If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, chances are that you are hoping to find a way to treat or, or at least to manage symptoms.
For the unfamiliar, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attack the joints.
Because it is progressive, it can cause gradual joint and cartilage damage, and it also can cause osteoporosis, or gradual bone loss.
For those with rheumatoid arthritis, many treatments through traditional medicine exist.
These include NSAIDs, corticosteroids, DMARDs (disease-modifying anti rheumatic drugs), and a newer class of DMARDs called biologic response agents.
While these drugs often can work, many are used short-term due to potentially dangerous side effects.
For instance, while many people use NSAIDs like ibuprofen periodically, long-term usage can cause liver and kidney damage.
Corticosteroids are sometimes used to relieve acute inflammation, but most doctors will work with patients to gradually reduce dosage, as they can cause thinning of bones and potentially even cause diabetes.
While DMARDs and biologic response agents are more targeted specifically for rheumatoid arthritis, these drugs can cause immune suppression and predispose patients to lung infections, cause liver damage, and some suppress the growth of bone marrow as well.
With these potential side effects looming, it’s no wonder that many people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis want to find a natural way to manage this disease.
There has been some discussion of the relationship between Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis, although many people are unsure of whether this treatment can cure the disease.
Below, we’ll look into how Vitamin D can potentially help those suffering from this debilitating disease.
How Does Vitamin D Interact With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
According to the Vitamin D Council, a collection of studies have begun to show a connection between rheumatoid arthritis and levels of Vitamin D.
While the Vitamin D Council makes it clear that no causative relationship has been discovered, it notes that these studies found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis tended to have lower levels of Vitamin D.
Additionally, researchers in one study found that patients with higher levels of vitamin D had lower levels of some inflammatory cytokines, which are cells that help to cause the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
More research is necessary to determine whether there is a causative relationship between Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, however.
Because multiple studies have found strong causal relationships between vitamin D levels and various symptoms of the disease.
However, the Vitamin D Council notes that some studies have not found any correlation.
While it is definitely possible that vitamin D could help with managing symptoms, this fairly newly-discovered connection still needs to be researched more.
Why Might Vitamin D Help?
Part of the reason the rheumatoid arthritis/vitamin D connection has drawn researcher attention is the fact that vitamin D has already been shown to have some effect on immune function.
Traditionally, vitamin D has been shown to be vital for bone health, and most people know that adequate vitamin D is important for strong bones and calcium metabolism.
However, ample research has now shown that vitamin D also plays a major role in immune response.
While the research discussed above primarily focused on rheumatoid arthritis, more generally-focused research has found that people with deficiencies in vitamin D often are prone to autoimmune conditions and are more prone to infection.
Vitamin D’s influence on the immune system comes from its ability to regulate cytokines, which are cells that produce inflammation.
Specifically, vitamin D can increase production of anti-inflammatory cytokines while reducing production of inflammatory cytokines.
Because increased inflammatory cytokines are a characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis, it is possible that vitamin D supplementation has the potential to greatly reduce symptoms.
Although vitamin D’s effects on cytokines and how those effects relate specifically to rheumatoid arthritis are still being investigated, there is more research on the vitamin’s ability to support bone health.
Because gradual erosion of bone is one of the long-term effects of rheumatoid arthritis, supplementing with vitamin D may, at the very least, help to slow this process.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb dietary calcium in the intestines, which is why many doctors recommend taking calcium alongside vitamin D.
Additionally, this vitamin helps maintain levels of calcium and phosphate, which in turns helps the body produce more bone.
These functions are vital for everyone, but it is especially important for those with osteoporosis, whether it is caused by rheumatoid arthritis or not, to make sure they support their bone health.
Should You Take Vitamin D for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
While vitamin D certainly looks promising as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, as mentioned above, more research is still needed to determine whether this is an effective treatment.
If you are interested in using this natural method to help manage symptoms, it is generally advisable to talk to your doctor about whether this is a good option.
While many people take vitamin D for general health, if you are considering using vitamin D as a standalone way to manage symptoms, it is important to discuss this option with your physician.
Due to health concerns with rheumatoid arthritis, you may have different dosing requirements than someone taking it for general health.
Your doctor can help you find the best way to supplement in order to relieve symptoms.
In conclusion, while vitamin D may not necessarily cure rheumatoid arthritis, it can help offset some of the bone damage that comes with the disease.
Additionally, more recent research shows that vitamin D interacts with cells that cause inflammation…
… and it may be able to regulate inflammatory responses in a way that alleviates some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Multiple studies have found correlations between low vitamin D levels and increased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, although more research is needed to determine whether supplementation can improve symptoms.
In short, vitamin D may not necessarily be a cure, but it shows great potential for reducing at least some of the symptoms many sufferers face.
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