An estimated 70 percent of children and adult population in the U.S. are deficient in vitamin D. The deficiency is due to a combination of not enough exposure to sunlight and not enough vitamin D in the diet.
A research study has found a link between vitamin D deficiency and higher risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis. By mapping the binding ability of vitamin D receptors found in the genes throughout the body, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing these autoimmune diseases.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system, which attacks foreign substances to protect the body, mistakenly targets the joint linings. This causes inflammation, which leads to the thickening of the synovium (tissue linings inside the joints). The areas inside and around the joints become painful and swollen. Synovium creates a fluid, which acts as a lubricant for the smooth movement of the joints.
RA affects the joints. This chronic inflammatory disease can also damage the various systems of the body including the eyes, skin, blood, blood vessels, nerves, lungs, or heart.
Symptoms of RA:
- swollen, tender, painful joints
- joint stiffness
- weight loss
Signs and symptoms of RA may be intermittent and vary in severity. Over time, RA can cause deformity of the joints.
RA is nearly three times more common in women than in men. Most often, it starts between the ages of 30 and 60; though it can begin at any age and can affect children (juvenile idiopathic arthritis). A history of RA in the family increases the risk of having the autoimmune disorder. However, most people suffering from RA do not have a history of the disease in the family. RA affects people of any race.
Vitamin D and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Deficiency in vitamin D may play a part in chronic pain caused by a number of conditions. Research study has indicated that low levels of vitamin D may be implicated in several musculoskeletal disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, migraine, and neuropathy.
Some vitamins start working right after being ingested. Vitamin D, on the other hand, must undergo a process in the liver and kidneys to be converted to calcitriol, which can attach to the vitamin D receptors located in most cells in the body. The body stores dehydrocholesterol (a form of pre-vitamin D) in the skin. When sunlight enters the skin, it is converted into pre-vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol.
A number of research studies have found a link between low levels of vitamin D and heart disease. RA causes systemic inflammation, which affects the internal organs and increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. This risk can be managed by seeing a doctor, eating a balanced diet, and quitting smoking. Another way to manage this risk is getting enough vitamin D.
While more research is still needed, vitamin D has shown a positive impact in the prevention of fall and fracture, which are at a higher risk in individuals suffering from RA.
Vitamin D Source:
Spending 15 minutes out in the sun will help you get vitamin D. However be careful not to overexpose your skin for long stretches of time to avoid getting sunburn. This can cause damage to the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Food is also another source of vitamin D. To increase your vitamin D levels, you can consume foods that are rich in vitamin D. These include oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon. Mushroom, egg yolks, and vitamin D-fortified milk and cereal are another good source of vitamin D.
Aside from sunlight exposure and vitamin D-rich foods, you can also take vitamin D supplements to increase your vitamin D levels.
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