Beneficial Supplements for RA
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis can take a number of supplements to help reduce disease activity and pain. It is important to understand that any vitamins and supplements will not cure RA but will, in the long run, help your body get healthier.
According to research, vitamin D deficiency is heavily linked to RA and RA symptoms. Studies have shown that the more vitamin D deficient a patient is, the more severe the symptoms of RA are. Additionally, vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, as it helps the body process calcium.
Thus, those with RA may wish to take a vitamin D supplement. If, after testing from a doctor determines that vitamin D levels are severely low, a vitamin D injection may be in order to help restore the presence of the vitamin in the body.
Vitamin D is found naturally in dairy and grains, so if you adhere to a vegan or gluten-free diet, it is important to monitor your vitamin D intake. You should also be monitoring it if you live in a colder climate or if you do not go out in the sun often, as vitamin D is also absorbed through the skin via sunlight.
Besides vitamin D, there are other nutritional needs to consider if you suffer from RA. For example, many RA medications cause the blockage of certain vitamins and minerals to be absorbed in your body, meaning that you need to make up for it extra elsewhere with an injection or supplement. Additionally, because of chronic inflammation, as an RA patient you may need more protein than someone who does not have RA. A lack of protein can reduce your energy levels and in general make you feel more unwell.
If you take corticosteroids, you may need to speak to your doctor about upping your calcium intake, as they can make it more difficult for your body to use the calcium you’re already getting. As you may already know, calcium is essential for strong bones and keeping your bones healthy—which is a major factor in dealing with RA.
While you can increase your calcium intake with supplements (and possible injections if your doctor feels it is necessary), you can also up your intake of certain calcium rich foods to get more of the nutrient. Most dairy is naturally rich in calcium, however there are other foods that can fulfill your calcium needs. For example, seafood, leafy greens (like kale and broccoli), white beans, figs, almonds, oranges, sesame seeds, orange juice and even Cheerios can help bolster your calcium intake.
Folic acid, or folate, is another big vitamin that drugs for RA can interfere with. You may hear this vitamin mentioned in conjunction with pregnancy, as pregnant women need to up their intake to prevent birth defects, boost their metabolism and help their baby form inside the womb. However, it also supports your body’s metabolism and can help with things such as RA hair loss.
Many drugs used to treat RA, like methotrexate and sulfasalazine can interfere with the body’s folic acid absorption, so it is important to take supplements or increase your intake naturally. Folic acid is naturally present in broccoli, citrus, raspberries, strawberries, spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce, avocado, lentils and beans and most other vegetables (notably carrots, corn and celery).