By Marc Sorenson, EdD. For sun exposure…
Can sun exposure reduce rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
RA is a terrible, crippling disease, which causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, and certain organs in the body. Like most diseases, it is one to be avoided and prevented when possible, and sun exposure may indeed help. At our former health resort in Southern Utah, we observed that many people were able to reduce the swelling and inflammation of this disease through adherence to a mostly plant-based nutrition program, or so we thought. Sun exposure in our very sunlit climate may have also played a critically-important part. One of our attendees was a former writer and piano player whose fingers had lost their ability to use the keyboards on either the computer or the piano. In less than two weeks she had gained sufficient range of motion in her hands to resume her two important activities. In addition, the swelling of her knuckles was profoundly reduced. And whereas the nutrition we used was doubtlessly responsible for much of her success, sun exposure was likely responsible for the remainder.
One paper demonstrated that at high latitudes, where sun exposure is considerably less available, the rate of RA is much higher than at lower latitudes. RA is also more severe in winter, a time of less sun exposure. In another report from researchers in Ireland (a northern country with little sun exposure due to overcast conditions), it was shown that 70% of patients had low vitamin D levels and that 26% were severely deficient. And in an investigation using data from the nurses health study, those women who were in the highest versus the lowest category of UVB (ultraviolet light exposure from sun or other sources), had a 21% decreased RA risk.
RA is an autoimmune rheumatic disease (ARD), and seasonal vitamin D declines may trigger flares in (ARD). Such declines, of course, are a result of decreasing sun exposure in the colder seasons.
Arthritic joints carry another devastating side effect. Hip replacement surgery is often prescribed for arthritic conditions, and those people who go through total-hip-replacement procedures are 4.7 times as likely to have an ischemic stroke, and 4.4 times as likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke in the first two weeks post surgery. Those stroke risks remain elevated for 6-12 weeks.
Eat correctly and safely soak up the sun. It’s a better option than hip replacement and potential stroke!
 Medicinenet.com. Definition of rheumatoid arthritis. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5354.
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Arkema EV, Hart JE, Bertrand KA, Laden F, Grodstein F, Rosner BA, Karlson EW, CostenbaderKH. Exposure to ultraviolet-B and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis among women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 Apr;72(4):506-11
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