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Vitamin D Benefits: Avoid, Improve Arthritis Symptoms

Vitamin D benefits include improving arthritis symptoms and helping to prevent arthritis before it begins.

Did you know vitamin D can help improve arthritis symptoms? Here’s another fact: if someone does not already have arthritis, they may be able to avoid it by getting enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is critical for overall health. For one, it helps with calcium absorption, which in turn helps the body develop and maintain healthy bones. It also reduces inflammation and plays a role in regulating the immune system, so the body is better able to ward off sickness and disease, including arthritis.

Getting the recommended allowance of vitamin D (800-1,000 IUs daily) can be challenging. In fact, an estimated three-fourths of Americans don't get enough of it. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include chronic pain, digestive issues, frequent infections and depression.

Vitamin D Impacts Arthritis

Researchers have different theories as to how vitamin D impacts arthritis. For instance, some think it has a direct impact on the joints, while others believe it is more about its effect on the immune system. A few others are still not convinced there is a solid link between the two.

Regardless of these differing opinions, many researchers agree that there is a connection between vitamin D and arthritis. There is substantial evidence to back up their claims. For example:

  • One study showed that patients with knee osteoarthritis had low blood levels of vitamin D.
  • Another study found that women who had the high levels of vitamin D were 30 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women with low levels.
  • A third study found that taking a medication such as an oral steroid — which is often prescribed to patients with arthritis — can cause a vitamin D deficiency. So, if you take an oral steroid, make sure your doctor checks your vitamin D levels regularly.

How to Boost Vitamin D Intake

Even though it can be hard to get enough vitamin D, the good news is there are three ways you can get it: through your skin, from certain foods and from supplements.

Whether you already have arthritis and want to reduce your symptoms or you want to take steps to prevent arthritis, here are some ways you can get more vitamin D:

  • Consume foods high in vitamin D. Vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods. One exception is certain types of fish such as salmon and mackerel. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, including breakfast cereals and milk. Just make sure to look for cereals low in sugar and high in fiber and choose low fat or skim milk instead of whole milk.
  • Expose your skin to small doses of sunlight. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. It doesn’t take much sun to reap the health benefits of this phenomenon. Try to get a few minutes of exposure every day, but do not stay out too long. If you do, be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin.
  • Consider a vitamin supplement. Check with your doctor about adding a supplement to boost your vitamin D levels. If you take a multivitamin, it may contain enough vitamin D, so check the label before you purchase anything new.

Why not move towards better health right now by getting your daily dose of vitamin D-induced sunshine, followed by a salmon dinner, with a side of your favorite vegetable? Next, make an appointment to talk with your doctor about whether a vitamin D supplement might be right for you.

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