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Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis: 5 Easy Ways to Boost Vitamin D Intake
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If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) — or if you’re at risk for developing this inflammatory type of arthritis — it may be time to start paying attention to your vitamin D intake.
According to a November 2019 study conducted at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., maintaining sufficient vitamin D intake may help prevent or delay the onset of inflammatory health conditions like RA. For people who already have RA, the study’s researchers propose that high doses of vitamin D might be necessary.
“Vitamin D is actually a hormone that plays a critical role in regulating the immune system,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian based in San Francisco and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “And RA is a condition that results from problems with the immune system.”
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, adults should aim to get 600 IU of vitamin D daily — though your doctor may recommend you get more, especially if you have RA.
However, most people with RA aren’t getting enough of this essential nutrient. Vitamin D deficiency is common among people with RA, and low levels of vitamin D can exacerbate RA symptoms and even cause bones to become brittle. What’s more, certain RA medications, like oral steroids, can further contribute to vitamin D deficiency. In fact, those who take oral corticosteroids for RA or other health conditions are twice as likely to have a vitamin D deficiency as those who don’t take any corticosteroids, according to research from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City.
The good news is that getting the vitamin D you need may help lessen the severity of your RA and prevent bone loss.
How to Get More Vitamin D
Making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D is an important part of keeping your bones healthy. Start by talking to your doctor about having your vitamin D levels checked. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, your doctor will probably recommend ways to boost your vitamin D intake, which may include:
Spending more time outsideThe Arthritis Foundation recommends spending 10 to 15 minutes in the sun every other day, and possibly longer for those with darker skin. Be careful, however, because time spent in the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a limited amount of vitamin D can be obtained from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and the health risks of UV exposure are still great. If you live in a climate where you’re unable to get sun exposure, talk to your doctor about using a UV lamp, though the health risks of UV exposure still apply.
Sitting by a windowJust make sure it’s open, as most window panes block the kind of sunlight that promotes the production of vitamin D.
Eating more fishFocus on fish that’s high in vitamin D. Angelone suggests:
- Cod liver oil — 1 teaspoon has 453 IU of vitamin D
- Salmon — 3 ounces has 447 IU
- Tuna — 3 ounces has 154 IU
- Sardines — 2 fillets have 46 IU
And raw fish has more vitamin D than cooked, so don’t be shy about eating sushi.
Video: Rheumatoid Arthritis | Nucleus Health
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