Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating disease that affects over 1.3 million Americans, costing some as much as $20,000 a year for treatment. Those of us who suffer from the condition also collectively spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on supplements that are supposed to improve joint function. But are any of them really effective?
Sad to say, studies have shown most of these supplements are no better than a placebo, including the popular combination sold as glucosamine and chondroitin. On the upside, it seems like there is one vitamin that may reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. Taking it before the onset of symptoms may prevent it from developing in the first place.
Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis with Vitamin D
There was a study done at the University of Birmingham that uncovered a link between lower vitamin D levels and increased risk for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers involved found those who regularly took adequate amounts of vitamin D were less likely to experience the onset of these diseases. The downside was that for those with diets deficient in the vitamin, regular supplementation only worked when implemented before the disease could take hold.
A Possible Treatment?
Unfortunately, taking normal vitamin D supplements can’t reverse inflammatory responses after rheumatoid arthritis has developed. This is because joints affected by the disease become desensitized to the anti-inflammatory benefits of vitamin D. The good news is the University of Birmingham study also showed higher doses could reduce symptoms after disease onset. Be warned, however, that too much vitamin D can affect blood calcium levels, which can lead to kidney stones and illness. It’s important to talk to your doctor before considering vitamin D as a treatment.
You can’t overdose on vitamin D if you get it straight from nature — but it’s also not found in much. Sunlight is a great source, but too much exposure can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. In foods, it’s most abundant in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, but you can also find it in eggs, cheese, mushrooms, and beef liver. Milk and most breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin D.
If you’re at risk for rheumatoid arthritis or another inflammatory disease, supplementing the vitamin D in your diet could save you tens of thousands of dollars a year down the line. If you’re already suffering, talk to your doctor about the benefits of supplementing at a higher dose. Also, make sure you’re aware of any medications you’re taking that could affect your vitamin D levels, so you can make sure the dose you’re getting is right for your body.