You have probably heard of antioxidants because so many food products claim to contain them, but you may not realize why they are so crucial in fighting off chronic pain. Your diet plays a critical role in your overall health and can provide the right nutritional tools to tamp down some forms of chronic pain. In fact, there are special diets that have been designed to limit pain—and most of these emphasize foods rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidants are critical for maintaining optimal health. All of your body’s cells use oxygen in chemical reactions that often produce highly reactive particles called free radicals. Free radicals may interact with other cellular mechanisms, damaging the health of the cells. Perhaps, the most dangerous aspect of free radicals is their ability to propagate, leading to a cascade of additional free radical production and tissue damage. Antioxidants act as a defense system that counteracts these free radicals before they can injure tissue.
Too many free radicals in your system may damage various organs and tissue including nerve cells. This ongoing assault on your cells may not only deteriorate healthy cells but also inhibit healing of already damaged cells. That is why it is important to eat a diet that includes a rich assortment of healthy antioxidants.
There are hundreds of different antioxidants, from vitamins to enzymes, which may be found in certain foods or taken as a supplement. Among the most important of these is alpha lipoic acid which combats free radicals but also helps regenerate other antioxidants in your body. Alpha lipoic acid also strengthens blood flow and oxygen distribution to neural cells, and helps relieve some symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. You may find alpha lipoic acid in broccoli or spinach.
Another important antioxidant is CoEnzyme Q10. CoQ10 is found naturally in the human body but production declines as you age. CoQ10 is essential in maintaining mitochondrial function which converts nutrients into energy. Some studies indicate that CoQ10 may reduce fibromyalgia pain and inflammation.
Hydroxytyrosol is one of the most potent antioxidants and is found primarily in olives. With an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of 68,576, hydroxytyrosol has an enormous ability to neutralize free radicals. Similar to CoQ10, hydroxytyrosol improves mitochondrial function, but it is also believed to support nerve health. A 2012 study found that hydroxytyrosol slowed the progression of diabetic neuropathy.
There are a number of chronic pain conditions that are worsened by free radicals and which antioxidants may help alleviate. Osteoarthritis, which is the inflammation of joint tissue resulting from cartilage degradation, is thought to be caused, at least in part, by the increased presence of free radicals.
If you plan on including antioxidants in your diet, consult your physician first. You should discuss what conditions you are trying to alleviate, so that your doctor can recommend an antioxidant and the right dietary change. In most cases, you should try to get your antioxidants through an increased intake of fruits and vegetables, rather than dietary supplements.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.