At IPA Physio we often encounter patients struggling with pain conditions that have been resistant to standard interventions. Frequently there are many overlooked aspects to these conditions, one of which is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation will make joints feel stiff, nerves more sensitive, muscles more spastic, zap your energy, and generally make you feel lethargic. Identifying the source of chronic inflammation can be a difficult task that may require a multidisciplinary approach to be successful. One helpful step you can take while trying to sort out the source of chronic inflammation is to increase your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods, which are typically high in antioxidants.
Free Radicals: A Source of Chronic Inflammation
Within our bodies, millions of processes occur every day. Processes such as turning the food into energy or repairing damage to tissues all require oxygen. A bi-product of these oxidative reactions are oxidants, which are often referred to as “free radicals”.
The problem with free radicals is that they are energetically unstable. In order for a free radical to become stable, it needs an electron. In the same way oxidation can cause rust on the surface of some objects, free radicals cause cellular damage by stealing electrons from cell walls.
Cell damage triggers the inflammatory response and chronic inflammation is the root of many chronic pain conditions and degenerative diseases such as: cardiovascular disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
If pro-inflammatory free radicals are a product of oxidative reactions, we can use antioxidants to combat their ill effects. Antioxidants are large, stable molecules with electrons to spare and readily donate them to free radicals without becoming unstable themselves.
Avoid Supplements, Eat Antioxidant Rich Foods
Current national guidelines on the prevention of cardiovascular disease recommend choosing foods rich in antioxidants versus taking supplements. The more types of antioxidants in food, the better. Potent antioxidants that our bodies use include:
Nutritionists rate the antioxidant value of foods as the ORAC level: Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity and the National Institute of Health recommends 3000-5000 ORCA daily.
Here is a list of some of the best food sources that provide you a combination of the above antioxidants.
|Apple 1||5900||Tomato 3.5 oz||195|
|Pear 1||400||Strawberries 3.5 oz||1540|
|Avocado 3.5 oz||782||Broccoli 3.5 oz||890|
|Orange 3.5 oz||750||Onion 3.5 oz||450|
|Grapes 3.5 oz||740||Potato 3.5 oz||300|
|Banana 100 grams||800||Sweet Potato 3.5 oz||295|
|Blueberries 3.5 oz||2400||Red Bean ½ cup||13,700|
|Concentrated Cherry Juice||14,000||Greens||12,600|
Cherry Juice Concentrate: A Super Antioxidant
Cherries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. Two tablespoons of concentrated cherry juice (CKJ) gives you: 14,000 ORCA, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and 16 other antioxidants including melatonin and anthocyanin. There are a number of benefits from consuming CKJ including:
- Reduced inflammation on par with arthritis medication by blocking COX1 & 2 (inflammatory chemicals)
- Reduce blood urate levels (very helpful to reduce symptoms stemming from gout)
- Protects cell membranes from free radical damage, including free radical damage in your brain
- Protect your GI tract from damage
- Improve your sleep
- Increase the effect of all other antioxidants
Many of our patients tout the benefits of increasing their daily consumption of antioxidants. We recommend you find these through eating healthy, colorful, fresh food. However, while trying to tame the beast of chronic inflammation, it is clear that concentrated cherry juice offers some of biggest bang for your anti-inflammatory buck.
Personally I have found that my joints, especially my hands and hip, are not stiff when I keep CKJ as part of my routine. I also fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply and have reduced my need for seasonal allergy medication.
If you are struggling with a condition that is not responding to typical measures, are tired of taking NSAIDS or are unable to do so because of medical risk factors, consider adding CKJ into your daily routine. CKJ is a blood thinner, so you should avoid CKJ if you are already taking blood thinning medication.
Two tablespoons mixed in water about an hour before bed should help start to reduce some of your aches and pains as well as improve your night sleep over the course of a month. We recommend you start a log before your begin introducing CKJ and then follow up on the same log after 1 month. Consider the following variables: sleep (how fast you fall asleep, frequency of waking, sense of feeling refreshed in the morning), pain (location, intensity, frequency), range of movement and energy levels.
In her book Taming Pain, Cheryl Wardlaw is able to further expound upon the topic of antioxidants and introduce many of the additional factors that interact to create amplified chronic pain. She then provides simple modifications for the reader to tame their chronic pain. We highly recommend this book to anyone who is suffering from chronic pain.