A natural “pain pill” for arthritis?

Your lifetime risk of osteoarthritis is a whopping 50 percent. And if you’re in pain, it’s very easy to reach for an over the counter painkiller. But an important vitamin that’s also a hormone and an immune booster might be a better choice.

A study at the University of Florida shows that getting more vitamin D can not only reduce the pain of osteoarthritis in your knees, but may also help improve your ability to get around by improving your sense of balance.

Much of the research was performed on people who were obese: If you are very overweight, the extra stress on your joints increases your risk of arthritis in your knees substantially. The Florida study shows that in obese people, those with sufficient vitamin D can walk better, have improved balance and are better able to get up from a sitting position.

Top 10 arthritis mistakes [infographic]“Adequate vitamin D may be significant to improving osteoarthritis pain because it affects bone quality and protects cell function to help reduce inflammation. Vitamin D maintains calcium and phosphate concentration levels to keep bones strong,” says researcher Toni L. Glover. “Increased pain due to osteoarthritis could limit physical activity, including outdoor activity, which would lead to both decreased vitamin D levels and increased obesity.”

Your risk of osteoarthritis climbs as you grow older. It is the most common type of arthritis and afflicts millions globally. It attacks joints when the cartilage located at the ends of bones wears away over the years, losing its protective cushioning. That leads to pain, stiffness and the restriction of joint mobility.

“Vitamin D is inexpensive, available over-the-counter and toxicity is fairly rare,” Glover says. “Older obese patients with chronic pain should discuss their vitamin D status with their primary care provider. If it’s low, take a supplement and get judicious sun exposure.”

Plus, as we’ve noted before, plenty of studies show that just about all of us need more vitamin D.

Direct sunlight is the most natural way for humans to get vitamin D, along with eating animal products like beef liver, egg yolks, and cod liver oil.  Irradiated mushrooms are also an excellent mega-source of vitamin D and you can easily make your own.

Research shows that you should get enough vitamin D to reach 60-80ng/ml in a blood test. If you need to supplement, the easiest health option is to take from 5,000 IU twice weekly up to 10,000 IU a day until you reach optimal levels.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.