Does Vitamin C Help Psoriatic Arthritis?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that’s found in many foods, including citrus (such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit), guavas, chili peppers, strawberries, broccoli, kale, and certain herbs like thyme and parsley. Recognized as an antioxidant, research on vitamin C has looked into how it may help prevent or hinder the development of some cancers and other diseases characterized by inflammation. Two such conditions studied are psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

vitamin C

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Benefits of Vitamin C

Vitamin C plays an important role in immune function and improves your absorption of iron. It helps to protect cells and keep them healthy. It also helps maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, and cartilage. Studies show a positive link between vitamin C and bone density. 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that blocks damage caused by free radicals, which are oxygen-containing molecules released when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation. A buildup of free radicals contributes to the aging process and the development of certain conditions, including:

Vitamin C is a necessary element for the body to make collagen—a key component of cartilage. It also plays an important role in the immune system, by regulating the production of cytokines (inflammatory proteins) and decreasing histamines levels that are triggered by allergens.

Vitamin C for Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis that develops in some people with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to build up and form plaques, dry, inflamed raised lesions on the skin. The cause of psoriatic arthritis is unclear, but researchers think it includes both environmental and genetic factors.

In one case review, a 36-year-old woman with severe psoriasis since the age of 22 had been prescribed topical anti-steroid cream during that 14-year period. Doctors suggested a diet rich in fruits and vegetable and the addition of several supplements, including vitamin C. After six months on the diet and supplements, the patient's psoriasis completely cleared up.

Both animal and human studies have shown the positive effects of vitamin C on cartilage, as well. One study in rats showed that vitamin C reduced cartilage loss and prevented the progression of osteoarthritis ("wear and tear" arthritis that gets worse with age). In another study, researchers discovered that high levels of vitamin C intake helped reduce cartilage and joint damage.

How to Increase Vitamin C Intake

Fruits and vegetables are your best sources for vitamin C, followed by supplements. The recommended dietary allowances for vitamin C for adults aged 19 years and older is 90 milligrams for men and 75 milligrams for women, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you are pregnant, you can take up to 85 milligrams, and 115 milligrams if you are breastfeeding. Smokers, burn victims, and people recovering from surgery will need extra vitamin C in their diets. 

Some diets like the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian and vegan diets will usually provide you with sufficient sources of vitamin C. Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day can contain over 200 milligrams of vitamin C. To get the optimal daily allowance of vitamin C, eat fruits and vegetables raw. Storing produce for a long time and cooking it in certain ways, like steaming or microwaving, may reduce some of the vitamin C.

Dietary Sources

The following fruits are the best sources of vitamin C:

  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon

The following vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Bell peppers (green and red)
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Turnip greens
  • Other leafy greens
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Winter squash

Some foods, like grains, cereals, and processed foods, have added vitamin C. To see how much added vitamin C is in food products, check their nutrition labels. 

Supplements

If you’re not eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, you can take a vitamin C supplement in tablet, capsule, or chewable forms two to three times daily with a meal. Supplements are also available in powder, crystalline, and liquid forms.

Supplement dosage ranges from 25–1,000 milligrams. If you have digestive issues, you can take buffered versions of vitamins. If you’re taking any type of medication for a health condition, consult with your doctor before starting to take a vitamin C supplement. Also, vitamin C has a diuretic effect, so be sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated. 

Summary

Vitamin C is crucial to various healthy body functions, including the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. When it comes to psoriatic arthritis, getting enough vitamin C is especially important because the vitamin helps maintain cartilage and blocks the damage caused by free radicals that can contribute to arthritis. Also, Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it may help reduce inflammation, which is common is psoriatic arthritis.

A Word From Verywell

While there is no cure for PsA, you can lessen flare-ups (when symptoms worsen) and help reduce the progression of the disease with a change in lifestyle that includes a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. These foods have high levels of antioxidants, which aid in reducing the inflammation of psoriatic arthritis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes psoriatic arthritis flare-ups?

    Causes for flare-ups include skipping your medication and injuring your joints. For example, banging your elbow into something can cause inflammation in that area. Certain foods like sugary drinks, sodas, and high-fat and salty foods like processed snacks, as well as lack of exercise, can all trigger flare-ups.

  • What foods trigger psoriatic arthritis?

    Avoid food that has added sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbohydrates, including processed foods. These foods can trigger inflammation in the body and lead to flare-ups.

  • How do you treat psoriatic arthritis?

    There are several ways to treat PsA, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which can help slow disease progression. Other forms of treatment include exercise, heat and cold therapy, splinting body parts, proper body mechanics, like maintaining good posture, and surgery. Another form of treatment is biologics, which are made from living organisms and can help prevent and treat diseases.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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