All About Pain – Part 3: Inflammation!

© Dane Roubos, D.C.

Inflammation acts as an irritant, and disrupts normal body processes. Systemic (throughout the body) inflammation is a major player in autoimmune diseases, allergy, and asthma.

The fire [inflammation] often comes from many unexpected places – foods we eat, toxins in the environment, hidden infections, unknown allergens, and stress.

Mark Hyman, M.D., The UltraMind Solution, pg 172

Increased inflammation makes just about everything in our bodies and minds more irritable. This results in painful muscles, joints, and connective tissue (fascia, ligaments, etc). Inflammation causes active or dormant muscular trigger points wake up, causing deep, achy pain and other mischief. Inflammation also kills brain cells.

Recent research is now showing that cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are primarily inflammatory conditions. Alzheimer’s, and nearly all the mood disorders and age-related brain diseases are now known to related to inflammation of the brain.

Mark Hyman, M.D., The UltraMind Solution, pg 172

Inflammation and Insulin (the Junk Food Curse)
A high insulin level is a hidden cause of inflammation. About 25% of the population over-reacts to eating concentrated carbohydrates with a spike up in their insulin levels. Insulin is a pro-inflammatory hormone.

Just to be clear, concentrated carbohydrates refers to sugar and starchy foods – especially processed foods made with white flour. This includes fast food and almost everything that comes in a wrapper, package, can, box or bottle.

Just think of all the money you’ll save if you stop eating that stuff! Healthier food choices might also help reduce your pain level – not to mention lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s and the like.

Unfortunately for many of us, concentrated carbohydrate foods also include "healthy" whole foods like potatoes, whole wheat and brown rice. Weight gain is a clue that you might be eating too much carbohydrate, and not enough healthy protein and fat.

Inflammation from Food Allergies
Food allergies are much more common than is generally realized. Sometimes referred to as food sensitivities, this condition can be the missing piece of the puzzle for anyone suffering from pain that refuses to go away.

Food allergies are often involved whenever there is inflammation in the body that doesn’t heal in a reasonable time period. I have experienced this personally and seen it happen in many clients in cases ranging from simple sprains to headaches, back pain, arthritis, anxiety, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.

I strongly advise anyone with chronic (long term) pain, or chronic digestive or bowel problems to consider evaluation for possible food allergies.

This also goes for anyone who is not recovering well from an injury (or any other condition involving inflammation). There are various ways to do this testing. Some are effective, and others are not. I’ve found Applied Kinesiology and a particular type of blood test to be the most practical and effective methods. You can read more here: Food Allergy Testing

Use Caution When Taking Pharmaceuticals for Pain
Pharmaceuticals are a common cause of headache. Those drugs most likely to cause headaches are medications for high blood pressure, seizures, ulcers and some drugs for heart problems.

Birth control pills are also known to cause headaches. If you have headaches and are taking any of these medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

If you only take an occasional aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Ibuprofen, etc, you should not have a problem. My own idea of “occasional” would be something like twice a month.

Acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol and other OTC pain pills) is known to cause toxicity if used excessively. I remember a study reporting that pain pills with acetaminophen were linked to kidney failure. It stated that taking only one capsule a day for three years would increase a person’s risk of kidney failure by 50%.

This was the most extreme article I’ve seen on risk of kidney failure from Tylenol-type drugs. It boggles my mind to think that these drugs are still on the market. If a vitamin or herb caused problems like this, it would be yanked before you could holler Food and Drug Administration!

Aspirin is known to cause intestinal bleeding in some people. Long-term usage of pharmaceutical pain pills can also lead to other serious health problems like liver damage. Be careful with these things!

Natural Alternatives
Willow bark supplied the original “aspirin,” without causing side effects like intestinal bleeding. Many drugs are copied from plants, then drug companies change the compound so they can patent it, advertise like crazy, and convinced everyone to buy it. The problem is that the molecule is no longer natural, and reacts with the body in weird ways, causing “side effects.”

You can still find good old willow bark in herb stores. It should not be used in conjunction with blood thinning medication, or in cases of bleeding disorders like hemophilia. It is also slow-acting, as it must be converted by gut bacteria to its usable form. Sounds inconvenient – perhaps that’s why we have aspirin.

Many herbs are good analgesics and have anti-inflammatory properties as well. If you have an interest, I suggest you get a good herb book, like Herbal Medicine, from the Heart of the Earth, by Sharol Tilgner, N.D., or consult a good herbalist.

Deep, Restful Sleep is Required for Healing
Our pituitary gland secretes the majority of its Growth Hormone during our deep sleep cycles. Our bodies absolutely depend on this hormone to initiate the repair and regeneration process. Good sleep, and enough of it, (7-8 hours each night) helps us repair our muscles and stay younger.

On the other hand, insufficient restful sleep causes an elevation of the stress hormone, cortisol. Now, cortisol is fine if you happen to be running from a street gang, but it’s not something you want high levels of on a regular basis. Cortisol stresses your body out and kills brain cells – enough said.

How Your Diet & Lifestyle Can Cause or Relieve Pain
This is a big topic, which I will only touch on here. Our diet and nutritional status refers to:

  • the quality of our diet & any unique nutritional needs we may have
  • our ability to digest & absorb essential nutrients and eliminate toxins
  • the ability of our body to repair, regenerate & create new tissue
  • the health of our immune system and any adverse reactions such as food allergies, or autoimmune (immune cells attack our own tissues)
  • our hormonal balance (strongly impacted by quality of rest and diet)

Poor nutritional status and excess toxins in our bodies can cause chronic pain. This occurs directly via inflammation, or indirectly through nutritional deficiencies.

If we are deficient in Magnesium, for example, our muscles go into spasm more easily, we cannot produce adequate energy for our needs, and we have reduced stress tolerance. Dr. Mark Hyman refers to magnesium as “the stress antidote, and the most powerful relaxation mineral that exists.”

Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, stiff – whether it is a body part or even a mood – is a sign of magnesium deficiency.

Mark Hyman, M.D., The UltraMind Solution, pg 139

According to US Dept of Agriculture estimates, half our population is deficient in this key nutrient. A big reason for this is this society’s predilection for cheap “white” foods (made from white flour and sugar). Important minerals and vitamins are removed or inactivated during the processing of the original whole grain and sugar cane. They remove the good stuff and leave in the starchy calories, which turn into fat!

Vitamin D
Another critical nutrient which is deficient in over half of the population is vitamin D. Deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to depression, dementia, many cancers, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic muscle pain, and bone loss.

The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. The body uses sunlight striking the skin to manufacture this essential nutrient. Use of sun-block stops 97% of the skin’s production of vitamin D. Other sources include mackerel, herring, and cod liver oil.

Many researchers and nutritionally savvy doctors are now recommending up to 2,000 IU of vitamin D. Since it’s difficult for most people, especially those in northern latitudes, to get this much, supplementation is suggested. Ask your doctor to test your blood levels of vitamin D.