Food and Pain

Food and Pain.

Three years ago I did not believe that food could cause pain nor did I believe food could alleviate pain.  As a pharmacist I was taught to treat pain with pills or topical agents.  Anti-inflammatory medication for swelling and trauma and pain medication for the pain.  End of story.  Makes sense in theory, but I now know first hand that the food we eat is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory and either good or bad for us as individuals.

For 10 years I lived in chronic pain. I have osteoarthritis and both my hands are badly affected, so much so that up until a few years ago I had weekly appointments with an occupational therapist and wore purpose-made hand splints. I had got to the point where I could no longer hold a pen to write, I could not do up zips or buttons, I could not hold my toothbrush and brush my teeth (thank heavens for electric/battery operated toothbrushes), I could not hold a sharp knife to cut things like pumpkin or even carrots, I could not open screw top lids or cans with ring pulls or even use a can opener. Other than my hands, I had one shoulder, one hip and one ankle that were permanently sore as well. I slept badly, my mobility was not good and I was still young.

Life was not easy and I needed NSAID’s and paracetamol and codeine on a daily basis, just to function. Of course I knew the risks of what I was taking, but I was not left with many other options. I supplemented with fish oil or krill oil as well as glucosamine and vitamin D during my dark years of pain too, as the research suggested these to be beneficial.

So today when I read this Medscape article entitled Food and Pain: The “Essentials” –  my heart sang!

Last week at the American Academy of Pain Management (AAPM) 2016 Annual Meeting, Robert Bonakdar, MD, director of pain management, Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, La Jolla, California, and assistant clinical professor, University of California, San Diego addressed delegates at the meeting and spoke of how “Diet can influence inflammation, shift the microbiome, modulate the immune system, improve joint function, eliminate pain triggers, and reduce deficiencies.”

This is music to my ears.

People think I’m “off with the fairies” when I say I “cured” my pain by changing my diet … and if they don’t actually say it, I can see they are thinking it!  Pharmacists I work with say they would not have believed it, but they witnessed my progress with their own eyes!  My family and friends know how much I suffered and how well I am now.  I myself still struggle to believe how changing my diet changed my life!

Three years ago my occupational therapist informed me the last thing available as a means of pain relief was thumb surgery.  This would involve a lengthy recovery and there were no guarantees.  I decided to explore every other option available before resorting to this.  Why was my body was giving up on me and attacking itself?  Besides the osteoarthritis, I had already had a  parathyroidectomy for hyperparathyroidism, so in my eyes, my body appeared to be hell bent on destroying itself.  I was not going to give in lightly, and as fate would have it, my husband’s blood sugar became raised at about the same time. With a family history of diabetes, we embarked on Dr Mark Hyman’s 10 day sugar detox diet to get his blood glucose under control.  I turned my focus to helping my husband and by chance helped myself!  You can read about our initial detox here.

Within 7 days my pain had reduced significantly enough for me to see the benefit of continuing with this lifestyle.  After 2 months I no longer required pain medication and the hand splints were permanently packed away!  I have never looked back.  (Nor has my husband, his blood glucose levels are in the normal range.)  This is not a diet, this is a lifestyle we follow to keep us inflammation free.   For me, there is no better motivator than being pain free.

So if you live with chronic pain or inflammation, take a look at what you are eating.  If we eat highly processed, inflammatory foods, our cells become toxic which results in inflammation and chronic disease.

When I started on this journey I was obese.  Obesity is also an inflammatory condition.  Removing my inflammation helped me shift 42kg.  It’s not about how much we eat, it’s about what we eat.  So choose your food carefully.  You alone control what you put in your mouth, nobody else.