This March has been a terrible month for me personally. Some of you might feel uncomfortable with me talking about my health issues, but they are relevant to my activity and have impacted my life so severely that I really need to be open about them. So, I happen to suffer from ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), more recently called SEID (Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease – which is a much more fitting and descriptive term for this disease). This March I had what I call an energy crisis and my usual strategies to deal with that turned out to be insufficient.
Therefore I tried some more experimental treatments like intermittent fasting and intense meditation, which unfortunately didn’t help much either. In the meanwhile, I also started getting depression again, which has been a frequent symptom of my underlying health condition for me. This was bad, but it’s something I have dealt successfully with on previous occasions. I still have a decent reserve of an antidepressant (bupropion) that used to help me somewhat, but I really didn’t want to take it again, because I interpreted my recent half year period of being depression-free without that medication as significant progress towards becoming healthy again. And there are a few issues that are problematic about taking such medication in the long term. Hence, I tried to rely on more natural remedies. Interestingly, the remedy that has proven to be most effective against depression for me are long walks through forests. That’s why I started to doing that again, but I felt that this was not completely sufficient.
As a side note the most effective intervention against depression in general is exercise! However, exercise is highly problematic with ME/CFS since it can exacerbate this disease if one does too much of it (and it’s very hard to find out what is “too much”). But when the exercise is properly paced, it is a very effective tool even with ME/CFS.
Now this is quite a lot of background, but it serves to stress the importance of my most recent discovery, namely that I could control my depression very easily and effectively by taking huge doses of antioxidants! In fact, this treatment is the reason why I could come back to this forum quite actively after a really bad week of depression and anhedonia which minimized my motivation and energy levels!
My approach is quite aggressive, which is why I actually call it “carpet bombing with antioxidants”. It has been researched that many diseases are associated with large amounts of damaging oxidative stress. In this context, the most relevant diseases are depression, burnout, and ME/CFS, but oxidative stress is also a major factor in a staggeringly large number of other seemingly unrelated diseases. By bombing the body with antioxidants, this oxidative stress is minimized, so a major cause of these diseases is controlled, which is the theoretical basis for why this approach works.
How did I come up with this idea? Well, I have researched this topic, of course, since there is a huge lack of effective treatments for ME/CFS. Patients virtually have to rely on alternative and complementary medicine to get better. Now, I’ve tried antioxidants before and they have helped me tremendously with quite specific symptoms like throat pain and cold-like symptoms. I also noted that they can improve my mood when I take huge amounts of them. There are dozens of supplements and interventions that I’ve tried to get better and many that turned out to actually help me were antioxidants. With these realizations in mind I started my carpet bombing campaign – and it worked.
So, which antioxidants are effective? Let’s start with what I suggest as basis:
- A potent multivitamin like “Two per day” by the Life Extension company.
- Taking megadoses of vitamin C, at least 1-2 grams (!) per day.
Note that I’ve been taking these supplements regularly for about 18 months and they seemed to help me quite a lot. I guess I’ve been much less frequently sick alone because I’ve taken these two things. Apparently, this basis wasn’t enough for me, so I needed to boost my antioxidant intake. What worked quite well for me is to consume a large amount of “superfoods” which are very rich in antioxidants. Here’s a short list of what I suggest:
- Coffee! It’s very rich in antioxidants (richer than green tea, in fact!). I take decaf coffee, because stimulants like caffeine are problematic for me.
- Cocoa which has a quite staggering number of antioxidants within it. I take sugar-free cocoa, because refined sugar is really unhealthy! I’ve recently started adding cocoa powder to my coffee which turned out to work pretty well – and it’s actually tasty!
- Maca, a South American root vegetable that seemed to increase my energy levels subtly when I took it. The taste does require getting used to it, but then it’s interesting and not really unpleasant.
- A few days ago I ordered a package of Moringa Oleifera powder, another very potent superfood very high in antioxidants.
Now let’s come to some more isolated antioxidants which are extremely powerful and which I have had positive experiences with:
- OPCs, which are basically high quality grape seed extracts, and are one of the most potent water-soluble antioxidants. Before I started with megadoses of vitamin C I relied on OPCs and they were comparatively effective. The reason why I switched to rely on pure vitamin C is that it’s significantly cheaper than OPCs, but it’s best to take both together for optimal synergy effects.
- Astaxanthin: As far as I know, this is currently the most powerful natural antioxidant found in nature. It is very special in its molecular structure in that it is both water-soluble and fat-soluble. It can pass into the brain and the retina and protect both – whereas many “lesser” antioxidants fail to reach these vital organs. It even embeds itself in the skin and provides some protection against sunburns!
- Methylcobalamin (MB12): This is a superior form of the vitamin B12 and it’s best taken sublingually, intravenously, or intramuscularly, because oral absorption can be problematic. It’s also quite effective for dealing with nitrosative stress, which is a problem that is similar to oxidative stress.
- Coenzyme Q10: It’s mainly used to protect mitochondria from the free radicals these cellular power plants produce on their own. For me, it didn’t turn out to be quite noticeably effective, but many report on significant positive effects. There’s also a significant amount of research pointing out that this is a really powerful antioxidant. It may even help in cases of radioactive poisoning!
The human body also produced its own antioxidants and one of the most important of them is glutathione. Its production is limited by the relative scarcity of the amino acid cysteine, which is why supplementing this amino acid is thought to boost glutathione production. Cysteine often comes in the form of N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) which is quite popular, even though it’s not perfectly clear that this is the really superior form of taking cysteine. It is possible to take NAC as powder, but the taste and especially the aftertaste is quite hellish, so it’s very hard to stick to that form of treatment. It’s much easier to take capsules filled with NAC.
There’s also a more direct way of increasing glutathione levels, namely taking it directly. Because the stomach destroys it, it needs to be taken in protected form. Liposomal encapsulation turns out to work pretty nicely, but liposomal glutathione is a very expensive supplement, which is why I haven’t taken it, yet.
There are of course many more (sources of) antioxidants, but I started with the ones which seem most promising to me and which I have already researched to some degree. Perhaps you may come up with further suggestions. Anyway, I urge you to do research on this topic, because I think it’s extremely important for health in general. People don’t get enough antioxidants through their bad diets these days. US Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee!
I will try to keep you updated on this topic.
More power to you through antioxidants!