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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Depression Prevention

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Rheumatoid arthritis and depression symptoms may be eased with healthy alternatives to cod liver oil

By Andrew Weil

Q: I hate the taste of cod liver oil. Are there any good reasons for me to take it?

A: Yes, but I believe you can obtain similar health benefits more safely and reliably from other sources. Cod liver oil was traditionally used to prevent rickets, a disease in which bones weaken due to a lack of vitamin D. Several studies suggest that people with rheumatoid arthritis who take cod liver oil daily have improvements in stiffness and pain. A recent large study also found that rates of depression were nearly 30 percent lower in people who regularly took cod liver oil, probably because of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids it contains.

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These results are exciting, but I'm hesitant to recommend cod liver oil. Yes, it's rich in vitamin D--about 1,360 IU per tablespoon (most experts now recommend at least 1,000 IU daily). But some brands also contain excessive amounts of vitamin A per daily serving, and higher doses can be toxic, leading to bone and hair loss, mental confusion, and liver damage. In addition, cod liver oil comes from the livers of fish, which may be contaminated with toxins.

Instead, I recommend purified fish oil supplements that are guaranteed to be free of contaminants. Like cod liver oil, they contain omega-3 fats, which studies show reduce depression and high blood pressure, help prevent heart disease, and ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Because it's difficult to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food, consider taking at least 1,000 IU a day in the D3 form.

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Andrew Weil, MD, is a pioneer in the field of holistic health and founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona. He received his medical training at Harvard University.

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The Oct. 2011 American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has an article about how the practice of a gentle moving meditation, T'ai Chi Chih (TCC), helps relieve depression. [See article here: http://bit.ly/onSELr] Other researchers have found that TCC also helps relieve arthritis pain and several other symptoms, as it helps increase peace and well-being. We who practice and teach TCC see so many benefits in our students and ourselves! Find real peoples' stories here on our website: http://www.taichichih.org/health_benefits

September 28, 2011 - 10:33am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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