Tag Archives: pain

Fix your pain with your diet

Businesswoman Having Backache At Work

Inflammation is all the rage lately. And rightfully so. Research has shown that chronic inflammation is at the core of most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that affect Americans. But what about chronic pain? Could chronic joint pain, back pain, or muscle pain be caused by chronic inflammation? And can it be alleviated by changing your diet? The answer is yes.

What is Inflammation?

First, we must understand what inflammation is. Inflammation is the term given to describe the biological response that occurs as a result of tissue damage. Bacterial infections, trauma, chemical exposures and dying tissue may all start the inflammatory cascade. In human physiology there are two kinds of inflammation. First, there is the acute form. In this form of inflammation the body responds to an injury by creating an environment that is conducive to healing and tissue repair. The body does this by sending fluids and blood to the area. That’s why the injury swells, turns red and becomes warm to the touch. This is a necessary step after an injury. Acute inflammation is a good thing for the body.

The second type of inflammation, called chronic inflammation, is not a good thing for the body. Chronic inflammation is a lower grade inflammatory response, but it is persistent. Unlike acute inflammation, which resolves, chronic inflammation is a continuous phenomenon that persists silently for years on end. The chronicity of the response is precisely what makes it so problematic. It increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and many other conditions.

Chronic Inflammation and Pain

How does chronic inflammation affect your pain level? First, it’s important to remember the most widely used pain relievers in the world like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin work by reducing inflammation, not by working directly on nerves. This should illustrate the importance of inflammation in producing pain in the human body. However, there are ways to reduce inflammation without resorting to medications, which have serious side-effect profiles, even when taken as directed. The diet is the key.

Dietary-induced chronic inflammation produces an assortment of inflammatory chemicals capable of sensitizing the pain pathways. Moreover, if this sensitization of the pain pathways persists, adaptive responses by the brain cause the sensation of the pain to become exaggerated or inappropriate. The key to fixing this is to reduce the chronic inflammation.

The Pro-Inflammatory Diet

In this country, most people eat a “pro-inflammatory” diet.  That is, they consume food that consistently feeds the inflammatory cascade in the body, leading to chronic inflammation.  As previously pointed out, chronic inflammation leads to tissue destruction and many disease states.  In order to fully understand why our diets lead to this state, we must understand the basics of fatty acids.

Fatty acids are individual molecules that make up triglycerides in our body.  Triglycerides are the storage form of fat that humans use for energy.  In human physiology there are three important fatty acids.  There are omega-3 (n-3), omega-6 (n-6) and omega-9 (n-9) fatty acids.  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential in the human diet.  This means that we must consume them in our diet in order to survive.  Omega-9 fatty acids are classified as non-essential because we are able to synthesize them from other unsaturated fats in our body.  It is the balance of these fatty acids that is critical for controlling and reducing inflammation in human physiology.

First, we must examine the role of fatty acids in our body when speaking about inflammation.  Fatty acids work to produce a variety of chemicals in the body called eicosanoids.  These chemicals are at the heart of the inflammatory cascade.  Some eicosanoids are beneficial while others can contribute to inflammation.  The harmful eicosanoids that contribute to the inflammatory cascade are related to an omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid.  If arachidonic acid is incorporated into a specific eicosanoid then it becomes pro-inflammatory.  If it is not incorporated it becomes anti-inflammatory.  It is arachidonic acid that will fuel the inflammatory cascade, eventually resulting in the production of chemicals capable of sensitizing the pain pathways.

So, we must take a closer look at this specific fatty acid called arachidonic acid.  Arachidonic acid is found preformed in animal products, especially meat.  In addition, it is easily converted in the body from the fatty acids found in grains and vegetable oils like corn, safflower and sunflower oil.  Also, animals fed a steady diet of grain are exceptionally high in arachidonic acid.

Obviously, what we eat will determine our fatty acid profile and potentially contribute to chronic inflammation and pain.  One might think, based on the information given above, that becoming a vegetarian would significantly reduce one’s overall inflammatory load.  And it does make sense especially if we take into account that arachidonic acid is preformed in meat.  It has been shown, however, that the opposite is true.

The average American diet has unfortunately shifted to promote excessive production, storage and utilization of arachidonic acid.  This leads to the over-production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids.  Research has shown that man evolved with a ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids of about 1:1.  Today, the average ratio in the diet is anywhere from 10:1 to 20-25:1.  This is disadvantageous because we know that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and have a wealth of other health benefits.  Plainly put, our diets have shifted to favor inflammation.

As mentioned earlier, it would seem that vegetarian diets would be most beneficial in creating an anti-inflammatory state because animal products are high in preformed arachidonic acid.  This hypothesis, however, has not held up in clinical studies.  It has been shown that vegetarians, in fact, have a higher plasma level of arachidonic acid and an essentially equal level of arachidonic acid found in red blood cells when compared to meat eaters.  The study also showed that vegetarians have lower levels of the protective and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA. This suggests that  vegetarian diets shift people closer to an inflammatory state than they probably desire.

A diet high in fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins and fats it ideal for stopping and preventing chronic inflammation.  This type of diet will invariably be low glycemic.  The glycemic index refers to the effect on blood sugar that a particular food will have.  A food that has a low glycemic index (GI) will raise blood sugar much more slowly than a food with a high GI.  Foods with a low GI are much more beneficial for controlling inflammation because low glycemic foods cause a much smaller response from the hormone insulin.  Insulin is the hormone that’s required for most of the cells in our body to use and store sugar for energy.  Insulin, which is secreted from the pancreas, actually stimulates an enzyme that converts omega-6s into the dreaded arachidonic acid.  So a diet that is high glycemic will cause one’s body to over secrete insulin and further drive the inflammatory cascade.

So a diet high in fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fat will lead to lower inflammation and greater pain control, but are there are other things you can add into your diet to help? As it turns out, there are. Certain spices have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric, ginger, garlic and black pepper all have the potential to reduce inflammation when consumed in the diet. There are many other spices that have anti-inflammatory properties so go ahead, spice up your food! Your body may thank you for it.

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Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year. Here are 10 Natural Alternatives

A recent Reuters’ article opened with the following stunning sentence:

“Long-term high-dose use of painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac is ‘equally hazardous’ in terms of heart attack risk as use of the drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn due to its potential dangers, researchers said.”

The 2004 Vioxx recall, as you may remember, was spurred by the nearly 30,000 excess cases of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths caused by the drug between 1999-2003. Despite the fact that scientific research had accumulated as early as 2000 linking Vioxx to increased heart attacks and strokes, the drug’s manufacturer Merck, and the FDA, remained silent as the death toll steadily increased.

The Reuters report focused on new research published in Lancet indicating the risk of heart attack increases as much as a third and the risk of heart failure doubles among heavier users of NSAID drugs.

INFLAMED: Our Default Bodily State

Why are so many folks taking NSAID drugs like ibuprofen anyway?

Pain and unhealthy levels of inflammation are fast becoming default bodily states in the industrialized world. While in most cases we can adjust the underlying pro-inflammatory conditions by altering our diet, and reducing stress and environmental chemical exposures, these approaches take time, discipline and energy, and sometimes we just want the pain to stop now. In those often compulsive moments we find ourselves popping an over-the-counter pill to kill the pain.

The problem with this approach is that, if we do it often enough, we may kill ourselves along with the pain…

Ibuprofen really is a perfect example of this. As mentioned above, this petrochemical-derivative has been linked to significantly increased risk of heart attack and increased cardiac and all-cause mortality (when combined with aspirin), with over two dozen serious adverse health effects, including:

  • Anemia[1]
  • DNA Damage[2]
  • Hearing Loss[3]
  • Hypertension[4]
  • Influenza Mortality[5]
  • Miscarriage[6]

Ibuprofen is, in fact, not unique in elevating cardiovascular disease risk and/or mortality. The entire category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) appears to have this under-recognized dark side; cardiovascular disease and cardiac mortality score highest on the list of over 100 unintended adverse health effects associated with their use. See also our analysis of the rarely acknowledged dark side to aspirin: The Evidence Against Aspirin And For Natural Alternatives.

So, what does one do? Pain is pain. Whether it happens to you, or you witness it in another (which can be worse), finding relief is a top priority.

Research on Natural Alternatives To Ibuprofen

Here is some evidence-based research on alternatives to ibuprofen, sourced from the National Library of Medicine:

  1. Ginger – A 2009 study found that ginger capsules (250 mg, four times daily) were as effective as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen for relieving pain in women associated with their menstrual cycle (primary dysmenorrhea). [7]
  2. Topical Arnica – A 2007 human study found that topical treatment with arnica was as effective as ibuprofen for hand osteoarthritis, but with lower incidence of side effects.[8]
  3. Combination: Astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba and Vitamin C – A 2011 animal study found this combination to be equal to or better than ibuprofen for reducing asthma-associated respiratory inflammation.[9]
  4. Chinese Skullcap (baicalin) – A 2003 animal study found that a compound in Chinese skullcap known as baicalin was equipotent to ibuprofen in reducing pain.[10]
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids: A 2006 human study found that omega-3 fatty acids (between 1200-2400 mg daily) were as effective as ibuprofen in reducing arthritis pain, but with the added benefit of having less side effects.[11]
  6. Panax Ginseng – A 2008 animal study found that panax ginseng had analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity similar to ibuprofen, indicating its possible anti-rheumatoid arthritis properties.[12]
  7. St. John’s Wort – A 2004 animal study found that St. John’s wort was twice as effective as ibuprofen as a pain-killer.[13]
  8. Anthrocyanins from Sweet Cherries & Raspberries – A 2001 study cell study found that anthrocyanins extracted from raspberries and sweet cherries were as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen at suppressing the inflammation-associated enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-1 and 2.[14]
  9. Holy Basil – A 2000 study found that holy basil contains compounds with anti-inflammatory activity comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.[15]
  10. Olive Oil (oleocanthal) – a compound found within olive oil known as oleocanthal has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.[16]

[1] Direct cytotoxicity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in acidic media: model study on human erythrocytes with DIDS-inhibited anion exchanger. Pharmazie. 2002 Dec;57(12):848-51. PMID: 12561250

[2] Genotoxicity of ibuprofen in mouse bone marrow cells in vivo. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jan 27. Epub 2012 Jan 27. PMID: 22283434

[3] Analgesic use and the risk of hearing loss in men. Am J Med. 2010 Mar;123(3):231-7. PMID: 20193831

[4] Effect on blood pressure of lumiracoxib versus ibuprofen in patients with osteoarthritis and controlled hypertension: a randomized trial. J Hypertens. 2008 Aug;26(8):1695-702. PMID: 18622250

[5] The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. J R Soc Med. 2010 Oct;103(10):403-11. PMID: 20929891

[6]  Taking non-aspirin NSAIDs in early pregnancy doubles risk of miscarriage, study shows. BMJ. 2011 ;343:d5769. Epub 2011 Sep 9. PMID: 21908536

[7] Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb 13. PMID: 19216660

[8] Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatol Int. 2007 Apr;27(6):585-91. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17318618

[9] Summative interaction between astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb761) and vitamin C in suppression of respiratory inflammation: a comparison with ibuprofen. Phytother Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):128-36. PMID: 20632299

[10] The antiinflammatory and analgesic effects of baicalin in carrageenan-evoked thermal hyperalgesia. Anesth Analg. 2003 Dec;97(6):1724-9. PMID: 14633550

[11] Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006 Apr;65(4):326-31. PMID: 16531187

[12] Potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Panax ginseng head butanolic fraction in animals. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3749-52. Epub 2008 Oct 1. PMID: 18930781

[13] Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extracts of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) preparation. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2004 Jul;17(2):13-9. PMID: 16414593

[14] Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine. 2001 Sep;8(5):362-9. PMID: 11695879

[15] Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13. PMID: 10782484

[16] Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Curr Pharm Des. 2011 ;17(8):754-68. PMID: 21443487.

via Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year, So What Is The Alternative?.

Dr. Court’s Comments:

When approaching pain, it’s best to always address the source of the pain. If it’s structural, a chiropractor is a good option. If it’s metabolic, such as an autoimmune disease, then a doctor trained in functional medicine will be best. They will likely use some of the things listed above to provide relief in addition to functional testing designed to treat the cause of your symptoms, not simply cover them up with medication. Dietary changes are almost always needed. The American diet is pro-inflammatory with high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. These omega-6s feed the inflammatory pathways, allowing people to over produce the pain causing molecules. Once this is addressed, people often feel much better. Remember, just about every chemical we make in our bodies, good or bad, is heavily dependent on dietary factors. If you correct those dietary factors, you correct the dysfunction.

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Natural Solutions for Migraines

Migraines can be debilitating.  For some, the occurrence of a migraine means laying down, curled up in a dark room for hours on end while their head throbs away.  While head pain is the most pronounced symptom other things like light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting and general fatigue are not uncommon experiences.

Many are reluctant to take the powerful pharmaceutical agents that are often recommended to help alleviate the symptoms of a migraine. They can have unwanted side effects that can outlast the migraine itself.  There are natural options that exist.

Recently, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society reviewed the evidence that exists behind drugs and behind some natural treatments for migraines.  They found there is good evidence of effectiveness for a range of natural products to reduce the severity and occurrence of migraines.  For more information, watch below!

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Foods That Chronic Pain Sufferers Need to Avoid

As an adjunct to the post that I wrote on chronic inflammation, here is an article written by Dr. Mercola with some great points.  I have also posted the link to his article at the bottom.

Dr. Court

Chronic pain is a pervasive issue and fibromyalgia is a very common form. It is a chronic condition whose symptoms include muscle and tissue pain, fatigue, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Recent data suggests that central sensitization, in which neurons in your spinal cord become sensitized by inflammation or cell damage, may be involved in the way fibromyalgia sufferers process pain.

Certain chemicals in the foods you eat may trigger the release of neurotransmitters that heighten this sensitivity.

Although there have been only a handful of studies on diet and fibromyalgia, the following eating rules can’t hurt, and may help, when dealing with chronic pain.

Limit Sugar as Much as Possible. Increased insulin levels will typically dramatically worsen pain. So you will want to limit all sugars and this would typically include fresh fruit juices. Whole fresh fruit is the preferred method for consuming fruit products.

If you are overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, you will also want to limit grains as much as possible as they are metabolized very similarly to sugars. This would also include organic unprocessed grains. Wheat and gluten grains are the top ones to avoid.

Eat fresh foods. Eating a diet of fresh foods, devoid of preservatives and additives, may ease symptoms triggered by coexisting conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It’s also a good idea to buy organic food when possible, as it’s best to avoid pesticides and chemicals. However, fresh is best. So if you have to choose between local, fresh, non-organic and organic but wilting – go with fresh, and clean properly.

Avoid caffeine. Fibromyalgia is believed to be linked to an imbalance of brain chemicals that control mood, and it is often linked with inadequate sleep and fatigue. The temptation is to artificially and temporarily eliminate feelings of fatigue with stimulants like caffeine, but this approach does more harm than good in the long run. Though caffeine provides an initial boost of energy, it is no substitute for sleep, and is likely to keep you awake.

Try avoiding nightshade vegetables. Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant may trigger arthritis and pain conditions in some people.

Be Careful with Your Fats. Animal based omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA have been touted as a heart-healthy food, and they may help with pain, as well. They can help reduce inflammation and improve brain function. At the same time, you want to eliminate all trans fat and fried foods, as these will promote inflammation.

Use yeast sparingly. Consuming yeast may also contribute to the growth of yeast fungus, which can contribute to pain.

Avoid pasteurized dairy. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have trouble digesting milk and dairy products. However, many find that raw dairy products, especially from grass fed organic sources, are well tolerated.

Cut down on carbs. About 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients have low adrenal functioning, which affects metabolism of carbohydrates and may lead to hypoglycemia.

Avoid aspartame. The artificial sweetener found in some diet sodas and many sugar-free sweets is part of a chemical group called excitotoxins, which activate neurons that can increase your sensitivity to pain.

Avoid additives. Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) often cause trouble for pain patients. MSG is an excitatory neurotransmitter that may stimulate pain receptors; glutamate levels in spinal fluid have been shown to correlate with pain levels in fibromyalgia patients.

Stay away from junk food. Limit or eliminate fast food, candy, and vending-machine products. In addition to contributing to weight gain and the development of unhealthy eating habits, these diet-wreckers may also irritate your muscles, disrupt your sleep, and compromise your immune system.

via Foods That Chronic Pain Sufferers Need to Avoid.

Visit our website at www.vreelandclinic.com

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