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We all remember getting told at a young age that an apple a day keeps the doctor away! But what if I told you that a lot of research about chronic illness has revealed that good old vitamin C can keep the pain away?

A new study published in the current issue of Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, shows people who ate the least amount of fruits and vegetables were twice as likely to develop inflammation in the joints characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis compared with those who ate the most.  And those with the lowest levels of vitamin C in their blood based on their diet, were three times more likely to develop inflammatory arthritis than people who had healthy levels.

This research is revealing that the antioxidant vitamin C, found in most fruits and vegetables, but especially citrus fruits, strawberries and red sweet peppers, may be largely responsible for the protective effect of the joints. That’s why my doctor recently got me on the kick of supplementing my vitamin C levels in my diet by using a pharmaceutical grade vitamin C powder. I am starting to mix it with my orange juice and water to work it into my liquids for the day.

A healthy level of vitamin C for most people is between 60-90mg a day.  That is actually the recommended daily allowance in most countries, but there are much higher dosages needed for things like fighting colds (ie. an Emergen-C packet has 1000mg of vitamin C to kick your cold). The other kicker is that vitamin C is gone from your body in about 3 hours from taking it.  So in order to help your body recover from a cold, you need to take one of those Emergen-C packets every few hours to keep the vitamin C levels in your body stable.

For a chronic illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis, the recommended daily dose is between 15-100g per day (let me point out GRAMS to you here).  Emergen-C is only 1g of vitamin C to give you a comparison. I had to work my way up to 15g in the past few weeks in order to tolerate that much vitamin C in my body, so don’t just start at 15 or you’ll be hurting!

I’m sure you’re asking how vitamin C can help a chronic disease, just like I was wondering before I started increasing my intake. Vitamin C is an essential cofactor for 8 different enzymes in our bodies. Some of which make/repair blood vessels, skin and cartilage, which all suffer when vitamin C is low. Low dopamine is also an effect, which means a lack of deep sleep, restless legs and more. Other symptoms of low vitamin C include cognitive impairment, fatigue and muscle pain. They have discovered that vitamin C restores blood vessel function and blood pressure and normalizes inflammation and symptoms of allergy in your body (which is directly related to RA).  It also specifically increases the speed of neutrophil (white blood cell) migration (attack), which is one of the main reasons we take more of it when we get a cold.

While treating rheumatoid arthritis pain and inflammation with vitamin C may not work for everyone, I think it’s worth a try — especially since it is such a natural approach. For those of you who don’t have a chronic illness, it is still suggested to keep that apple-a-day in your lifestyle (or at least keep eating those fruits and veggies on a daily basis).

According to my doctor and some other articles on the important vitamins in treating RA, it’s not all about vitamin C.  Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E are the other main vitamins to take into consideration.  My doctor is having me focus on C, B12 and D, since my blood tests showed a severe deficiency in these very important vitamins. I’m already up to 15g and tolerating it, so let’s hope in a few weeks I start noticing some changes in the pain or flare-ups.