There is (currently) no cure for arthritis, a disease characterized by joint inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Vitamins and minerals are very important as they keep your bones and joints healthy. You may get most of the ones you need naturally through the foods you eat, but people are sometimes deficient in certain type of vitamins or minerals. This can negatively affect your bone health. Thus, if you have arthritis, it is absolutely vital that you have the adequate levels of these compounds.
As most people know, calcium is extremely important to keep bones healthy. In fact, a deficiency in calcium can cause the development of a disease called osteoporosis, which is associated with a weakness in bones that makes them more prone to fracturing and breaking. Osteoporosis is especially common in women after the menopause. A reduction in calcium levels also puts you at a higher risk of developing osteomalacia (also known as rickets), which causes the outer shell of bones to be soft.
The recommended daily dose of calcium is 1000 milligrams. Some of the best sources of calcium include:
- Milk, cheese and yogurt. Low fat dairy products are the best as they contain less fat which is also beneficial for arthritis. Furthermore, skimmed milk contains more calcium than full-fat milk.
- Milk that is made from other sources (such as soya, rice and oats) that are enriched in calcium.
- Fish that are consumed along with the bones (such as sardines).
- Calcium supplements (if you don’t eat enough dairy or calcium-high foods).
2. Vitamin D
Similar to calcium, vitamin D is essential to help maintain bone strength, as well as having other beneficial effects in the body. Vitamin D helps process and regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate (which are two major components of bones) in the body. Therefore, vitamin D and calcium generally go hand in hand. Similar to a calcium deficiency, a lack of vitamin D can lead to the development of osteoporosis or osteomalacia.
Vitamin D also provides benefits other than bone health such as having healthy muscles, boosting your immune system and reducing the risk of getting certain types of cancers.
Most people get vitamin D through sunlight, which is why it is known as the sunshine vitamin. In fact, when sunlight hits the body, that allows the body to produce more vitamin D. Generally, an average of 15 minutes a day of sunlight on bare skin should be enough for most people to get their daily recommended dose of vitamin D. However, in climates that tend to be more overcast for a part of the year, it is important to get vitamin D through other sources. Most doctors recommend taking vitamin D as a daily supplement if you live in a northern climate, at least for part of the year. There are certain groups of people that should be taking vitamin D as a supplement all year round. These include:
- People who don’t go outside often.
- People who wear clothes that cover a significant part of their body or face
- People with dark skin, as dark skin is less able to absorb vitamin D
These are the food types that can help supplement vitamin D levels:
- Oily fish such as herrings, salmon, mackerel
- Foods fortified with vitamin D (such as margarine, best cereals, powdered milk)
Iron is important in helping prevent anemia (low red blood cell levels), as anemia is a disease that is common in patients with arthritis. Anemia tends to develop in patients with arthritis either due to side effects of taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which include ibuprofen or aspirin or due to anemia of chronic diseases which often occur in people with rheumatoid arthritis or similar conditions.
If you are anemic, then these are good sources of iron:
- Red meat
- Fish such as sardines
- Lentils and haricot beans
- Dark green vegetables (spinach, kale)
4. Vitamin C
Low levels of vitamin C have been linked to arthritis. Therefore, it is vital to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, which are very high in vitamin C. Combine intake of iron with vitamin C, as your body absorbs iron better with vitamin C.
A deficiency in the mineral selenium is quite common and has been linked with quick progression of arthritis in those that suffer from the disease. The best sources of selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Meat and Fish
- Antioxidant supplements, which often contain selenium
Other vitamins and minerals
The other vitamins and minerals that can help people that suffer from arthritis include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B-1
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin B-2
- Vitamin B-3
- Vitamin B-6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K