Everyone needs the sunshine vitamin. It helps your bones grow properly and stay strong. Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium. But it may be even more important for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) to get enough vitamin D, especially during the darker, winter months. Recent research has found that some RA medications can cause vitamin D deficiencies in patients.
A recent study found that those who take oral steroids for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) have a heightened risk for vitamin D deficiency. In fact, those who take corticosteroids are two times more likely to be short on this crucial vitamin. Without enough vitamin D, your bones can become soft and brittle.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Division of Rheumatology have been looking at the effect of vitamin D on RA and osteoarthritis and the data suggests vitamin D is definitely a promising area for arthritis research.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s essential for human health, yet most Americans — up to 60 percent by some estimates – are deficient in vitamin D. In part, that’s because we spend less time outdoors and absorb less vitamin D from sunlight. However, it may also be due to the changing American diet. There are only a few foods with significant amounts of vitamin D and many of them are dairy products. With the advent of fat content awareness, people are shying away from dairy.
It has long been recognized that vitamin D is essential to bone health because it promotes calcium absorption. You may not know that vitamin D regulates as many as 1,000 different genes, including those that weed out precancerous cells and slow the reproduction of cancer cells. Vitamin D also helps maintain a healthy immune system and activates cells that fight infection, including the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.
During the past decade, there’s been an explosion of research suggesting that vitamin D plays a significant role in joint health and that low levels may be a risk factor for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is not just a simple nutrient – it’s an active steroid hormone that binds to receptors in vulnerable tissues, such as the joints affected most by arthritis and works to keep those tissues healthy. Research suggests that arthritis patients are at more risk than the general population of having low levels of vitamin D.
Another study presented at the European Union League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) meeting in Paris, found that nearly 75 percent of patients who presented at a rheumatology clinic – including those who were subsequently diagnosed with inflammatory joint diseases, soft-tissue rheumatism, uncomplicated musculoskeletal backache or osteoporosis — were deficient in vitamin D.
If you have RA, get your vitamin D levels checked often. This is especially important if you take oral steroids for your condition. To increase the amount of vitamin D in your diet, the Arthritis Foundation recommends getting 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight daily. This can help your body produce vitamin D naturally. Also look for foods that either naturally contain vitamin D, like salmon or are fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and cheese.