More than 1.3 million Americans have been diagnosed so far with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful disease with frustrating symptoms.  However, the right nutritional approach can make a significant difference. Even your diet and the number of vitamins you have can change the severity of your arthritis symptoms. To find out more about how vitamins can help lessen symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, read on.
Explaining the Basics of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although most people know about arthritis, the disease itself is still is not understood well. According to the Arthritis Foundation,  arthritis comes in over one hundred variations; one of those is rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
RA is a systemic disease that causes your immune system to attack your body and joints in your hands, wrists, ankles, elbows, and knees. It can also attack your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
Causes and Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Unfortunately, scientists still haven’t figured out the exact cause of RA. Nonetheless, genetics might play a role in contracting this disease. Worse yet, even children can contract the disease as early as age two, while adults usually notice first symptoms starting at 30. Scientists have also found that Rheumatoid Arthritis is most common in women, and that 1 – 3% of women may get rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime.  Symptoms can vary from person to person but common ones include:
- Stiff joints with swelling that feel warm or sore.
- Feeling stiff in the morning or after not moving for a while.
- General fatigue or fatigue in your joints.
- Unexplained weight loss.
The best way to diagnose RA is with a blood test that looks for things such as:
- C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Rheumatoid antibody factor
- Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies (anti-CCP)
- Increased rate of erythrocyte sedimentation (sed rate or ESR)
Other than that, your doctor may order imaging tests (ultrasound, MRI, X-ray) to find out what is happening in affected areas, as well as to track the progress of treatment.
Do Vitamins Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Making sure that patients with RA are taking in enough vitamins and minerals is vital for effectively treating this disease. Here’s why:
- The weight loss associated with RA that can deplete you of important nutrients
- Patients with RA often suffer from various allergies and food sensitivities which means it’s harder to give your body everything it needs through diet.
- Consuming the wrong food can make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse, and eating the right food can help alleviate them.
With this in mind, it’s important to make sure you give your body everything it requires. According to experts, these are the most important nutrients:
- Vitamin E because it makes some RA medication more effective
- Vitamin D because it’s crucial for bone growth and absorption of calcium
- Omega-3 fatty acids tend to help with stiff and painful joints
- Bromelain and Turmeric reduce joint inflammation
- Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) because some RA drugs inhibit its absorption
- Gamma-linolenic acid is showing great promise in reducing RA swelling and pain
If tests show a deficiency, you should correct the problem as soon as possible. Of course, make sure to consult your doctor first.
The Relationship Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Vitamin D Intake
Arthritis experts claim that there is a strong correlation between severe RA symptoms and a Vitamin D deficiency. Fortunately, you can increase Vitamin D production by spending more time out in sunlight, by eating more fish, eggs, milk, fruit juices, etc. Still, the easiest way is to take Vitamin D supplements.