Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Arthritis and Vitamin D

Deficiency of vitamin D is big news in the health community at the moment, with deficiency being linked to a whole host of chronic medical conditions - from multiple sclerosis to heart disease.

So what is it? Vitamin D is synthesised by our bodies when the sun shines on our skin (an argument for a holiday somewhere warm in February if I ever heard one...), it can also be found in a oily fish, egg yolks, cheese and some fortified foods (often soy milk and breakfast cereals). It's been linked to arthritis is several ways:

Osteoarthritits
Vitamin D is used in healthy bone and cartilage formation. Deficiency puts people at increased risk of osteoarthritis, with some studies suggesting that patients with lower vitamin D levels experience more pain and joint space narrowing (a sign of joint damage). However, not all studies have come to the same conclusion. Some research has shown that vitamin D supplements combined with calcium can help slow joint damage. 

Inflammatory arthritis (eg. rheumatoid arthritis, psortiatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis)
Lower intakes of vitamin D appear to be related to an increased risk of developing auto-immune, inflammatory arthritis. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce inflammation in lab studies and patients who are deficient appear to greater disease activity than those with normal levels. There haven't been any studies as yet showing that supplements improve symptoms or reduce disease activity.

For all kinds of arthritis, you can get your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor to see if you are deficient. You are more likely to be short of vitamin D if you are older, live in the northern hemisphere (where there is less sun) and take steroids. Vitamin D can be toxic if taken in large quantities, don't take more than 25 micrograms a day without speaking to your doctor first. You can try these recipes too to help boost your intake:
Spinach, Feta and Pea Frittata
Soy and Ginger Salmon
Little Chocolate Cheesecakes

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