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.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Emily
    Charlotte, NC

    My vitamin D was low, and I just couldn’t get it higher. I am a tennis player and eat healthy. I was taking vitamin D supplements but still low. I found the Facebook group “Vitamin D Wellness Protocol” and followed their suggestions. They suggested when to take supplements, what to take them with, etc. It took me a while, but I got my vitamin D levels up, and aches in my legs, etc. disappeared. I don’t take vitamin D now. It seemed like somehow my body sort of started processing it again. Odd!

  2. Cindy
    northern California

    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.

  3. mary

    Does taking K2 with Vitamin D prevent the kidney stones?

  4. Carolyn C

    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.

  5. Lorraine

    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!

  6. Barbara

    What about vitamin d by injection thanks

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.