Vitamin B6

Women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have lower levels of vitamin B6, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The B6 levels weren't low due to dietary intake, but to metabolism changes in the women with RA.

People with RA have higher levels of homocysteine, a protein associated with heart attack and stroke. As this protein increases in the body, vitamin B6 levels drop, which the study showed led to a worsening of the arthritis. Not surprisingly. Vitamin B6 is a player in many functions in the body, including protein metabolism, red blood cell metabolism, and proper functioning of the nervous and immune systems.

The recommended daily intake or allowance for women is 1.3 mg per day (1.9 to 2 mg if you're pregnant or breastfeeding). The best natural sources are fortified cereals, potatoes, bananas, beans, chicken breasts and oatmeal.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is gaining respect in treating and preventing RA. In a large study conducted at the Iowa Women's Health Center, women with diets rich in vitamin D were less likely to have rheumatoid arthritis. Women who got less than 200 international units (IU) per day had a 33 per cent greater risk of developing the disorder.

Vitamin D is well-known for its ability to protect bones. Now there's increasing evidence that it defends against autoimmune diseases such as arthritis by battling inflammation and strengthening the immune system. Also, it helps to prevent muscle pain and weakness.

Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a major health concern across North America. The recommended daily amount for adults is between 800 to 1000 IU. Few foods contain vitamin D; the skin of fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are the richest dietary sources. You can also eat food enriched with this nutrient, or buy supplements.

Or, try to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. with your arms and legs exposed; your body will make its own supply, with little risk of sun damage to your skin.

Vitamin E with Fish Oil

This vitamin on its own is no longer considered a factor in alleviating or preventing rheumatoid arthritis. However, recent research suggests it may help relieve arthritis when taken with fish oil. In a study using mice conducted at the University of Buffalo fish oil combined with vitamin E reduced levels of cytokines, proteins that cause inflammation, joint swelling, pain and tenderness.

If you eat lots of fish or take fish oil supplements to cope with arthritis, you may experience even greater relief by combining it with this vitamin. The recommended daily dose for an adult is 15 mg per day. Good food sources include eggs, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, nuts, nut oils, peanut butter, tomato pomace or paste, vegetable oils (cottonseed and safflower in particular) and whole grains.

Try to eat these foods in their raw state if possible as cooking can destroy some of the vitamin E. Also, store foods in air-tight containers and away from light.

Vitamin K

Low levels of vitamin K are quite common. After all, it's mostly found in green leafy vegetables, which hardly compete with fries and pizza in the North American diet. However, low levels of this nutrient have been linked to osteoarthritis (OA) in the hand and knee.

In a study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, vitamin K deficiency was associated with abnormal cartilage, bone mineralization and osteophyte (bone spur) growth. This deficiency also causes narrowing of the joint. Eating a diet rich in vitamin K may help prevent OA, or repair some of the damage that's already occurred.

Recommended daily amounts vary from 85 micrograms (mcg) to 45 mg. Vitamin K supplements shouldn't be taken without medical supervision. Your best bet is to increase vitamin-K rich foods in your diet. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that one serving of broccoli or two servings of spinach contains four to five times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K.

More good sources include asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.