people are adequately supplied with vitamins. The Techniker health insurance company also advises handling food and processing it carefully so that all the vitamins are preserved as much as possible. The following should be noted here:

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  • Never store fruit, vegetables and herbs for too long and only in a cool and dark place.
  • The products are washed thoroughly, but not for too long. Many Vitamins are soluble in water.
  • Most Vitamins they are preserved when the food is freshly prepared.
  • It is best to enjoy squeezed fish juices or grated fresh food immediately.
  • A particularly large number remains when steaming or steaming and short cooking times Vitamins in food.
  • Water soluble fruits and vegetables Vitamins should be eaten raw as often as possible – if the product allows it.

To get enough vitamin D, the RKI recommends exposing your face, hands and arms to the sun two to three times a week from March to October and without sun protection.

Many experts do not recommend taking vitamin preparations and preparations containing vitamins, as this can lead to a dangerous overdose of vitamins.

What are the symptoms of vitamin deficiency?

Depending on which substance the body lacks, vitamin deficiency has different effects. However, most symptoms only appear in an advanced state of deficiency, explains DVF.

Video: dpa

Here is a selection of the consequences of vitamin deficiency:

Vitamin A deficiency: The eyes are especially affected here. Deficiency can lead to night blindness and, in the worst case, blindness.

Vitamin B1 deficiency: A lack of vitamin B1 is manifested by disturbances in the metabolism of carbohydrates and in the nervous system. This can lead to tingling of the skin or impaired walking.

Vitamin-B2-Deficiency: This can lead to growth disorders, skin diseases and inflammation of the mucous membranes, especially in the mouth area.

Vitamin-B6-Deficiency: Here appear scaly skin rashes on the face, inflammation of the lips and mouth, anemia, diarrhea and vomiting.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: B12 deficiency is often the result of a vegan or vegetarian diet. Depending on the severity of the deficiency, fatigue and weakness, pale skin, dementia and forgetfulness, headaches, dizziness, sallow skin or anemia are usually seen.

Vitamin C deficiency: A lack of this vitamin, which is also called ascorbic acid, leads to fatigue and weakness, imbalance, weight loss, muscle and joint pain. A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as “sailor’s disease” or scurvy.

Vitamin D deficiency: This deficiency manifests itself in osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep problems, depression, bone and back pain, among others.

Vitamin E deficiency: This deficiency primarily affects reflexes and the ability to coordinate. “Normal” activities, such as walking or running, may cause difficulty.

Vitamin K deficiency: Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting. If there is a deficiency, various symptoms may appear such as bleeding from the nose, stomach or intestines.

Treatment: What to do with vitamin deficiency?

For most vitamins – e.g. C, D or B12 – it is enough to reduce the deficit with nutrition. Even the symptoms of scurvy, vitamin C deficiency, can usually be corrected this way. For example, the medical encyclopedia advises here MSD manual to “high-dose vitamin C supplements given daily, followed by a nutritious diet that provides one to two times the daily requirement of vitamin C. The diet should include increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.” In case of severe consequences of B12 deficiency, such as nerve damage or anemia, high doses of B12 can also be injected directly into the muscle.

Possible deficiencies can also be determined medically by doctors, for example using a vitamin D test.

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