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Stroke Smart Magazine

May/June 2009

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Reducing Inflammation
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E Can Stop the Pain

By Roger Maxwell

As a stroke survivor, you might experience head­aches as well as swelling and pain – also called inflammation – in any affected joints and limbs. This takes place as the brain and nervous system heal. With help from your health care provider, there are a number of ways to reduce the effects of in­flammation, including the use of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.

Fish Oil Capsules

The U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National Insti­tutes of Health, has researched omega-3 fatty acids in the forms of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Among the office’s findings:

  • Both DHA and EPA reduce pain and swelling of the joints and limbs.
  • DHA produces a compound that helps reduce swelling brought about by “insults” (the medical term for “injury” or “trauma”) to the brain.
  • EPA helps to reduce swelling by limiting the amount of inflammatory compounds the body can make.

Fish is a good source of both DHA and EPA. Choose fish oil capsules that include both DHA and EPA to reduce swelling and pain. There are many fish oil supplements on the market:

some are made so they don’t cause a fishy aftertaste or burps. Find a fish oil capsule and treatment regimen that you and your health care provider feel is right for you.

Vitamin E

The health benefits of vitamin E are well known. The Office of Dietary SupplementsVitamin E Fact Sheet notes that antioxidants such as vitamin E protect cells against free radicals – unstable molecules that cause tissue damage and possibly some diseases.

Vitamin E also:

  • helps reduce pain and inflam­mation.
  • boosts immune function.
  • helps with in DNA repair and other metabolic processes.

The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that two national surveys found most Americans do not receive the recommended intake for vitamin E (15 mg or 22.5 IU per day for men and women older than 14) in their diets. Good sources of vitamin E include:

  • vegetable oils.
  • nuts.
  • green leafy vegetables.
  • fortified cereals.

You and your health care pro­vider can find a supplement that ensures you get the vitamin E you need for good health and that fights pain and inflammation.

While modern medicine relies on medications, many of which offer a great deal in the way of healing, we shouldn’t forget the power of nutritional supplements that work with your body naturally, just like food, to help it heal faster.

Roger Maxwell had a massive stroke in March 2003. When his regular rehab ended, he set up a plan for full recovery. Today, he is a marathon runner and full-time patent attorney. Maxwell’s recovery is detailed in Taking Charge of Your Stroke Recovery: A Personal Recovery Workbook (www.takingchargebooks.com).


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