April 8, 2022

Vitamin D: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Joints and Bones

Written by: Omnia Tantawi, MSc

Everything you’ve been told up till now about vitamin D has been backward! In this article, we’re determined to set the record straight and debunk some of the most widespread myths about it. Stay tuned and continue reading to learn the pros and cons of vitamin D, where you can find it, and how you can ideally utilize it for your health.

 

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D is considered the ‘it’ vitamin when it comes to joint and bone health. This is probably due to its critical role in absorbing both calcium and phosphorus in the body, keeping your bones strong.

Thus, when if you’re lacking in vitamin D concentrations, your bones may become weaker and softer compromising you to a countless number of skeletal diseases like rickets, osteoporosis, fatigue, or bone fractures.

Presumably, vitamin D actually has other additional functions in treating some different health conditions like:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes (Type 2)
  • Boosting immune function

But for the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing only on its prominent role in maintaining bone, joint and muscle health.1,2

 

Some of the most common myths about Vitamin D

Plentiful misleading information about vitamin D has circulated on the internet. Wrong data like there’s no limit to taking vitamin D, or the only source for vitamin D is the sun, tanning salons are best for getting vitamin D.

These are all myths you should stop believing. Get your facts straight and backed by science from this article.

 

Is there a relationship between Vitamin D and bones/joints/muscles?

The literature is filled with studies on the efficacy of vitamin D in treating several bones, joints, and muscle conditions. Let us reiterate some data for you on how vitamin D can help with your health:

 

Pain management:3

A study favored the use of vitamin D in managing pain as a result of chronic conditions. This study revealed that vitamin D is safe, efficacious, and beneficial when it comes to treatment.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis:4

This study aimed to find out the link between vitamin D deficiency and triggering rheumatoid arthritis. After analyzing reports for 3489 patients, the study revealed that there was indeed a link.

This was evident by the data produced where it showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients had lower vitamin D levels as compared with other healthy controls.

 

Osteoarthritis:5

This study revealed that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in the progression of osteoarthritis. So, using it as a treatment strategy can certainly be beneficial in managing the symptoms and relieving the associated painful symptoms.

 

Vitamin D Sources

 

There are different sources to obtain vitamin D, these are:1

 

  • Direct sunlight

Since vitamin D is naturally produced in your body staying in a dormant state, it needs sunlight exposure —specifically Solar UV-B— to activate it. You should be careful to note that staying exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods can make you at risk of developing sunburn.

Since everybody’s reactions differ significantly from stimulants, you should customize according to your body how much area of skin to expose, the amount of sunscreen application.

Evidently, the amount of sunscreen you use can negatively affect vitamin D absorption within layers of the skin.6

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you should turn your back on using sunscreen to increase your vitamin D intake. Aside from sunburns, direct sunlight exposure with no sunscreen protection can make you at risk for developing sunburns, skin cancer, and early aging.7,8

Finally, one other factor to consider is how much lavish the sun is where you live. It can be quite challenging for those living in countries with limited sunlight exposure or for anyone for that matter in Wintertime.

 

  • Food sources rich in vitamin D

Your second natural vitamin D source is dietary and can be found in two forms D2 (from plant sources) and D3 (from animal sources).

Here’s a list of some food sources of Vitamin D:9,10

  • Oily fish
  • Red meat
  • Egg yolk
  • Liver
  • Dairy products
  • Fortified cereals
  • Mushroom
  • Yeast

It’s crucial to note that D3 sources have proven more effective in raising vitamin D in the body according to several studies.11,12

 

  • Supplements

If you’ve settled for a supplement source of vitamin D, you should know that there are two types of supplements. Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Since recent studies have concurred that vitamin D3 is better in increasing and maintaining vitamin D inside the blood, most physicians recommend it.

Nevertheless, you should be wise to always consult your healthcare professional before following any of the previously mentioned routes for vitamin D sources, as they would know what’s best for you.

Vitamin D supplements intake is considered the most reliable source of obtaining vitamin D as it doesn’t have many risk factors affecting it like its counterparts and you can rely on a regimented dose every day without going through the trouble of calculating your intake.

 

Dosage for Vitamin D10

According to the National Institute of Health, Office for Dietary Supplements recommends taking between 400 - 800 IU daily. Although this might differ according to age and underlying medical conditions.

This range can also vary according to guidelines and regulations of different countries, which is why it’s important to follow the advice of your doctor to help manage your vitamin D levels optimally to avoid suffering from under or overdosing on supplements.

 

What are the symptoms of low vitamin D?

Vitamin D deficiency manifests itself in different symptoms including:13

  • Muscle ache and weakness
  • Bone pain and brittleness
  • Lower back pain in women
  • Throbbing pain especially in lower extremities

 

Unfortunately, these symptoms can go be hard to pin down to the source and may go unnoticed for several years without being treated leading to severe complications for children or adults.

 

Management of Vitamin D deficiency13

Although it depends on the cause and degree of deficiency, generally, vitamin D deficiency is treated by giving 6000 IU daily or 50,000 IU weekly. This can be further tuned down to 1000-2000 IU daily once the concentration of vitamin D reaches 30ng/mL in the body.

 

What are the symptoms of high vitamin D?

In extremely rare cases, we can see toxicity from taking too many vitamin D supplements for an extended period of months. When you have accumulated vitamin D in your body you have also built-up calcium with it, this, in turn, leads to a condition named ‘hypercalcemia’ which manifests itself in the following symptoms:14

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Urinating frequently

And can further extend to outstanding complications like liver toxicity and kidney failure.

 

The Bottom Line

There’s no doubt that vitamin D is one of the notable topics nowadays due to its great benefits and promising therapeutic potential. Although there’s a consistent need for more clinical studies to discover its mechanism in detail and eliminate all myths circulating around it, so far, it shows great promise in treating skeletal health —as proven by science.

 

References:

  1. Holick MF. High Prevalence of Vitamin D Inadequacy and Implications for Health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings [Internet]. 2006 [cited 2022 Apr 3];81(3):353–73. Available from: www.mayoclinicproceedings.com
  2. Vitamin D | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health [Internet]. [cited 2022 Apr 3]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/
  3. Helde-Frankling M, Björkhem-Bergman L. Vitamin D in Pain Management. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2017 Oct 18 [cited 2022 Apr 3];18(10). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC5666851/
  4. Lin J, Liu J, Davies ML, Chen W. Serum Vitamin D Level and Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity: Review and Meta-Analysis. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2016 Jan 11 [cited 2022 Apr 3];11(1):e0146351. Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0146351
  5. Alabajos-Cea A, Herrero-Manley L, Suso-Martí L, Viosca-Herrero E, Cuenca-Martínez F, Varangot-Reille C, et al. The role of vitamin d in early knee osteoarthritis and its relationship with their physical and psychological status. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 1;13(11).
  6. Libon F, Courtois J, le Goff C, Lukas P, Fabregat-Cabello N, Seidel L, et al. Sunscreens block cutaneous vitamin D production with only a minimal effect on circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Arch Osteoporos [Internet]. 2017 Dec 1 [cited 2022 Apr 3];12(1). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28718005/
  7. Green AC, Hughes MCB, McBride P, Fourtanier A. Factors associated with premature skin aging (photoaging) before the age of 55: A population-based study. Dermatology. 2011 Feb;222(1):74–80.
  8. Dennis LK, Vanbeek MJ, Beane Freeman LE, Smith BJ, Dawson D v., Coughlin JA. Sunburns and risk of cutaneous melanoma, does age matter: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Ann Epidemiol [Internet]. 2008 Aug [cited 2022 Apr 3];18(8):614. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC2873840/
  9. Cardwell G, Bornman JF, James AP, Black LJ. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Oct 13 [cited 2022 Apr 3];10(10). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6213178/
  10. Vitamin D - NHS [Internet]. [cited 2022 Apr 3]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
  11. Shieh A, Chun RF, Ma C, Witzel S, Meyer B, Rafison B, et al. Effects of High-Dose Vitamin D2 Versus D3 on Total and Free 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Markers of Calcium Balance. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism [Internet]. 2016 Aug 1 [cited 2022 Apr 3];101(8):3070. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC4971338/
  12. H M Trang, D E Cole, L A Rubin, A Pierratos, S Siu, R Vieth. Evidence that vitamin D3 increases serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D more efficiently than does vitamin D2 [Internet]. 1998. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/68/4/854/4648650
  13. Recognition and Management of Vitamin D Deficiency - American Family Physician [Internet]. [cited 2022 Apr 3]. Available from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1015/p841.html#afp20091015p841-t3
  14. Marcinowska-Suchowierska E, Kupisz-Urbanska M, Lukaszkiewicz J, Pludowski P, Jones G. Vitamin D Toxicity–A Clinical Perspective. Frontiers in Endocrinology [Internet]. 2018 Sep 20 [cited 2022 Apr 3];9(SEP):550. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC6158375/

 

Article written by Omnia Tantawi, MSc
Omnia is an Assistant Lecturer and Medical Researcher from Egypt. She’s an integral part in many research projects that proved promising in revolutionizing the future of Medicine. As a Research Scholar, she’s particularly interested in Personalized & Molecular Medicine because she believes that this is the prospect of the healthcare industry and can be applied to all medical and pharmaceutical specializations. But at heart she remains a wordsmith, so she currently works as a Medical Writer. This transition was fairly easy with an Academic Medical background, ability to adapt to different audiences and passion for research and creation. She always takes the most complex or mundane topics and turn it into a must-read with an unparalleled style. In her free time, she likes to read books, tunes in Netflix or enjoys the outdoors.

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