Rheumatoid arthritis, vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis

Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is essential for good health. Human beings can make this hormone when skin is exposed to sunlight. In addition, vitamin D is found in a few foods: oily fish (and especially cod liver oil), fortified dairy foods, particularly milk, and mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light. Conditions such as cancer,  asthma and ulcerative colitis have been associated with suboptimal levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream. Is there also a link between low vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis?

Research Connecting Inadequate Vitamin D and Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Researchers from Spain report that lower levels of vitamin D in the body are in fact associated with more severe rheumatoid arthritis (70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, July 31, 2018). They analyzed blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in 78 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 41 healthy individuals. Only about a third of the RA patients had adequate levels of the vitamin. Those with lower vitamin D levels had more painful joints.

Could Vitamin D Supplements Help?

Unfortunately, no one knows if supplements of vitamin D would help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Trials of vitamin D supplementation for other conditions have been disappointing. The importance of this vitamin to maintain bone integrity is well recognized. Even so, supplements have not proven helpful overall (Lancet, Jan. 11, 2014). A small daily dose in the context of a Mediterranean-style diet slowed bone loss in people with osteoporosis, however (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online July 11, 2018). That dose was 400 IU, also known as 10 micrograms per day.

When scientists do identify a benefit from supplements, it may be small. A meta-analysis of 81 randomized controlled trials found benefits for vitamin D supplements (Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, July 12, 2018). While the effects on high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein were positive, they were very modest.

Is There a Downside to Vitamin D Supplements?

Why don’t people with rheumatoid arthritis don’t just take vitamin D supplements and hope that it will help their joints? As with so many things, vitamin D supplements can have drawbacks, particularly at high doses. Research in mice suggests that high doses can shift fecal microbes into an inflammatory pattern (Scientific Reports, July 31, 2018). This would be an undesirable outcome. Another potential problem would be increased susceptibility to kidney stones (Nutrients, March 17, 2018). In summary, we should be sure that supplementation would truly offer benefit before recommending it as a potential therapeutic approach.

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  1. Cindy
    northern California
    Reply

    What I learned from my doctor, a renal specialist, is that some of us as we age do not convert vitamin from the sun into the usable form. I am one of them. I have a gardening business and am out in the sun many hours without sunscreen every week. My blood level was about 1/3 what it should have been. I did some research and bought online some liquid vitamin D. In just a few weeks I began to notice improved vitality. I can work longer and come home and still not feel I need to just sit and veg. I am so grateful for his noticing this, my regular MD did not feel it was significant.

  2. mary
    Nevada
    Reply

    Does taking K2 with Vitamin D prevent the kidney stones?

  3. Carolyn C
    Greensboro
    Reply

    Five years ago my blood work indicated I had low Vitamin D levels. I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Following doctor’s instructions, I started taking 5000 IU of Vitamin D-3 with coconut oil. My levels are normal now but I did not see any additional improvement in my joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. I was hopeful. I made the decision to try biologics and am currently on Orencia after trying Enbrel and Humira. The biologics have slowed down the progression of the disease and reduced the discomfort but have not resulted in complete remission. I also use turmeric and ginger in addition to other supplements. Hopefully there will be a treatment that will result in complete remission.

  4. Lorraine
    PA
    Reply

    I have sero-positive RA. My rheumatologist did blood test for Vitamin D to find there was no deficiency, and my D level was above adequate. However, she did recommend 2000 IU of Vitamin D on a daily basis. She generally does not recommend any other supplements so it surprised me when she actually committed to Vit. D and a specific daily dose. However, she advises that if I feel something is helping my discomfort, then it is worth a try. In my journey to discover what alternative diets, supplements, lotions, etc. actually work for my condition, I have yet to find any definitive solution or “cure”. The one thing that does relieve stiffness and discomfort is walking, up to two hours a day, without a doubt!

  5. Barbara
    Australia
    Reply

    What about vitamin d by injection thanks

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