Chronic pain and depression are symptoms of inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is a result of cumulative assaults on the brain. These assaults may physical trauma, constricted or obstructed blood vessels reducing blood flow, obesity, psychological trauma, autoimmune disease, toxins, medications, or infections. Despite a high dependence on oxidative metabolism (when the cell breaks down molecules into energy), the brain has low levels of antioxidants and is vulnerable to oxidative stress.
Providing support from the following supplements can increase the efficacy of acupuncture treatments and herbal prescriptions.
Glutathione (GSH): This is the most abundant antioxidant in the CNS and has a crucial role in cellular signaling and antioxidant defenses. Its levels decrease with age. GSH depletion or dysfunction plays an important role during the onset and progression of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, such as depression, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, or fibromyalgia. Sublingual is the most bioavailable method of ingestion.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): Another antioxidant and a precursor for GSH. NAC can minimize oxidative stress through preventing GSH depletion. Cysteine has the lowest intracellular concentration and therefore is the rate limiting factor in glutathione production. And unlike GSH, NAC does contribute cysteine across the blood brain barrier. It is applicable for major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, addiction, or neurodegenerative diseases. Note: at very high doses there is potential for toxicity reaction.
Melatonin: This is a hormone secreted from the pineal gland. It is an antioxidant, regulates circadian rhythms, and has anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties. It is appropriate for circadian sleep disorders, psychiatric diseases, migraines, fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, or neurodegenerative diseases.
Other important supplements to consider are CoQ10 (ubiquinol), Ginko Biloba, Phenolic compounds such as quercetin, curcumin, and resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D3.
Talk to your acupuncturist or herbalist to see if adding any of these supplements can improve your treatment effects.
*This was inspired by a talk by Dr. Kaplan at the American Academy of Pain Management’s Integrative Conference
Thoughts and practical tips to protect your health based in the wisdom of Chinese medicine.
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