by Dr. Fred G. Arnold —
In 431 B.C., Hippocrates, the father of medicine said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Throughout history, the healing properties of food have been reported by many diverse cultures around the world. However, the past decade has presented an explosion of clinical research showing the specific health benefits that individual foods can offer, as well as identifying the various nutrients and phytochemicals associated with those benefits.
Nutrigenomics is the science that identifies the impact of dietary control on genetic expression and our overall health, including pain. The foods we eat have a profound effect on the body — they send information to our genes, which tell the body to age slowly, burn fat and/or be more or less inflamed.
A chronic inflammation cycle can contribute to many painful conditions. The fact that inflammation is part of these conditions explains why doctors so often prescribe pain medications to treat inflammation.
The origin of pain stems from inflammation, and when we minimize the foods that contribute to this condition, we can begin to take control of our pain. Taking control of what we ingest into our bodies greatly influences inflammation and our overall health. The foods we eat can either exacerbate or calm chronic illness and pain.
Foods that can help treat pain
The best foods to help prevent chronic pain are those that help reduce and minimize inflammation. These foods tend to be high in fiber, relative to the starch and sugar content. It is the naturally occurring chemicals in vegetables and fruit that send anti-inflammatory messages to your genes.
The following list includes some of the specific nutrients that help with chronic pain:
- Turmeric — used in cooking and can also be taken as a supplement
- Ginger — may be taken as a tea or used in cooking
- Bromelain — an enzyme found in pineapple and can be taken as a supplement
- Tart cherries — powerful inflammation inhibitors
- Berries — alter gene expression and reduce inflammation
Foods that contribute to pain
Certain foods should be avoided as they significantly contribute to almost any chronic disease and pain. These include large amounts of sugar or starch, white flour, soft drinks, margarine, hydrogenated fats and oils, and processed foods.
Foods that are considered healthy, natural or even anti-inflammatory for most people may have the opposite effect in others. Identifying food intolerances is especially important for those suffering from pain. Through a careful history and specific food testing, many patients have significantly reduced or eliminated pain by removing intolerable foods from their diets. Some of the more common foods that some people cannot tolerate include: dairy products, eggs, gluten products (wheat, rye, oats, barley) and peanuts.
Nightshade and chronic pain
In her book, Pain Free in Six Weeks, Sherry A. Rogers, M.D., discusses how plants in the nightshade family contribute to chronic pain. Nightshades include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tobacco and spices.
- Potato category — Obvious sources are baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, scalloped potatoes and foods that contain potato products.
- Tomato category — Obvious sources are ketchup, spaghetti sauce and pizza. Other sources include A.1.® steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, baked beans, barbecue sauces, meat loaf, gravies and Thousand Island salad dressing.
- Pepper category — Included varieties are red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeño, chili and pimento peppers.
- Eggplant category — This vegetable is usually prepared as eggplant Parmesan, eggplant lasagna or stuffed eggplant.
- Tobacco category — Each puff of a cigar or cigarette is like an intravenous injection of nightshade.
- Spices category — Nightshade family spices include cayenne, chili, curry, ground red pepper, crushed red pepper and paprika. Nearly all processed foods and commercial salad dressings contain nightshade spices.
Never give up hope for curing your pain. Realize that pain has a source or cause — even if the doctor has been unable to find it — and the cause of that pain is not due to the absence of pain medications. It is always amazing what our bodies are able to do when given proper nutrition and when food intolerances are identified and eliminated from our diets. Testing is available today that can identify food intolerances, which can be a significant source of inflammation and pain in the body.
Brownstein, David M.D., Overcoming Arthritis, Medical Alternatives Press, West Bloomfield, MI.; Food and Pain, Pain Pathways, Fall 2011, pgs. 63-66.; and Rogers, Sherry A.M.D., Pain Free in Six Weeks, Sand Key Company Inc., Sarasota, FL.
Fred G. Arnold, D.C., N.M.D., specializes in prolotherapy/pain rehabilitation services. A Diplomate of the American Academy Health Care Providers, he is one of the few physicians in the nation with both naturopathic and chiropractic degrees. 602-292-2978 or www.prolotherapyphoenix.com.
Reprinted from AZNetNews, Volume 30, Number 6, Dec/Jan 2012.