Vitamin D and Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Rise and Rise of Vitamin D Deficiency

Do you spend a lot of time indoors during the day? Are you too busy to get to the beach regularly? Do you use sunscreen to cover up? There is a good chance that you are Vitamin D deficient, and that this deficiency is linked to perpetuation of your Rheumatoid Arthritis. In this article you will learn about why we are Vitamin D deficient and how you can improve your Vitamin D levels and increase your progress in reversing RA as a result. Let's get to it!

In my home country of Australia it has become somewhat of a strange phenomenon that we have thousands of kilometers of beaches, and a gorgeous sun-soaked country, yet we have a population with a growing Vitamin D deficiency. And we’re not alone. It is now recognized that vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common medical conditions in the world. [1,2] It has been estimated that upwards of 50% of both children and adults living in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, New Zealand and Australia are vitamin D deficient. [2] When a child or adult is vitamin D deficient they are unable to absorb enough calcium from their diet to satisfy their body’s calcium requirement. Naturally, this is bad news for people with RA, since an inability to absorb enough calcium results an increase in the production of parathyroid hormone (PTH) which efficiently removes calcium from the skeleton to maintain the blood calcium level which is essential for neuromuscular and all metabolic activities. [3]

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Why are we becoming Vitamin D deficient in western countries around the world? We spend excessive time indoors for our work and have become very proficient at covering ourselves up from the ‘harmful’ UV rays, even if we pop outdoors for a short time. Whilst excess sun exposure is indeed a problem, and I applaud the successful educational efforts surrounding this, we may have swung the pendulum a little too far in the opposite direction. The fear of sun-induced aging, painful sunburn and melanomas have us all covered in sun lotions that can be the health equivalent to simply staying indoors!

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Vitamin D

With the rise of autoimmune diseases, and the known biological inter-dependency between Vitamin D and the immune system, it is no surprise that many recent studies human studies show a strong link between Vitamin D and autoimmune conditions. First of all, one study showed that Vitamin D insufficiency is common in African Americans with a recent-onset of RA. [4]. Secondly, in February 2013 the results of a long-term ‘Nurses Study’ showed that women with the highest estimated levels of UV-B exposure were 21 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those with the lowest levels. [5] Quite simply put, you reduce your risk of getting RA substantially by getting more sunlight.

This becomes even more interesting when we look at other autoimmune diseases, such as MS, which is similarly dramatically improved by no-meat no-dairy approach [6]. There is a reduced risk of getting Multiple Sclerosis if you get more sunlight [7]. An Australian study found that people living in the cooler and cloudier climates of our southernmost state Tasmania are 7 times more likely to have Multiple Sclerosis than those living in the northern sunshine-rich state of QLD [8] The authors who reported this concluded ‘The increasing prevalence with increasing south latitude cannot readily be explained by genetic susceptibility, and suggests that environmental factors (my italics) are important for expression of the disease’.

What about actually treating an autoimmune disease by increasing Vitamin D? In a study undertaken on Crohn’s disease patients in April 2013 showed that there was ‘a strong effect of Vitamin D3 supplementation on Crohn’s disease symptoms’. The study showed that ‘by raising serum vitamin D levels, Crohn's patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms exhibited a decrease in Crohn's disease activity (CDAI) scores and improved quality of life scores (via the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionairre or IBDQ) within 24 weeks.’ [9].

More anecdotal evidence comes from one of my distant relatives who completely cured his Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis after becoming a surf life saver at aged 19. He took it up because the doctors said he would be in a wheelchair at 21. This grim prediction was a sufficient incentive for him to get outdoors and ‘live to the max’ to try and beat the disease by hitting the surf. It worked. Now middle aged, he hasn’t a trace of the disease and he attributes it to surf life saving - which put him out in the sun every single day for many hours on end. Now, there are obviously many other factors at play – two of the most notable are 1) his levels of dramatically increased exercise and change of diet would have played a very large role and 2) JRA (now called JIA) has a drastically higher rate of natural remission than adult RA as the body moves into adulthood. Even so, the substantial increase in sunshine exposure may still have been one of the several influencing factors.

So, you're probably now asking:

How do I raise my Vitamin D Levels?

First thing is to find out your starting point. Vitamin D is measured through a blood test. Since I recommend regular bloodwork to monitor your inflammation levels of CRP and ESR anyways, just ask for a Vitamin-D test to be included when they analyse your blood, thus making it an easy add-on to your existing blood test rather than another one-off report. In the case of Vitamin D, it is a slow-changing figure that only needs to be checked every 4-6 months. So once you get it done right at the start of this process, it’s overkill to have it done more frequently. When you receive your results on your blood test report, your Vitamin D reading may have guidelines next to it. These do vary a little from country to country, but this is the current guidelines in Australia: Sufficiency 51 - 200 nmol/L Mild deficiency 25 – 50 nmol/L Marked deficiency < 25 nmol/L Toxicity > 250 nmol/L Because Vitamin D is so intricately linked with a healthy immune system, it is not sufficient to simply have normal readings, as benefits may not be seen until Vitamin D readings are at the higher end of the normal spectrum [10]. Thus, with an autoimmune disease, it may be of benefit to get the highest levels of Vitamin D you can, within the ‘normal’ range. Say, for instance, 150 – 200 nm/L as an end goal. Raising Vitamin D levels should be considered fun, not another chore. If the sun is out, or you feel like a holiday, I highly recommend getting outdoors and soaking up some sunshine to synthesize Vitamin D naturally. This way, in the midst of fresh air and nature, you also get the additional feelings of wellbeing, revitalization and a recharging of your batteries.

If you live in an area that has a very poor climate, or you find your levels are very low from your bloodwork, then you may wish to use a supplement (more on this in ‘Melissa’s Story’ below). When supplementing, scientists seem to agree that as a general rule of thumb, 1000 IU (25 mcg) per day usually increases vitamin D blood levels by 25 nmol/L (10 ng/ml) after a few months. [11] So, lets say for example that your vitamin D blood test was 75 nmol/L (30 ng/ml) and your first goal was to raise it to 100 nmol/L (40 ng/ml), then 1,000 IU (25 mcg) of vitamin D per day over several months should allow you to reach your goal. For those unable to have their Vitamin D levels tested through a blood test, issuers of insurance and health care access suggest that 800 to 1,000 IU per day is ample. [11] Although a study using up to five times these daily amounts showed no user toxicity over a 24 week period [12], 1,000 IU per day is all I would take. Just chat to your naturopath or local supplement supplier about what’s right for you. For more free information about how to eliminate RA symptoms naturally, like I did, then click here for our free mailing list

Melissa’s Story – Vitamin D Supplementation

In late 2013, my wife Melissa surprised me with the most amazing news - we were pregnant! This was a very emotional and amazing moment for us, since we had purposely waited over 2.5 years since I was off all medications before we tried for a baby, just to fully and completely ‘clean out’ my system. After just 4 months of ‘trying’ we were given a gift from God. At the time I am writing this, our baby daughter-to-be is only a few days away from entering our world. Being the health conscious couple that we are, we immediately went and had a full blood test for Melissa. She has been vegetarian since they day she was born (yep, she’s never tasted an animal or an egg) and her health was great with one exception - her Vitamin D levels were low. We attributed this to extreme caution that she places on avoiding sunburn and her diligent use of sunscreen. I saw this as an opportunity to undertake another experiment. Followers of the Paddison Program in cold climates had been asking us about Vitamin D supplementation for some time, yet we had no first-hand experience with Vitamin D supplementation ourselves. Since our own doctor was adamantly assuring us in the success of supplementation in this area, we decided to use supplementation as her primary source of Vitamin D and see how much she could raise her levels, to share our findings with others. Melissa started with a liquid, vegan Vitamin D supplement and took 0.4mL per day of Cholecalcifol (equivalent to vitaimin D3 800IU). Melissa also very slightly increased her sunshine exposure; just in case the supplementation was insufficient (and because of my complete skepticism and lack of faith in all things that come in a bottle after what I had been through), and so she got about 5-10 min or so of additional sunlight each week. With the Vitamin D supplementation and the very small sunshine boost Melissa was able to increase her Vitamin D levels from 30 nmol/L (“mild deficiency”) to 63 nmol/L (“sufficiency”) in just under 5 months.

Summary

Compared to a lot of things in life, I am now convinced that raising Vitamin D levels is straightforward and our personal experience with Vegan Vitamin D3 supplementation has been excellent. Vitamin D supplementation offers great path forward to raise Vitamin D levels if you live in a cooler climate or you are confined to spending a lot of time indoors. Talk to your local natural health products store to find a suitable similar product. The Australian brand that Melissa has used, and continues to use, is called ‘Herbs of Gold’. I now take it from time to time too, during the cooler months.

Your Immediate Action Item for Today

1) If you don't know your Vitamin D levels, go out and get a blood test to find out. It's simple and easy. Next, get safe levels of sunshine on a regular basis and potentially supplement with Vegan Vitamin D Liquid. According to some of the leading naturapaths in Australia, your goal with an autoimmune disease such as RA is to get your levels to 150 - 200 nmol/L.

2) Let me help you more by either joining my email list to get free pain reduction strategies.  Or, by reversing your RA naturally by undertaking the most powerful pain-reduction program for RA that I have available. I will change your life, I promise.

References

[1] Holick MF. Resurrection of vitamin D deficiency and rickets. J Clin Invest. 2006;116(8):2062–2072.
[2] Holick MF. Vitamin D Deficiency. N Eng J Med. 2007;357:266–281.
[3] Holick MF. Vitamin D and Health: Evolution, Biologic Functions, and Recommended Dietary Intakes for Vitamin D. Clin Rev Bone Miner Metab. 2009;7(1):2–19.
[4] Vitamin D insufficiency is common in African Americans with recent-onset RA.
[5]Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 Apr;72(4):506-11. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2012-202302. Epub 2013 Feb 4. Exposure to ultraviolet-B and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis among women in the Nurses' Health Study. Arkema EV, Hart JE, Bertrand KA, Laden F, Grodstein F, Rosner BA, Karlson EW, Costenbader KH.
[6] The Lancet, Volume 336, Issue 8706, Pages 37 - 39, 7 July 1990 ‘Effect of low saturated fat diet in early and late cases of multiple sclerosis’ R.L. Swank MD *, B.B. Dugan
[7] Past exposure to sun, skin phenotype, and risk of multiple sclerosis: case-control study
BMJ 2003; 327 Published 7 August 2003. I A F van der Met et al
[8] Epidemiology of multiple sclerosis in Australia. With NSW and SA survey results.
McLeod JG, Hammond SR, Hallpike JF. Department of Medicine, University of Sydney, NSW. The Medical Journal of Australia [1994, 160(3):117-122] Type: Journal Article,
[9] Therapeutic Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation in a Pilot Study of Crohn's Patients
Linlin Yang, PhD, Veronika Weaver, [...], and Margherita T Cantorna, PhD
[10] Metagenics Seminar - Resolving Autoimmunity, Fatigue and Chronic Disease. Examining the unrecognised role of chronic infection and microbial imbalance. June - July 2013
[11] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/589256_8
[12] Therapeutic Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation in a Pilot Study of Crohn's Patients Linlin Yang, PhD, Veronika Weaver, [...], and Margherita T Cantorna, PhD

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About the Author

After recovering from chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis, Clint Paddison now teaches other RA sufferers how to heal naturally so they can get on a path towards wellness. Get Clint's free RA reversal tips here

Disclaimer

Do not take this information as personal medical advice. Do not change your diet if you are ill or on medication without the advice of a qualified health care provider (your physician, for example).