What does vitamin D do for our joints?
Vitamin D maintains blood calcium levels and it regulates calcium and phosphorus, which keep bones and teeth hard and strong. One of vitamin D’s primary functions is to absorb calcium and to promote bone growth, it works together with calcium to help build and support healthy bones and joints. Vitamin D also plays a role in muscle pain, however this relationship is less prevalent than the connection between vitamin D and joint pain.
Unlike most other vitamins, our body is able to make its own vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It converts vitamin D into an activated form that can be used throughout the body. Although most commonly known for its role in bone health, vitamin D is also thought to play a part in many other important functions in the body including; brain development, muscle function and immune function.
Inadequate levels of phosphate, calcium and vitamin D, as well as poor absorption of calcium, can lead to a condition known as osteomalacia, or softening of the bones. It can also lead to brittle bones and weak muscles. It most commonly affects areas such as the lower back, pelvis and hips, often this pain is worse at night or when you bear weight on the affected bones. Some believe that osteomalacia as a result of vitamin D deficiency can contribute to morning back pain.1
Research looking at inflammation in the cartilage (osteoarthritis) found that vitamin D could potentially play an anti-inflammatory role. The study found that vitamin D supplementation could potentially be beneficial in decreasing inflammation in osteoarthritis of the knee. However, the role of vitamin D on decreasing the progression of cartilage loss itself still needs further research.2
Low on vitamin D?
If you have low levels or are deficient in vitamin D you might experience some of the following symptoms:
• SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD has been linked to low levels of vitamin D
• Weak bones and teeth
• Muscle weakness
• Low immunity
Vitamin D is a difficult vitamin to get enough from as there are not many food sources readily available to us. The body is able to make vitamin D naturally when it is exposed to the sun however, if you live in the UK, we unfortunately don’t get very much of it from that source either!
Are you getting too much?
Although vitamin D deficiency is fairly common as a result of its scarce availability in our diet it is possible to get too much vitamin D. Over supplementing is usually the way that vitamin D toxicity comes about. Extremely high IU doses of vitamin D in chunky tablet form may sound like they will fix all of your low vitamin D problems however, your body just isn’t designed to absorb high amounts of vitamins in this way. What’s more, taking too much vitamin D can also negatively impact our health as well as our joint pain because our body simply can’t cope!
If toxic levels of vitamin D build up in the body it can interfere with your body’s absorption of calcium. If your body doesn’t have enough calcium to be able to function properly it will begin to take this mineral from other areas – such as your bones! This can then lead to problems with bone strength and health and add to your overall joint problems. To find out more about the effects of vitamin D toxicity check out our blog ‘Are you getting too much vitamin D?’
How much vitamin D should I be getting?
I’ve talked about the effects of too little and too much vitamin D but how much should we actually be getting? The recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin D is 100 micrograms which roughly translates to between 400 and 600IU per day. Many vitamin D supplements contain triple and sometimes more than this amount! So be weary when picking a supplement and always read the label to see how much you’re actually taking.
Another option might be our Balance Mineral Drink which not only contains 100% of your RDA, but it is also full of other important minerals including zinc, calcium, magnesium and potassium – all of which play important roles in maintaining the health of our muscles and joints.
What else do we recommend for joint pain?
Although we can see that there is definitely a relationship between vitamin D and pain, taking a vitamin D supplement probably won’t help relieve the pain itself. One study looking at joint pain in menopausal women found that supplementing calcium and vitamin D did not improve the frequency and severity of joint pain symptoms.3 This thought to be because there are many contributing factors to joint pain and although vitamin D might be one of them, there are most likely other underlying causes too.
Therefore having an effective pain management system in place is critical – particularly if you suffer from long-term pain. For joint pain I’d recommend our Devil’s Claw Atrosan tablets, the root of the herb Devil’s Claw was traditionally used for the treatment of muscle and joint pain, back pain and rheumatism – and is still commonly used today. This natural remedy can be taken alongside other pain killers if needed and, because of its all-natural ingredients, it is also safe for asthmatics and those allergic to aspirin.