Dear Dr. Cannell:
I thought I’d share my story with you. Ten years ago I started showing symptoms of what doctors thought was rheumatoid arthritis (RA). My symptoms were overall body pain and some joint swelling and because I tested positive for the RA factor, they thought sure I was developing RA since my family also had a history with RA. Five years later my hip became involved. Blood tests were done again and I tested positive for the RA factor again and showed a lot of other symptoms of RA. I was diagnosed with RA and began an aggressive treatment plan of chemo therapy, biologic drugs and steroids.
I went down this path for another 5 years getting worse every year. Two years ago, during the winter of 2012, I was at my worst. My doctor recommended that I quit working and apply for 100% disability. I was still taking chemo, biological drugs, steroids, anti-depressants to help with pain and fentanyl (a horrible pain killer) and was still in pain and my mobility was decreasing.
My family doctor finally decided to switch my RA doctor and off I went. My new doctor sat me down asked me lots of questions, looked me over and sent me to the store to buy a bottle of Vitamin D3 and some Tums for calcium. My new doctor started me out with 15,000 IU’s of vitamin D a day. My symptoms began to subside 3 days later and in a month I was completely OFF all the medications I had been steadily taking for ten years!
Today I am in perfect health with no symptoms and still take 10,000 IU’s a day with my Tums. If I miss a dose I do feel some pain in my hips. I live in Alaska so my doctor’s theory is I started becoming deficient in my 20’s right around when my RA symptoms started.
I found you story fascinating. As you know, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks flexible joints. It can be a disabling and painful condition, which can lead to substantial loss of functioning. RA affects up to 1% of adults in the developed world. The risk is greater the further away from the equator one lives. Some studies show it is more common and more severe among African Americans.
While there are no studies that I am aware of that confirm your treatment experience, the mechanisms by which such a treatment effect is possible have been described.
- Vitamin D linked to autoimmune disorders
- “Tregs”, autoimmune disorders, and vitamin D
- Vitamin D and autoimmune disorders: The latest research
As far as dosage, according to the Food and Nutrition Board, 10,000 IU a day is the No Observed Adverse Effects Level, meaning no one has ever reported adverse effects at that dosage. So do not worry that you are taking too much. I hope your positive experience leads some researcher somewhere to test if vitamin D has a treatment effect in active RA.