Arthritis and Vitamin D Deficiency – The Connection
Millions of people suffer from the painful and debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The cause of RA is not yet fully understood, however recent studies have shown that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers routinely have lower levels of vitamin D in their bodies than normal people and their level of vitamin D is strongly correlated with arthritic activity.
The Two Most Common Types of Arthritis
There are actually over 100 different types of arthritis that have been identified, but these are the two most commonly found types:
This type of arthritis is most commonly associated with aging and it’s characterized by chronic inflammation of the joints.
It is thought to be a bi-product of the overuse of joints at some period in a person’s life; it commonly occurs in athletes and workers who have jobs that require a lot of repetitive movement of the load bearing joints (such as the spine, elbows, knees, and hips).
This is the most common type of arthritis that causes inflammation and it predominantly affects the joints in the body.
It is classified as an autoimmune disease and researchers are just beginning to understand it. Chronic inflammation of the joints over time can lead to severe pain, severe joint damage and even deformities. Of the people that are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, almost 75% are women.
Vitamin D is important for a good overall health and plays an important role in making sure our muscles, heart, lungs and brain function well. Our body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency is more common than you may think. In fact, it is so common that The American Journal of Clinical NutritionIt called it a world wide problem which is recognized as a pandemic. I’ve already mentioned the importance of vitamin D and how it can cause 12 common diseases as well asdementia. Maintaining proper vitamin D levels is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.
People who have higher levels of Vitamin D in their bodies have been found to have lower incidences of heart disease, depression, obesity and certain forms of cancers.
Vitamin D and Rheumatoid Arthritis (The Research)
A study published in the journal Rheumatology has found that vitamin D levels are significantly associated with disease activity, levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins), and bone loss in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
According to the study, “it appears that vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis”.
Scientists, doctors and researchers do not have a definitive answer as to why vitamin D plays an important role in the body (except for helping calcium metabolization). But they do know that the studies that have been done strongly suggest it’s better to not let it get too low in your body, especially if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
A study conducted by researchers from Boston University and published in in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives took the connection between low levels of vitamin D and increased levels of rheumatoid arthritic activity one step further.
I have mentioned that vitamin D is naturally produced by our bodies when the sun’s UV rays shine upon our skin, so it would make sense that people who lived in warmer climates would get more sun and would have more Vitamin D produced by their bodies naturally.
The Boston University researchers concluded that the percentage of people that reported having symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the north-eastern part of the USA, where they get less exposure to sun than other parts of the country, was much higher than those percentages of people that lived in so called ‘sunshine states’.
The lead researcher, Dr. Verónica Vieira, MS, had this to conclude: “Women in states like Vermont, New Hampshire and Southern Maine were more likely to report being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis”.
There’s higher risk in the northern latitudes and this might be related to the fact that there’s less sunlight in these areas, which results in a vitamin D deficiency.
How to Increase Your Vitamin D Level
If you are an arthritis sufferer, then the next logical question is how do you increase the level of vitamin D in your body?
1. Get Some Sun
The first answer to this question would be to get more sun. A caucasian person at midday can get all the vitamin D their body needs in a day in less time than it takes for the skin to turn pink. It is also known that people with darker skin have more trouble absorbing the sun’s rays and subsequently producing vitamin D. Not to mention that too much sun can wrinkle your skin prematurely and cause skin cancer.
The more skin you expose the more vitamin D that your body produces. Just remember you might not want to bare it all because there are some spots on your body that will burn easily because they are not used to exposure.
This is not so difficult if you live in a warmer climate but if you live in a place which does not get much sun, as the second study suggested, then this may not be possible.
2. Consume Foods That are Naturally Rich in Vitamin D
If you don’t live in a warm climate then what do you do?
The next thing to try is adding foods that are rich in vitamin D to your diet. The daily recommended dose of vitamin D is 400 – 600 IU per day, but some nutritionists feel that up to 4000 units a day is needed for patients that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. But make sure to consult with your doctor first.
Here are some suggestions:
- Cod Liver Oil (you can get it packed in capsules – like this one or in a bottle like this one )
- Oily Fish (Salmon, Tuna) – I’ve already mentioned that the consumtion of ouily fish can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
- Portobello Mushrooms
- Extra Lean Ham
- Hard Boiled Eggs
If all else fails then take an over the counter supplement. Most daily vitamin capsules contain a day’s recommended dosage of vitamin D. There are also supplements that contain much higher doses of vitamin D too.
Ask your doctor about these before you take them to see if they are safe for you to use.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, this low vitamin D level and arthritis connection is certainly worth keeping an eye on. Millions of people around the world suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and there will surely be new studies results coming out in the very near future.