[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you experience chronic pain, life can feel like an uphill battle. There are, however, various natural ways to manage your symptoms – from lifestyle changes spanning diet, exercise and sleep to relaxation techniques and alternative therapies.
Vitamins and minerals also have a key part to play. These essential nutrients perform important roles within the body – releasing energy, strengthening organ function, boosting the immune system and even limiting and easing chronic pain. In this article, the spotlight is on vitamin D.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, and for a good reason. This fat-soluble vitamin, which has two major forms – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 – is produced when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight.
During the winter months in the UK, we don’t get enough of the right type of sunlight to create sufficient vitamin D. Fortunately, it is also available in a range of supplement formats and naturally occurs in some foods.
Vitamin D deficiency
Consistently low levels of vitamin D can result in vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked to muscle, bone or joint pain, muscle weakness or fatigue, fibromyalgia syndrome, rheumatic disorders, osteoarthritis, migraine headaches and various other conditions.
Signs and symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency may include:
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness or pain
- Depression, anxiety and SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
Benefits of vitamin D for people who experience pain
1. Strengthens your bones
Vitamin D is renowned for its bone-building and strengthening capabilities. Without it, our bodies cannot effectively absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential to good bone health. Vitamin D enables bone growth and prevents bones from thinning and becoming brittle, so it’s particularly important if you suffer from a long-term condition like osteoporosis or inflammatory arthritis, which cause damage to the joints.
2. Strengthens your muscles
Vitamin D can also help build muscle strength, thus preventing falls and injuries which can exacerbate pain. According to research from the University of Birmingham, increased levels of active vitamin D in the bloodstream improves muscle function.
In a study of 116 healthy people, aged between 20 and 74, the team used cutting-edge techniques to simultaneously analyse several different forms of vitamin D. They found that high levels of active vitamin D are associated with increased leg strength – in power, velocity and jump height – and different forms of vitamin D were associated with different muscle gene expression patterns.
3. Supports your immune system
Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection. Ensuring you have sufficient levels of the vitamin will aid your body’s immune response and help it fight off illness. If you live with chronic pain, catching the common flu can be extremely stressful and debilitating. Vitamin D could be the game-changer that you’ve been looking for!
4. Fights inflammation
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to an irritant – an outside invader. This could be bacteria, a virus or an external injury. It is a process designed to help the body protect you from infection. However, sometimes the immune system fights against the body’s own cells by mistake, causing harmful inflammations.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis. There is emerging evidence to suggest the vitamin has a significant anti-inflammatory effect and can lessen the ongoing pain from inflammation.
5. Reduces depression
Everyone seems happier and more relaxed in the summer – don’t you think? This isn’t a coincidence. Exposure to sunlight can (excuse the pun) brighten your mood, thanks to serotonin, a hormone released by the brain. If the brain has too little serotonin, it may lead to depression, and depression can make managing a chronic illness difficult.
There’s a significant relationship between depression and vitamin D deficiency as the vitamin plays an important role in healthy brain function. Researchers believe that the detection and treatment of inadequate vitamin D levels provides an easy, cost-effective therapy to improve long-term health and quality of life.
How to get more vitamin D
The best way to get more vitamin D is to spend time outdoors in the sunlight. According to the NHS, you should be able to get all the vitamin D you need from sunlight between late March/early April and the end of September.
People with dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin, will typically need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin. When you’re exposed to the sun, always remember to wear sunscreen and protective clothing.
Vitamin D in foods
Most foods don’t contain a lot of vitamin D but there are some options you can factor into your diet. Examples of foods rich in the sunshine vitamin include oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines (which are also high in omega-3 acids and great anti-inflammatories), red meat, liver and egg yolks, as well as some fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk and cereal.
Vitamin D supplements
During the winter months, many of us turn to supplements to top up our vitamin levels. You can explore vitamin D tablets, vitamin D chewy gummies and even a vitamin D spray, which can all usually be found on the Highstreet. It is common for people suffering from a vitamin D deficiency to be prescribed supplements.
To Better Days active patches can be applied to the skin and feature two key ingredients – vitamin D and dextrose – to soothe discomfort and reduce pain over time. A strong dose of vitamin D is provided directly to the affected area, where it is safely absorbed by your body to the damaged nerve, while dextrose supplies sugars to the area that acts as a ‘cell food’ for regeneration.
Available in small and big sizes, the patches deliver targeted relief for lower back pain, knee injury, post-injury nerve pain, elbow pain, back pain, neck pain, rheumatoid arthritis-related pain, wrist pain and more.
What are your thoughts on chronic pain and vitamin D? Have your say on the topic by visiting our Facebook community page Together For Better Days. We love hearing from you![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]