- Free Radicals and Inflammation
- Antioxidants and Inflammation
- Managing Inflammation Through Diet
- What Do Antioxidants Prevent?
The health benefits of antioxidants are often touted by food and vitamin companies that claim their products fight the formation of free radicals. What you may not realize is that free radicals are not only associated with diseases like cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants are also important in addressing chronic pain because they can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. You can increase your intake of antioxidants through the right food choices like dark green leafy vegetables and colorful fruits.
Free Radicals and Inflammation are Partners in Chronic Pain
Free radicals can do a lot of damage to your body. They are unstable atoms with missing electrons, so they bond to different atoms to try and achieve balance. As the unstable free radicals seek out other atoms for bonding to restore stability, oxidative stress develops.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are believed to be the mediums for chronic pain, per research to date. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between healthy cell activity and the normal cellular antioxidant process. One can be induced by the other since the two processes are interrelated. The imbalance leads to inflammation, and inflammation is common in many conditions causing chronic pain. They include but are not limited to:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases (i.e., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.)
- Diseases associated with aging (i.e., arthritis, immune dysfunction, etc.)
The process of atoms taking electrons from other atoms not only contributes to disease, including inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis; it can also weaken muscles, ligaments and tendons. A recent study found that oxidative stress and inflammation promote intervertebral disc degeneration (ISS). The longer oxidative stress exists, the higher the potential of developing tissue problems and the more persistent the inflammation. The longer inflammation lasts, the more likely it will contribute to chronic pain.
Antioxidants and Inflammation
Since oxidative stress contributes to inflammation, then reducing the production of free radicals is an important strategy for reducing inflammation causing chronic pain. Inflammation is an immune response in which immune cells consume more oxygen which then promotes a cycle of the production of pro-inflammatory mediators.
Though various processes promote oxidative stress, like air pollution and smoking, your diet is a major influencer. Poor nutritional choices can increase free radicals and interfere with the normal antioxidant system your body initiates to neutralize free radicals.
Antioxidants are molecules that can fight the formation of free radicals. They are essential to life, and it is important to maintain the right balance.
Though your body produces antioxidants, your lifestyle has a direct impact on the process. If you want to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation to manage chronic pain, you want to take steps to eliminate or minimize the things that are known to lead to the production of too many free radicals that lead to oxidative stress. They include but are not limited to the following.
- Excessive alcohol
- High blood sugar levels
- Cigarette smoke
- Excessive intake of certain metals, including iron, zinc, copper or magnesium
- Excessive sunbathing due to exposure to ultraviolet rays
- Poor diet that includes foods like processed sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and margarine, lard and shortening
One of the most important ways to avoid oxidative stress and minimize inflammation that causes chronic pain is to eat a diet that includes foods high in antioxidants.
Managing Inflammation Through Diet
Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E and lycopene, beta-carotene, selenium and lutein. Most of these antioxidants can be found in food.
A study on musculoskeletal disorders that are common in people who are aging found that chronic pain predicts disability. Study participants worked with a dietary counselor to follow a diet that included:
- 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight
- Foods that are rich in glutamic acids, i.e., soy, egg and cod
- Foods rich in tryptophan, i.e., peanuts and milk
- Magnesium and vitamin D supplements (if needed)
- Consuming fish or omega-3 fatty acids every week
- Botanicals like gingerol and curcumin
The researchers found that nutrition and necessary supplements can play a role in pain management for seniors who are experiencing muscle mass loss and frailty which leads to chronic pain. Many foods are high in antioxidants, so you can eat a varied diet. Following are some food examples.
- Berries – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries
- Beans – red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans
- Fruit – apples, plums, oranges, watermelon, tomatoes, red grapes, figs, apricots
- Nuts – pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts
- Vegetables – Spinach, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, asparagus, artichokes, kale, collard greens, russet potatoes
- Cereals – oatmeal, corn flakes, granola bars
- Spices and herbs – cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, chili powder, curry powder, paprika, coriander, oregano, dill weed, basil
You can consult with your doctor to develop a diet that includes antioxidants to address a particular medical issue or chronic pain. For example, people with osteoarthritis may eat a diet with plenty of fruit and vitamin C supplements because research has found these foods and supplements provide the right antioxidants for arthritis.
What Do Antioxidants Prevent?
Antioxidants protect your tissues against oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, cell damage due to free radical formation. They help your cells remain healthy which can ease chronic pain, and evidence is growing they slow the aging process. How many antioxidants do we need? According to the USDA, studies have found that a daily intake of 3,000-5,000 ORAC units (a measurement unit) can significantly impact the antioxidant capacity of tissues.
Your doctor can help you design a diet that meets this minimum or delivers more depending on your health needs. Antioxidant therapy can help people with chronic pain avoid the use of opioids in many cases. The sooner you add antioxidants to your diet, the better.
Talk to your Sapna pain clinic specialist about the power of antioxidants to address chronic pain and adding antioxidant therapy to your chronic pain management treatment plan.