Anyone with PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease) knows that the condition can be quite painful, especially when you walk or try to exercise. Well, now there’s good news for those PAD patients: research now suggests that drinking beet juice before you take a walk may reduce the pain you typically feel during this kind of movement.
PAD is a condition that develops over an extended time period. It is characterized by a hardening of your arteries (a build-up of plaque) that reduces the amount of blood flow and oxygen reaching the muscles and tissues in your legs. Walking is particularly difficult—and painful—for people with PAD, because their legs don’t receive enough oxygen to support even this gentle form of exercise.
While so many pain problems are managed with narcotics, why do researchers believe that beet juice can help with PAD discomfort? The answer lies in one main beet juice ingredient—inorganic nitrate. Apparently, this substance helps more blood and oxygen reach your muscles when they start to work. Even more importantly, this form of nitrate can also help your muscles be more efficient in their oxygen use!
Lead researcher Jason David Allen, from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, explains, “This makes [beet juice] an attractive potential therapeutic approach for individuals with PAD who have severely limited blood/oxygen supply to the lower limbs, which severely reduces their function and makes everyday tasks require a vigorous effort. Our early work in patients with PAD showed that a single dose of beetroot juice increased pain-free walking by 18 percent when compared to a placebo juice with no inorganic nitrate.”
To reach these conclusions, Allen and his team provided 35 PAD patients a total of 36 supervised exercise sessions, conducted over the course of 12 weeks. In each workout, participants hit the treadmill for 30 minute sessions. Each participant picked an incline and speed that they could handle comfortably.
Three hours before getting on the treadmill, half of the participants were randomly selected to drink beet juice; the remaining study participants drank a placebo beverage.
At the end of the 12 weeks, all the participants were able to log farther distance in timed six-minute treadmill tests than when they first joined the study. The beet juice made a difference in miles, however—those who drank it increased their walks by an average distance of 53 meters. Those who sipped placebos only increased their distance by an average of 25 meters.
Painful cramps were also an issue addressed in this study. Cramping is a common symptom that PAD patients experience when walking and exercising. In this study, both groups experienced less cramps by the end of the 12 weeks, but people who drank beet juice felt pushed back the cramps by an average of 180 seconds. The non-beet juicers only delayed their cramps by 59 seconds, on average.
Clearly, exercise on its own can help reduce painful PAD symptoms. And, if this small study is accurate, drinking beet juice before you exercise may further the benefits of your workouts. Still, even with beet juice and treadmill sessions, PAD patients still felt leg cramps. All they could accomplish was a delay in the experience of pain.
Of course, unlike narcotics or other medications, drinking beet juice won’t cause you to experience any secondary side effects. So, while there’s no harm in juicing for temporary relief, the only way to really stop the pain is to treat your PAD. Schedule a consultation with one of our Houston vein specialists to learn more about your PAD treatment options.