Antioxidant Supplements Relieve Chronic Pancreatitis Pain

Antioxidant supplements are an effective treatment for relieving pain and reducing levels of oxidative stress in patients with chronic pancreatitis.

Antioxidant supplements are an effective treatment for relieving pain and reducing levels of oxidative stress in patients with chronic pancreatitis (CP), according to a new study in the January issue of Gastroenterology.

According to the study, pain is the major problem in almost all patients with CP and there is currently no effective medical therapy for pain relief. The newly-released study was a placebo-controlled, double blind trial with 127 patients assigned to placebo or antioxidant groups.

Researchers found that “the reduction in the number of painful days per month was significantly higher in the antioxidant group compared with the placebo group… The reduction in the number of analgesic tablets per month was also higher in the antioxidant group.”

Patients in the antioxidant group were twice as likely to become pain-free compared to those in the placebo group. The antioxidants were noted as beneficial as early as three months into the study.

"Abdominal pain, the predominant symptom in patients with CP, is difficult to treat. The main reason for a largely ineffective medical treatment is that the mechanism of pain in CP is not well understood," said Pramod Kumar Garg, MD, DM, of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and lead author of the study. "We are encouraged by our findings, as significant improvement was noted with antioxidants in respect to all the parameters of pain in this study. In addition, reduction in pain resulted in fewer man-days lost, thus providing functional employment gain to the patients. The findings should spur further research in this exciting area."

The researchers noted two important outcomes from the study. First, measures of oxidative stress increased initially but then decreased subsequently after supplementation with antioxidants, suggesting that there is a state of heightened free radical mediated injury in CP, and that injury can be reversed. Second, in reference to pain management, results showed that antioxidant therapy is effective for pain relief in patients with CP, a disease for which there are currently limited therapies.

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