One of the most common problems people have is chronic pain. Daily pain medication is among the most prescribed medications of all. What most people don’t realize is these medications merely suppress symptoms (as all drugs do) so eventually, they stop working or necessitate switching to stronger drugs.
Our current health care system does not do a very good job helping people manage pain and they do an even worse job helping people to understand what causes their pain and how to prevent or minimize it. Help managing chronic pain is one reason many people are looking to alternative and holistic therapies for non-pharmaceutical ways to get things under control.
According to data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 11.2 percent of American adults (25.3 million people) have experienced some form of pain every day for the past three months. The study also found that even more people — 17.6 percent of American adults — suffer from “severe levels” of pain.
While there are numerous reasons you may be in chronic pain a great deal of pain is preventable or can be dramatically reduced by taking a more holistic approach to the problem. Begin with uncovering and addressing the cause of your pain.
Self Help Tips for Chronic Pain
Let’s look at what we know about pain and why it manifests in the body. Pain is a result of injury, trauma or infection. Chronic pain is a warning sign that something is wrong, out of balance, injured, infected or otherwise under attack. And we to need to pay attention to our body when it cries out in pain because it is the body’ most basic form of protection.
Chronic pain is persistent and does not abate. It is often associated with an underlying condition. People suffering from cancer, chronic back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, diabetes, headaches or even depression may experience chronic pain affecting all areas of their lives.
Diet is key!
There is a link between chronic pain and foods may people consume on a daily basis. Many commonly eaten foods actually inflame the body more and add to the level of discomfort and pain you experience. If you are in chronic pain you should take a second look at your eating habits and try removing some of the most commonly reactive foods from your diet to see if this helps you.
Common inflammatory foods
- Gluten containing grains:
Wheat – including wheat germ and wheat bran, Rye ,Barley including barley malt, Bulgur, Couscous, Spelt, Kamut, Semolina, Triticale, Einkorn.
Other commonly consumed inflammatory foods include;
- Dairy products
- High Oxalate foods may also be a problem
All or some of these foods may be contributing to your overall “inflammation threshold. Finding out what you react to is an important first step in mitigating your pain.
- Avoid sugar. Read labels because sugar is in just about everything.
- Stay properly hydrated. Drinking good quality filtered water – at least 50 oz per day helps you remove toxins and wastes from the body. Hydration is necessary for every cell in the body to work properly and be nourished.
- Use alkalizing drops or trace minerals in your water to help keep your body slightly alkalized.
- Eat more living, anti-oxidant rich fruits like berries, apples and grapes.
- Eating more alkalizing green vegetables either by fresh juicing or lightly steaming or sauteing them.
- Get enough fiber in your diet by eating more vegetables and fruits. Try adding leftover cooked veggies to the next day’s omelet or salads to boost plant fiber. Add fresh fruit to salads or try poached fruit to top grilled meats, poultry and seafood.
- Decrease the amount of cooked food you eat. Try lightly steaming and sauteing foods if you find it difficult to eat raw vegetables.
- Eliminate sugar and high fructose foods as these increase pain.
- Eliminate inflammatory Gluten containing grains and consume less of those GF grains.
- Buy organic produce to reduce your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals that put more of a burden on your liver.
- Eat more wild caught fish!
- Replace toxic oils and fats (soybean, corn, canola, trans fats and hydrogenated oils) with healthy oils from virgin olive, flax seed oil, virgin coconut oil, macadamia and avocado, nuts and seeds. Read labels!
- Add anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids to your diet (EPA/DHA).
- Chronic pain uses up more serotonin so replenishing serotonin is very helpful. Getting your body to produce more serotonin is a bit complex and does involve several co-factors. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin so eating more foods like turkey, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds will provide tryptophan.
- Remember co- factors like B-complex. You need B6 too. Here are some vitamin B6-rich options: spinach, turnip greens, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, fish (especially tuna, halibut, salmon, cod and snapper), poultry (chicken and turkey) and lean beef tenderloin. B-12 is abundantly found in all leafy green vegetables.
- You need carbohydrates too and these should come from vegetables first and gluten free grains second. Here are some good GF gain carbohydrates brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa are seeds with grain-like taste and properties. These are healthy, high-protein carbohydrates and small amounts of the right carbohydrates are critical to boosting serotonin.
2. Improving digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Poor GUT flora is a common thread in most people who suffer from chronic pain. Boosting enzyme and pro-biotic rich foods is critical to improving digestion and thus nutrient absorption and removal of wastes through the bowels.
- Add resistant starch to your diet to help feed beneficial bacteria. Resistant starch sources include potato starch and banana flour.
- Besides fermented dairy something as basic as natural, un-preserved apple cider vinegar adds enzymes. Use apple cider vinegar in salads, marinades and add a ½ teaspoon to a small amount of water to help digest proteins. Note: for casein free you can now make your own water kefir or buy coconut yogurt.
- Cultured vegetables are another way to help improve digestion. Any number of vegetables can be naturally fermented. Here is a basic recipe:
Basic Cultured Vegetable Recipe –
3 heads green cabbage shredded in the food processor
6 carrots shredded in a food processor
3 inch piece of fresh ginger root peeled and chopped
up to 6 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Remove a few cups of the veggie mixture and blend in a blender with just enough water to make brine.
Add the blended brined mixture to the bowl of veggies mix and transfer to your air tight container. Pack down tightly with potato masher or wooden spoon. Leave about 2 “ of room at the top for veggies to expand. Roll up a few cabbage leaves to put on top of the mixture and seal. Leave at room temp. (70 degrees) for three to seven days. Refrigerate after using and to slow down the process.
Note: Using a starter that contains friendly bacterium is advised.
This and the kefir starter can be purchased at: Cultures for Health
Better digestion means less pain!
- Be sure to keep your bowels moving and elimination healthy because as toxins accumulate they not only increase pain but provide safe harbor for nasty pathogens like yeast and bacteria that can become more serious health problems.
- Fiber from vegetables and fruits helps keep your bowels open and increases transit time in your digestive tract. In fact apples contain pectin which is soothing to the stomach and intestines. Finding the right balance of fiber can be a challenge for those with IBS/IBD, Croh’s and Colitis so know this will vary from person to person.
- Adding ground flax seeds to smoothies and other dishes provides both fiber and essential fatty acids. Hemp seeds are another option and these are loaded with protein, EFA’s and many micro nutrients.
- Chia seeds are another fiber option I particularly like because they become gelatinous when they are in liquid and once eaten help pull waste deposits from the lining of intestinal walls. Plus even people with diverticulitis or who have trouble with other nuts and seeds can usually tolerate these without complications. (Note: chia seeds are high in oxalates!)
In part two of this series I will discuss other drivers of pain and some traditional herbal remedies that may help. Stay tuned!
Are you ready to stop feeling like your body is working against you and reclaim vibrant health?
Want to eliminate the tri-fecta of modern living; chronic pain, low energy and poor sleep?
I teach people just like you how to transform from hopeless to happy again every day. Very often these people tell me that working with me was the catalyst for so many other positive transformations in their lives.
Take the next step and contact me to see if we are a fit:
Resources and further reading: