Using food as medicine to stay out of pain.The Wrong Food Feeds Pain
Most of us eat too much of the food that enhances pain, and too little of the
food that reduces pain. Soil nutrients are not what they used to be, as they
have more additives, more are being processed, and more have a longer
shelf life. Our cells depend on good food and water for creating healing, energy
and cleansing, but because of the poor food we eat (which has additives
and is heavily processed), we have persistent inflammation contributing
to musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, cancer…
you name it. Refined grains, omega 6 fats, too much sugar, and too much
dairy – especially milk – all stress the system out, and pain due to too much
inflammation damages nerves beyond any injury, and also causes tissue
pain in the tendons, ligaments, and joints.
Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers who lived on a planet with a
relatively low population, where the soil was rich in nutrients with hardly any toxic chemicals. They ate good food medicine, fresh fish or meat, berries, roots (therefore, a lot of
healthy omega 3 oils), and fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants. They
had no processed foods, no wheat, no trans fats, no excess sugar or omega 6
and no processed dairy. Even if you eat some of these foods yourself, pulling
some fresh vegetables out of your garden – from well fertilised soil – is a
small start. For our ancestors,using good food as medicine helped to control chronic
inflammation, something which pervades the modern day Western lifestyle.
We are becoming increasingly obese, including our children. We are a
fat nation, and because of this, we find ourselves in a major health crisis.
This extra fat not only strains our joints, but these engorged fat cells fire
off inflammation. Organ fat is crawling with immune cells, prolonging
inflammation and damaging the surrounding tissue. Living longer means
that these days, a lot more of us are over 35, and around this age, our
natural pain blocking anti-inflammatories (proteolytic enzymes) dry up.
We are, essentially, rotting, as these are the guys that usually help to shut
the pain gate in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Our next generation
is not going to live longer than us, and this is the first time in history that
this has happened – it says a lot, doesn’t it? Due to needing more help in
order to control our body and not getting it, we make too much fibrin,
causing too much scar tissue in our tendons, skin, and joints. This then
causes arthritis, fibromyalgia, artery narrowing, and poor healing all round.
I now have ground breaking technology at my practice that puts the clock
back on joints, however, cells still need a healthy environment in which to
flourish in the first place.
Traffic light approach to health, what do I mean ?Traffic Light Approach to Health
At my clinic, I always ask my patients to fill in a questionnaire about their
current health, and their answers are incredibly useful in letting me see
where they need to improve their mindset, their nutrition, their fitness and
their lifestyle. I call it the traffic light approach to health because we analyse
these areas by saying whether the patient is green (good), amber (room for
improvement) or red (poor). These are your fitness keys, and they will tell
you where you need to improve. With this in mind, I have developed four
questionnaires – one for each key – and have placed them in the appendix
of this book. If you want to get the most out of this book, I urge you to
complete the questionnaire at the start of each chapter, and again after
you’ve absorbed the knowledge and implemented some of my suggested
changes into your life. Soon, you should start to see your traffic light scores
changing from red or amber to green on all counts. When this happens, you
are likely to be at your optimal health for your age, which means you’ll be
giving yourself the best possible chance if a disease or injury should occur.
So, to those therapists and doctors who want to go beyond their specific
training and look at the synergy of everything they know in order to create
their own map, here is mine.
If you don’t want to commit to a new, healthy you, then now is probably a
good time to leave my blogs. If, however, you desire to work towards a healthy, fit,
pain-free body, here we go. It’s time to take your health into your own hands
and get rid of all the pain that has been holding you back
Spring is upon us, promising longer days, warmer weather, and a feeling of freshness and growth. It is the time when we start to squeeze out of jumpers and coats and see the winter plumpness with disdain. It is a perfect time to take that move to committing to being more active again.
Exercise is a word that for many invokes a sense of dread and ‘it’s not for me’. The fact is that exercise takes effort and the pain of committing to that effort is too much for many to get going. For those of you who need persuading, let’s look at the balance of what’s in it for you.
The downsides of exercise usually come down to making time to exercise, being prepared to work hard enough at it for it to do any good and feeling comfortable in an exercise environment with others. If we are honest with ourselves, we generally have quite a bit of time to sit in front of the TV. Just three shows less a week would make a difference, so lack of time is an excuse, not real, especially when you know the shows will be repeated anyway. You can of course choose to exercise on your own, if you feel awkward about exercising with others. So that just leaves the effort you put into it, which I will leave you to ponder on after I tell you about the consequences of not exercising.
So ‘what’s in it for me’ if I don’t exercise? Take a good look around next time you go shopping, obesity seems to be an epidemic. Around 50% of over 65’s are already on a cocktail of five or more drugs as GP’s try to fight off health problems. Their task is going to get a whole lot tougher when the next generation hits retirement age.
When we slouch in our chairs, watching TV, we don’t breathe correctly causing less lung capacity, lower oxygen intake, poorer blood flow, a weaker heart and less nutrient delivery. Muscles will contract to take up slack and blood pressure will rise. The reduced blood flow cannot sustain sudden movements any more, leading to dizziness and the increased risk of accidents.
The gut slows and digestion fails. Sugar metabolism struggles and diabetes is more likely to take hold. Men’s sexual potency falls. Bones get weaker making fracture more likely.
This list doesn’t make good reading does it? The pain coming your way if you don’t exercise is most probably going to make the effort to exercise look insignificant.
Exercise is vital for healthy aging. Whether you are 40 or 80, regular exercise will help you stay physically and mentally healthy and improve your life. It is widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. A recent study suggests that intense physical activity may offer greater benefits for brain function in later life than less intense, but regular exercise. The researchers found a gradual increase in memory scores with higher intensity exercise.
If you are new to exercising, start with a few minutes a day, a small start puts you well on your way toward longer periods of exercise. Walking is a wonderful way to start exercising.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean you have to endure lengthy intense programs or take on a gym membership, although I think the discipline of going and the social angle is great.
If you are exercising on your own, you still need to add in working out with weights as well as aerobic exercise such as walking.
Your bones are remodelled throughout your life and they respond to stresses put on them by weight bearing activity. Space travel confirmed this when it was discovered that weightlessness prevented bone matrix repair and the bones thinned.
In the same way, running, cycling, and swimming are not enough to reverse osteoporotic changes. A one year study of mature ladies doing aerobic exercise only, without any weight bearing activity, showed an average 4% bone loss. This may not sound much, but it took two years of weight building exercises to reverse it. That’s why both the American College of Sports Medicine and the Osteoporotic Society insist on the prescription of aerobic exercise to include weights.
A word of caution. Exercise is an integral part of keeping healthy muscles and bones, however don’t push through bad pain whilst exercising, as all you will do is create chronic tissue damage. If you have an injury or are suffering arthritis, then exercise alone is not a worthy substitute and never will be for hands on treatments such as physiotherapy combined with modern technology, so visit us first.
Springtime is about new beginnings and inspirations. Spread the word about the benefits of safe, enjoyable exercise.
This will be the first blog post in an upcoming series about physiotherapy and common pathologies or injuries seen by physiotherapists. We will be examining in detail the causes and nature of various pathologies, who they affect, treatment options, self-management and how physiotherapy can help. The first pathology that I would like to deal with is an extremely common but frustrating and painful condition called tennis elbow that as a physiotherapist I encounter regularly in practice.
Tennis elbow has several other more complicated sounding names such as lateral epicondylitis, lateral epicondylosis and lateral epicondylalgia. All of which basically try to describe the fact that the pain people feel is at the outside (lateral) bony bit of the elbow (epicondyle). The pain normally comes on when picking up heavy objects, twisting items such as screwdrivers and can be quite sharp and uncomfortable.
It is one of the most common musculo-skeletal conditions that a physiotherapist will see and affects approximately 3 – 11/1000 patients per annum (Dingenmanse et al 2012). It is thought to occur in 1.4% of the population (Shiri et al 2006), now these do not sound like huge numbers but when you consider the size of the UK population (roughly 60 million) then 1.4% of the whole population is a lot of people! It is 7 – 9 times more common than the next most common elbow injury: golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) (Walz et al 2010) and causes prolonged time off work especially in chronic sufferers (Walker-Bone et al 2012). Numerous studies have shown that it is associated with handling tools and repetitive twisting and lifting actions of the forearm (Van Rijn et al 2009) basically meaning that if you are an electrician, carpenter, manual labourer or a housewife then you are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
So… what causes it? Well that is a common question for physiotherapists and seemingly a simple question. Unfortunately it is a complicated answer and will need us to look in some detail at both the anatomy of the elbow and physiology of tendons. Which will be covered in the next blog post.
Dingenmanse R., Randsdorp M., Koes B., Huisstede B. (2012) Evidence for the effectiveness of electrophysical modalities for treatment of medial and lateral epicondylitis: a systematic review British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online
Shiri R., Viikari-Juntura E., Varonen H., Heliovaara M. (2006) Prevalence and determinants of lateral and medial epicondylitis: a population study. American Journal of Epidemiology 164 (11): 1065 – 1074
Van Rijn R., Huisstede B., Koes B., Burdorf A. (2009) Associations between work-related factors and specific disorders at the elbow: a systematic literature review Rheumatology 48: 528 – 536
Walker-Bone K., Palmer K., Reading I., Coggon D., Cooper C. (2012) Occupation and epicondylitis: a population-based study. Rheumatology (Oxford) 51 (2): 305 – 310
Walz D., Newman J., Konin G., Ross G. (2010) Epicondylitis: Pathogenesis,
Imaging, and Treatment Radiographics 30 (1): 167 – 185
Pain can be a result of injury, but in many cases how much pain we feel is a consequence of the decisions we make through our lives and is governed by our beliefs. How we deal with life’s challenges, what we choose to eat and drink, including the quality of antioxidants and minerals, how much effort we put into exercise, posture and weight control, how much sleep we give ourselves – all these are choices of which we are in control.
Unfortunately, most of us make choices which will at some point promote pain. Fortunately, the body is always attempting to regulate pain impulses and heal. With knowledge we can work with, rather than against this process and feel less pain.
How Do We Feel Pain
We have a myriad of tiny receptors all over our body, which pass information to sensory nerves and then to the spinal cord. The pain impulse continues up the spinal cord to the thalamus in the brain, which acts like a router and in effect makes ‘phone calls’ to three other parts of the brain:
- Sensory Cortex interprets nature of pain
- The mammalian Amydala assesses level of fear/emotion and decides if parts of the body need to shut down to prioritise fight or flight.
- The Cortex is the human part of the brain which finalises the decision process
Hence our brains really do decide, like a panel of judges, how much pain is appropriate for us to experience at any time. Pain is then translated into how much we hurt.
Although we naturally want to avoid pain, this acts as an important and in some cases critical feedback. Pain is a warning signal that something is wrong and should stimulate a response to change activity to not repeat the cause of the pain. Thus if something is wrong and we block the pain, the risk is that we could continue an activity which is harming us.
Imagine you are driving a slow, small car and you are waiting to turn onto a highway and big lorry after big lorry goes past and stops you continuing your journey.
Now translate that analogy, this time the pain signal being the car and other, more powerful signals being the lorries. If we can provide a continuous supply of powerful signals the pain never gets out to the spinal cord and up to the brain.
This is called pain gate theory and goes some way to explaining how and why we can reduce pain. What’s the first thing you do if you hurt your hand in some way? Most of us will shake it. This sends stronger signals to the brain than the pain and so blocks the pain.
Endorphins – The Body’s Natural Pain Killer
Endorphins are released at the point where the pain signals reach the spinal cord and prevent more pain signals being released. It is this process which prevents pain getting through immediately, sometimes after a serious injury. This “endorphin rush” allows an athlete to persist through pain.
Ten Top Tips To Reduce Pain
- 1.Massage– nice sensations travel seven times faster than pain impulses and block the pain.
- 2.Acupuncture raises endorphin levels and blocks pain at the gate. Also it can be linked to electro acupuncture to boost the long term effect.
- 3.Nutritious food and supplements. The correct food products are required to make amino acids which are essential to pain-killing hormones. Minerals and anti-oxidants all reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Too many carbs/sugars metabolise into pain products: reducing the calories reduces the pain. Less obesity – less pain. If the cell is healthy, nutrient rich and properly hydrated, with few toxins, pain is an unwelcome guest.
- 4.Reiki and meditation are known to change the brain wave frequency and biochemistry. New research suggests the state of mind has an impact on DNA transcription and chronic pain. Self-healing methods like these can focus the subconscious mind on reducing both stress and pain.
- 5.Review your lifestyle and regulate levels of stressful/fearful activity will boost positive emotional activities. Understand your natural bio rhythms to make the best of your time awake. – makes you more productive and less stressed
- 6.Improve your posture, especially sitting, enables the large core muscles to take load off the back.
- 7.Taking regular exercise boosts feel good pain killing endorphin levels, boosts metabolism, and helps to reduce obesity – fat cells store toxins and enhance pain. Many studies prove correct exercise significantly reduces painful chronic illness and mortality.
- 8.Tens, is a portable hand-held, medically-endorsed device sends frequencies, 2HZ to 150HZ, through the sensory nerves to block the pain gate and boost happy bio-chemistry, such as serotonins and endorphins to kill pain, reduce depression and help sleep. The Tens electrodes can be placed along a nerve root and onto a painful point, or on to specific acupuncture points. With professional guidance, good quality Tens can significantly boost the effects of pain treatment.
- 9.Consider hypnosis. This fascinating and controversial subject can significantly reduce pain when practiced by an experienced therapist. People have even had surgery whilst under hypnosis.
- 10.A warm bath with alkaline salts and aromatherapy, especially lavender helps with sleep.
For more information about Nicky Snazell’s Pain Relief Clinic call 01889 881488 or visit www.painreliefclinic.co.uk