Pain Food

by Dr. Harlan Sparer, Tempe Chiropractor

Pain can be your friend. It’s that gentle tap on your shoulder or swift kick in the butt that tells you to pay attention and fix something wrong with your body. Once you are fixing it, though, enough is enough. How can you get rid of it once you get the point? Part of this solution, if not all of it, rests in diet.

Many foods commonly eaten actually biochemically make the pain worse. It often boils down to an essential hormonal substance the body produces called Prostaglandin E2, or PGE2. While it has many functions, the ones we’re concerned with here are activities involving inflammation and pain. Inflammation can be caused by trauma, hormonal imbalances, or toxicity. Sometimes there is a combination of them. PGE2 biochemically attracts more inflammation to the affected area.

PGE2 also affects pain perception. When the nervous system begins to send a pain signal to the brain, the spinal cord has filters that have an established threshold which must be reached before sending a message which will be perceived as pain by the brain. This threshold is lowered by PGE2, increasing the degree of one’s perception of pain.

PGE2 is an essential hormone, and is produced with great facility by the body and utilized in many varied and important ways. What is both fascinating and nasty is that when many commonly eaten foods are digested, they automatically get shunted into the production of excess PGE2. Essentially, the commonly eaten foods discussed below are present in great excess in the Western diet and are mistakenly converted into a vast excess of PGE2, thus increasing both pain perception and inflammation for an existing problem area.

Gluten is a primary source of this problem. It’s remarkable how gluten, present most commonly in wheat and its related products, has become integrated into every meal in the typical Western diet. Refined sugar is another culprit. Most oils (omega 6 oils) with the exception of olive oil and fish oil act in a similar manner.

Digging the wheat and gluten out of your diet can be complicated and challenging. Remember that if you feel you can’t give up bread, there are gluten free versions of this. Refined sugar can be substituted for by stevia, which is a calorie free herbal sweetener. Be careful that the stevia is without chemical additives, although many commercial versions have aspartame or other questionable substances mixed with them. There are other lower glycemic natural sweeteners out there as well, such as yacon syrup and agave nectar. Be careful of the source of agave nectar you use, as some are not what they seem.

There are many sources of omega 3 oils in the plant kingdom. Flaxseed oil (from ground flaxseed) is easy to make at home. Simply put a few tablespoons in a coffee grinder, and the freshly ground flaxseed is ready to sprinkle on a salad or use in your favorite uncooked recipe. Dark green leafy vegetables have omega 3 oils, beans are rich in it, as well as citrus fruits, melons, and cherries. Olive oil is also an excellent source of omega 3 oil as well.

Eating in a healthier manner has other side effects, such as more energy, healthy weight homeostasis (weight loss or gain based on metabolic need), decreased risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, and general improved well being. It couldn’t hurt!

Pain Food