To Your Health
April, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 04)
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Vitamin D has emerged in recent years as a vitamin that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pain benefits. Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are inflammatory in nature and known to be associated with vitamin D deficiency. Low back pain and widespread pain that can be confused with fibromyalgia are also known to be associated with vitamin D deficiency. We get vitamin D from the sun, but its production is reduced 95 percent when a sunscreen with a sun-protective factor (SPF) of 8 or greater is applied to the skin. There are no foods that contain adequate amounts of vitamin D, so we must either get vitamin D from the sun or from supplements.

Levels of vitamin D in the body [25(OH)D] can be assessed via a simple blood test. The currently accepted normal range of 25(OH)D is 32-100 ng/ml, and there is evidence that 40-60 ng/ml is optimal. For the average person, 2,000-5,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D3 will push levels to at least 40 ng. I personally have taken 10,000 IU per day for three years and get modest sun exposure; my current level is 85 ng/ml. (Vitamin D researchers recently created a nonprofit organization through which individuals can inexpensively have their vitamin D levels assessed. The cost is a mere $30 per test and can be acquired at The test kit is sent to your home and results are e-mailed to you.)

Young woman suffering from low back pain. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Magnesium: Ever since I can remember, we have been bombarded with information about calcium, while magnesium is rarely emphasized. This is an odd situation because more than 300 enzymes require magnesium, so it is involved in an inordinate amount of metabolic reactions. From a clinical perspective, the average American's intake of magnesium is well below the recommended daily allowance (RDA) and this has been associated with the expression of numerous conditions including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, headache, chronic inflammation, and an increase in nervous system excitability. Approximately 400 mg of supplemental magnesium per day is thought to be adequate for most individuals. (Note: The most common side-effect associated with magnesium supplementation is diarrhea; this is a totally individual experience. I take 1,000 mg of magnesium every day and have normal bowel function, while others take 400 mg and get diarrhea. The average person is able to tolerate 400 mg. As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplement for the first time.)

Probiotics: Research is emerging that implicates poor digestive function with musculoskeletal pain expression. This speaks to the need to drastically reduce our consumption of sugar, flour products and refined oils that are devoid of fiber and known to compromise healthy gut bacteria. Supplementation with healthy bacteria called probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria) are known to reduce intestinal inflammation, and for many this translates into less musculoskeletal pain as well.

Ginger and Turmeric: Most herbs that we use to spice our meals are known to have anti-inflammatory functions. The most well-studied in the context of inflammation and pain are ginger and turmeric. Each has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal pain. The most economical way to take ginger and turmeric is with meals as an added spice. However, supplements are available and widely utilized. I personally spice my meals and take a ginger/turmeric supplement.

B Vitamins: The creation of cellular energy requires most B-complex vitamins. While B vitamins are not traditionally viewed as anti-inflammatory or analgesic, human and animal research suggests that B-vitamin supplementation may offer pain-reducing benefits. Life is challenging enough without having to deal with the additional burden of physical pain and suffering. Simple dietary and supplement strategies and supplements have brought substantial relief to many individuals - so what are you waiting for? Instead of turning to drugs for temporary relief to your pain, discuss drugless solutions with your doctor today.

David Seaman, MS, DC, DACBN, is the author of Clinical Nutrition for Pain, Inflammation and Tissue Healing. He has a master's degree in nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Conn., and lectures on nutrition for Anabolic Labs (