Vitamin D3 Should Be One of Your Joint Pain Vitamins

Vitamin D3 Should Be One of Your Joint Pain Vitamins

Updated May 30th, 2019.  Joint pain is more than the result of an aging process or injury.  Nutrients can fall short, which cause your body to have fatigue, aches, pains, hormone imbalances and more.  Joint pain vitamins are just beginning to be recognized as important for reducing the need for dangerous pain-relieving prescription drugs.  Pain relief strategies should absolutely focus on vitamin D and other nutrient supplements.  Why? Vitamin D3 is more of a hormone than a vitamin, and because of this, has at least a thousand functions in the body. Many other nutrients play a role in the structure of the joint as well, making nutrients an easy option to start maximizing.

This blog focuses on vitamin D facts, how other nutrients help with joint pain, and how you can optimize your health with a few simple steps. First, here are the facts about vitamin D that you should know to make an informed decision about where and how to get it.

Vitamin D Fact 1.  You are still probably not getting enough

Vitamin D is critical for health and that’s a fact. Next time you go to your doctor, ask them specifically to test your 25-hydroxyvitamin D level.

Astute doctors providers are now checking this, but when they are time-crunched to discuss all of your health problems in 5 minutes, this one will get missed.  So ask for it.

It’s your health so you deserve to know. Your blood level needs to be at least 40-50 ng/ml on the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Disease risk plummets at the level of 50 ng/ml and your well-being can rise.

Don’t go by the reference ranges that say you can be “normal” at 20-30 ng/ml.

Vitamin D is truly a hormone, not a vitamin, so don’t mess around.

Hormones have thousands of functions, so you really are leaving a lot to chance if you don’t know your numbers.

Deficiency causes your other hormones to be out of balance, including the ones that control your blood glucose (insulin),  your sex hormones,  even your thyroid and parathyroid hormones.

Don’t be deficient. It’s a serious health risk.

Vitamin D Myths

Misconception 1:But I drink milk, I’m fine.”  Please stop thinking that milk is going to give you enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is almost exclusively a sun factor.

Each summer sun exposure (if your skin gets a little change in pigment) provides 10,000-25,000 IU of vitamin D.

How much is in milk?  90 IU per cup.  Truly pales in comparison! Simple math would explain that you need at least 100 glasses of milk to even come CLOSE to what you get if you are out in the sun.

Misconception 2: “I get sun, my vitamin D level is fine.”  This is also not necessarily true.  A study of sun exposure over 12 weeks wasn’t enough to restore blood levels of vitamin D for women living in Thailand. However, sun AND supplements increased blood levels to a normal range.

Misconception 3: “I take a multiple vitamin, I am fine.” This is definitely false.  Most multiple vitamins contain only 400 IU, which is not enough to budge vitamin D status.

Desk jobs cause vitamin D deficiency

Do you work indoors? Or are you the indoor type?  Do you prefer television over nature walks?

If so, you are almost certain to be deficient without supplements. The sun angles at 5 or 6 pm in the Northern Hemisphere are too oblique to give you much vitamin D when you get off of work.

Sitting at a desk likely also worsens your joint pain!

Find out more about sun exposure and vitamin D from the Vitamin D Council.

What is an IU? Vitamin D dosing demystified

If you supplement with vitamin D, 5000 IU,  it weighs less than a couple of small drops of water.  The units are deceptive.

One vitamin D IU  is 0.025 micrograms of vitamin D. That means 5000 IU of vitamin D3 is 125 micrograms or about a tenth of a milligram.  Pretty tiny amount!

The sun gives you about the equivalent of 4 small drops of water in weight of vitamin D.

A glass of milk gives you about 1 hundredth of a tiny drop of water of vitamin D, if that helps put it in perspective.

Not even a drop in the bucket of your body’s needs for an analogy.  One final point on this topic; over-the-counter D3 is more natural, safe, and effective than the prescription variety, D2.

What about Vitamin D Toxicity?

Vitamin D can reach toxic levels but it is exceedingly rare.  For safety purposes, it is always best to check both serum calcium and 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.  The true marker of toxicity is not the vitamin D blood level, but an elevated serum calcium.

For an in-depth review of vitamin D and the range of safety, visit Painscience.com. 

Does Your Doctor Understand Vitamin D?

If your doctor or provider gives you a quick “no” answer about vitamin D and testing for blood levels, they may not know much about the topic.

Don’t worry so much about taking too much vitamin D.  A couple of health exceptions exist, but they are very rare. Your doctor communicates these exceptions, and knows about vitamin D, right?

 

Vitamin D Fact 2.  Probably helps prevent autoimmune diseases and cancer

I lumped autoimmune disease and cancer together.  Why?  They are both diseases with mediators in the immune system. Both disorders result in pain in the joint which may be helped by vitamin D as well.

Some cool trivia: Vitamin D directly interacts with the genes involved in autoimmune diseases and cancer. What does that mean? Well, vitamin D is able to ramp down the expression of the genes that trigger autoimmune symptoms and cancer.

Vitamin D also is an immune system powerhouse in and of itself.  It makes antimicrobial proteins that help kill viruses, fungus, and bacteria where it is most needed.

Some studies show that vitamin D supplementation is very effective at helping reduce the chances of influenza and colds, according to Harvard Gazette. It also plays a role in fighting other daunting infections.

Vitamin D also helps keep the immune system in check.  Too much immunity is a bad thing.  This is the case in autoimmune disease.

Multiple research studies show that vitamin D can change the ratio of T cells, especially improving T- regulatory cells, and therefore helps keep the body from attacking itself.

Most types of cancer seem to be related to vitamin D inadequacy.  This might seem like a coincidence if it was one study. But there are now hundreds of studies showing that vitamin D at higher blood levels is linked to less cancer occurrence. The coincidence that keeps being coincidental?

Clinical trials often shy away from giving vitamin D in repletion doses.

Vitamin D Fact 3. It can help with pain

Muscles aching, body creaks. Your hip hurts and you can’t tolerate exercise because you are so sore and tired.  You have headaches.

You are just getting old.  Or are you?  Maybe you are deficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps pain in cases of fibromyalgia, pain from autoimmune disease, and well, helps with the pain of the deficiency.  See below for dosing used in clinical studies.

The deficiency of vitamin D itself may cause joint pain, potentially because it causes muscles to be over-sensitive.  It may also cause nerves to be more sensitive, thereby causing many vague, nagging aches and pains.

Vitamin D deficiency is even related to more severe forms of pain in spinal stenosis, headaches, and low back pain.

What’s the proof?  Vitamin D has been shown to help both nerve and muscle pains, but typically at doses high enough to get the blood levels at an adequate range.

You likely need to take more than 2000 IU per day for pain relief.  It also helps calm down excessive inflammation in the body, which in and of itself can be painful.

Vitamin D Reduces Pain infographic by The Healthy RD

Vitamin D and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Low levels of vitamin D are related to getting rheumatoid arthritis and also the severity of arthritic pain in this group of people.  Vitamins for rheumatoid arthritis should include vitamin D.

A review of 9 research studies of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, showed that vitamin D supplementation reduces disease activity and reduced rheumatoid arthritis recurrence as well.

Vitamin D Fact 4. It can help your heart and blood vessels

Your heart is a muscle that relies on a split-second demand for adequate electrolyte amounts for contraction and relaxation.

One of those electrolytes is calcium.  Without enough vitamin D, your heart pump may function at a lower than optimal level.

In fact, vitamin D deficiency is repeatedly associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease as well as death from it.

Stroke risk appears to about double with deficiency.  It goes back to the fact that vitamin D is a hormone, and as such, it helps regulate other hormones, including a hormone specifically secreted by the heart muscle called B-type natriuretic peptide.

Supplementing vitamin D also may improve stroke symptoms.

It also helps balance out parathyroid hormone, which contributes to cardiovascular diseases and inflammation.

 

Looping the conversation back to inflammation, vitamin D plays a substantial role in decreasing some of the biggest inflammatory components in the body, including NF-kB. When it comes to inflammation, it is never good for your heart because it makes your cholesterol much more likely to deposit inside the arterial walls.

Inflammation negatively affects your joints as well.

Again, vitamin D acts as a hormone, exerting 1000s of functions.  It has even been shown in some case reports of children with enlarged hearts to help normalize heart function.

Vitamin D helps improve vascular tone, and early research shows it may help in erectile dysfunction. That is a blood flow issue.

In adults with heart failure, deficiency seems to severely increase the risk of death; by 3 times, and sudden cardiac death goes up by 5 times.

I personally helped facilitate a research project using vitamin D treatment in heart failure patients.  We found that vitamin D supplementation at 10,000 IU per day for 6 months improved the quality of life and function of people with heart failure. These patients also had improved lab values that are surrogate markers of outcomes, such as C-reactive protein.

While research is still considered early in this area, the results from a compilation of 465 patients showed improved heart failure outcomes with doses greater than 4000 IU of vitamin D per day.

How does this relate to joint health?  Healthy blood supply to the joints is required for the best joint nutrient supply.

Vitamin D Fact 5. Prevents pregnancy complications

This may be the most striking area for change in health because, in relative terms, pregnancy is only 9 months.

A research group out of the Medical University of South Carolina found that women achieving higher blood levels of vitamin D during pregnancy, often by taking higher doses of vitamin D, had huge reductions in pregnancy complications, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, infections, and preterm birth.

I have been privileged to get to know and work with a researcher from this project, Carole Baggerly.  Their work is noble, but also has been an extremely challenging message to convey to the world because dogma is difficult to get past.

WebMD and respected pregnancy organizations are getting the message out there about the benefits of vitamin D.

Think of how many millions of lives this could help, and how many dollars it can save. I got a sneak peek at their newest research paper, and the new study has just as robust of pregnancy results.

Check out Grassroots Health website to learn more about the organization helping to reduce the burden of disease due to vitamin D deficiency.

How does this relate to joint pain?  Pregnancy is a high-demand nutrient situation and amps up your body’s vitamin D requirements. If you are lacking vitamin D, you are more likely to suffer from pain.

Vitamin D Fact 6. It may make your body leaner

Being lean can take pounds off your joints, thereby reducing joint pain.

You start taking vitamin D.  Your aches and pains get better. You might get more energy.  That might make you feel like exercising more.

But vitamin D3 also may independently make you leaner.  Why? Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with extra infiltration or accumulation of fat within the muscle fibers of your body.

Therefore, vitamin D may change the structure and function of your muscles, but also, when your levels of vitamin D go up, you may get leaner.

It helps with muscle contraction, so exercise will likely feel a whole lot easier.  It helps normalize testosterone and estrogen levels.

Studies using higher levels of vitamin D and giving it longer term demonstrate that vitamin D may help people who are trying to lose weight. For example, 50,000 IU vitamin D per week resulted in weight loss, reduced waist width, hip width, and cholesterol improvement compared to placebo in obese and overweight women.

The vitamin D group lost more weight than the group not taking vitamin D.

Vitamin D Fact 7. Helps your brain work better

Vitamin D deficiency is repeatedly related to symptoms of poor memory.  Alzheimer’s disease risk goes up exponentially with deficiency.

So do mood disorders like depression and behavioral disorders such as ADHD and autism.  So that’s just associations, but here comes the proof.

Higher dose vitamin D helped autistic symptoms in a recent small clinical trial.  It helps in cognitive function in multiple sclerosis.

It helps symptoms of depression, especially seasonal affective disorder.  It’s one piece of the puzzle, keep that in mind.

Depression and anxiety were improved for diabetic women with anxiety when receiving 50,000 IU vitamin D3 per week compared to placebo.

But how does it work?  I’m going to talk about hormones and inflammation again.

You guessed it.  Vitamin D helps make the “love” hormone called oxytocin.  It helps with nerve growth and is critical to make neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Think about the fact that you may take a medication that helps with serotonin reuptake.  Without enough vitamin D, there is not enough serotonin.  There is a missing piece in the puzzle.

The brain happens to be very susceptible to inflammation and stress.  Vitamin D knocks down inflammation and stress hormones.

How does this relate to joint pain vitamins?  If your brain is happier, you are more likely to be more active and lean as described above. You are also more likely to make better food choices, which provide higher nutrient amounts for your joint health.

The controversy of vitamin D in the news and in research

So we have the relationship, and we have the proof.  And yet, why are we all still so skeptical?  Is it because big pharmaceutical groups are a bit worried?

Are they churning out a doubt in the media?  Are they working with governing agencies dictating nutrition policies?  I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Using Vitamin D as a Joint Pain Supplement

The following randomized clinical trials dosed vitamin D in the following way:

  • For lower back pain in obese patients, an initial loading dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D was given, followed by 4000 IU per day for 16 weeks. Note that these patients were deficient.
  • People with knee osteoarthritis had relief from pain and had improved functional health and quality of life with 50,0000 IU vitamin D2 per week over a 6 month period.
  • A compilation study of women with knee osteoarthritis found that those receiving MORE than 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day achieved pain relief in over 1100 women.
  • In people with non-specific musculoskeletal pain, high doses of vitamin D (150,000 IU) at baseline and at 6 weeks, resulted in pain reduction.
  • For fibromyalgia, 50,000 IU vitamin D3 per week over 20 weeks resulted in pain reduction.

A note about dosing:

While studies tend to use high weekly doses, it is much safer and more natural to give daily vitamin D at lower doses of the equivalent amount spread out throughout the week.  Vitamin D3 is also much better than vitamin D2 typically due to fewer side effects and larger effectiveness.

Also, studies that showed benefit for pain ALWAYS used more than 2,000 IU per day.  Make sure to check with your healthcare provider about your individual vitamin D requirements.

Consider vitamin D cofactors

Our bodies are meant to receive a diverse and rich supply of nutrients from foods and from the sun. Unfortunately, by recent estimates, this is a very rare occurrence due to food habits and soil depletion.

In order for the body to properly use vitamin D, make sure to get adequate amounts of the following cofactors.

{Please note that this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.}

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is very common and supplements of magnesium itself can help reduce pain.  Not only is magnesium involved in vitamin D metabolism, but your body stores may also drop if you don’t have enough magnesium in your system when starting vitamin D.

If you don’t eat green vegetables and seeds daily, you run the risk of magnesium deficiency. Certain medications may also rob you of magnesium.  Supplementation of magnesium, as well as dosing and brands,  are included in my best heart health supplements blog.

Personally, my favorite way to supplement magnesium is in the form of the Lifelong Vitality Pack because it doesn’t upset my stomach as most magnesium supplements do. It has dimagnesium malate and ascorbate.

This particular Lifelong Vitality Pack supplement regimen clinically improved pain in a pilot trial as well. For joint pain vitamins, it is an obvious choice because it also contains zinc and antioxidants that reduce inflammation.  Its vitamins are sourced naturally too, such as folate.

Generally, supplements of magnesium at 200 mg to 400 mg are safe. Always choose a highly absorbable kind of magnesium to avoid side effects and for maximal benefit.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 plays an essential role in skeletal and heart health. Yet, vitamin K2 deficiency is almost universal.  For the general population, 180 micrograms of vitamin K2 is helpful and supports bone strength, along with vitamin D3.  Make sure to get the pure and tested form of vitamin K2 called MenaQ7®.

Vitamin K2 may also reduce harmful calcification inside the artery wall.

I like the combination of vitamin D and vitamin K2 called Now Mega D3 and MK7.  You can find it here.

Always check with your doctor before supplementing if you are on blood-thinning medication.

Zinc

Zinc deficiency can contribute to muscle pains and cramps in certain people. This critical mineral also plays a role in the effectiveness of vitamin D in the body. It helps the strength of your bones and your immunity as well.

While zinc deficiency is less common than vitamin D or magnesium deficiency, the following groups run a risk of being low in zinc:

  • Vegetarians
  • Older adults
  • People on prescription blood pressure or diuretic medications
  • If you drink alcohol
  • People with diabetes
  • Athletes
  • People with low-quality diets

Does your diet contain mostly pasta, grains, legumes, and rice?  Odds are, you are low in zinc.  Keep your dose of zinc moderate if you supplement; large doses of zinc long-term can impair your body’s use of another nutrient called copper.  This translates to around 10-15 mg per day.

Some conditions require more zinc.  To find out more, read about zinc dosing at WebMD.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is required for the body to use vitamin D effectively.  If you are low in vitamin D, you are more likely to have toxic effects from too much vitamin A.

The best sources of vitamin A are dark orange vegetables and organ meats. A popular way to get vitamin A in supplements is in a moderate dose of cod liver oil.

You can read more about vitamin A here.

Supplementing vitamin A requires caution: toxicity can occur.  As always, check with your doctor before starting any new supplements.

Other Joint Pain Vitamins

Turmeric

Turmeric is well-researched for its pain-relieving properties and is a safe alternative to reduce inflammation.  Clinical research shows that about 1000 mg per day helps with arthritis pain.

Some turmeric absorbs well, while others have almost no absorption. One way to increase absorption is to take with piperine, a black pepper extract.

The best way to absorb turmeric is in the form of BCM95®, which absorbs over 6 times more than curcumin or with black pepper piperine.

A type of turmeric supplement that I love is called Deep Blue Polyphenol Complex that you can find here.  If you become a wholesale member, you save over 25 percent.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin are likely effective in cases of mild to moderate arthritis. Glucosamine and Chondroitin provide the essential structural materials which are required for healthy cartilage, and also promotes a healthy range of motion and flexibility of joints.

According to WebMD, glucosamine for joint pain doses that are effective include:  1500 mg once daily or 500 mg three times daily, either alone or together with 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate two or three times daily, has been used for up to 3 years.

I like the Solgar Extra Strength Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM.  Why?  It meets Good Manufacturing Practices and Natural Products Association, which exceeds FDA requirements for quality and purity.

You can find it here.

Glucosamine vitamins as combinations are likely best when including vitamin D. Consult with your doctor before starting. Caution: these products are derived from shellfish.  Avoid if you have a shellfish allergy.

Fish oil

Fish oil can be an add-on to your vitamins for joint pain and stiffness. It is especially effective for rheumatoid arthritis pain.  The omega-3 fats in fish oil can reduce inflammation in the joints and reduce pain and improve flexibility as well.

Fish oil reduced symptoms of pain in knee osteoarthritis as well.

You will want to take at 2.5-3 grams per day to have the most effect. Bonus: fish oil is good for your brain, heart, and arteries as well!

Check with your doctor before taking fish oil if you are on blood-thinning medications.

Frankincense and Boswellia

Frankincense and Boswellia are both extracts from the Boswellia tree and are effective at reducing inflammation.

In addition, frankincense reduces arthritis and joint pain in as little as 5 days in a clinical study.

Frankincense also likely helps other inflammatory conditions like asthma.

The frankincense I like can be found here.

 

A Personal Note

I had just turned 31, and my body was continually aching.  I was thin and in shape, but my lower back really hurt.  My diet was better than the average diet too.  With help from a very engaging nurse practitioner, vitamin D insufficiency was identified for me.  My blood level was less than 30 ng/ml, even after visiting sunny Las Vegas and supplementing vitamin D3 around 2000 IU per day!

My provider started me on a course of vitamin D3 at 10,000 IU per day and rechecked my blood level in about 6 months.

It didn’t take long to feel SO much better.  By week 2, vitamin D3 made my lower back pain DISAPPEAR!  My pain was caused by lack of vitamin D.

To this day, my pain remains gone after a decade of supplemental vitamin D. I also take supportive micronutrients because even though I eat well, we can’t really get enough nutrients from diet alone.

I use doTERRA’s Lifelong Vitality Pack.  Why?  It gives me energy AND makes me sleep better. It also doesn’t have risky-high levels of nutrients. It contains a moderate zinc dose.  It contains all-natural folate from lemons.  Anti-inflammatory compounds are present, including Boswellia, which are also good for joint pain. It’s omega 3 supplement is the highest quality on the market, with cloves, frankincense, lutein, and 1100 mg murine and plant omega 3’s.

It is most affordable with doTERRA’s Loyalty Rewards Program. This way, you save 25% off retail, and get big discounts on other joint supplements like the turmeric in Deep Blue Polyphenols, and earn reward points back on your purchase. doTERRA also offers a 30-day money back guarantee that provides you with a full refund if you feel that the products are not providing you with the desired benefits.

I also supplement my vitamin D and vitamin K2 together from NOW brand because it contains the pure and patented form of both and is GMP certified.

 

Summary

Vitamin D3 is an important nutrient that should be considered a joint pain vitamin.  Adequate dosing is very important to achieve pain relief.  It is also very important to eat a diverse diet rich in nutrients.  Supplement with cofactors, including zinc, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K2, when applicable to you, to gain the maximal vitamin D benefits.

 

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