You are what you eat.

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We all live a fast-paced life that focuses around work and our families. We are constantly working on beating deadlines for work, getting to one child’s basketball game and taking the other to dance lessons, meeting with teachers, and trying to make doctor appointments. We are on overload from 6 AM to 10 PM. During this mad daily rush we have to make decisions on what to nurture our self-regulating body with, most of the time we make a decision of convenience. We are a nation that consumes what is referred to as the SAD diet, or Standard American Diet. This typical Western diet is what is leading us into a country wide crisis, in which we have alarming numbers of people suffering from obesity, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer. In a country with so much, we have so little health.  We are the most powerful and influential country in the world, the most technologically advanced, we have the best healthcare, yet we are a country that is in a state of poor health and disease.  Your lifestyle and daily choices contribute to what is referred to as a “disease of affluence”. We eat fast food, processed food, high fat food, little fruits and vegetables, and do not utilize supplements to help support our body. On top of all this we consume large amounts of alcohol and smoke, live in areas where our air quality is poor, and our drinking water is contaminated.

It is now thought that our diets put us in a state in which our bodies have low level inflammation, which is at the root of all these “diseases of affluence”. Obesity is often the common thread among all of these. It is now known that stored fat, especially in obese people, is active and produces a lot of the inflammatory factors that can cause pain.  The typical American is in a chronic state of inflammation, which can cause greater pain levels. The inflammatory factors, cytokines, can attack many types of tissue and cause excessive pain.

We realize two things now 1) most of what Americans eat causes increased inflammation leading to pain and 2) we can choose to eat foods that enhance your body’s own system of fighting inflammation.

We will focus on the pro- inflammatory process in your body first. We will focus on fats first. Prostaglandins, hormones in your body, are responsible for both promoting inflammation and soothing inflammation.  So it acts as a system of checks and balances, however the end result of prostaglandin release is inflammation. Prostaglandins are formed from free fatty acids which are supplied to you from the fat in your diet. So the type of fat you eat is essential to controlling inflammation. You can create a body full  of inflammatory or anti-inflammatory potential.  If you consume  more of the omega 6 and omega 3 fats you will soothe inflammation. However,  if you eat unsaturated fatty acids called arachidonic acid supplied from red meats you promote inflammation.

Lets talk pathways and how the type of fat you eat is processed by your body. On the omega 6 pathway, Series 1 prostaglandins  are produced by Linoleic Acid(LA) which are naturally found in soy, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and peanut oils. This LA is converted to GLA(gamma-linolenic acid) which is found in evening, primrose oil, borage oils, breast milk and slow cooked whole oatmeal.  GLA converts to DGLA, which splits to form Series 1 prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory, and Series 2 which are the inflammatory prostaglandins. The inflammatory, series 2 prostaglandins are also produced from arachidonic acids that are found in butter, lard, animal fats, especially pork, organ meats, egg yolk and seaweed.

On the Omega-3 pathway, the Series 3 prostaglandins(anti-inflammatory) are formed from Alpha Linolenic  Acid that is then converted to EPA. EPA rich foods are cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring and vegetable oils (flaxseed and canola). Wow, what an intricate system of self-regulation, that works according to what we put into our system. They must be in proper balance for optimal health and healing.

At one time, our food supply contained large amount of omega-3 fatty acids, even without eating fish in our diet.  That is because our meat, eggs, and dairy animals were range-fed on grasses rich in omega-3. Today most of our beef and chicken products are from massive feedlots that are giving a diet of corn and other grains higher in omega-6 fatty acids and arachidonic acid precursors. We have created a food supply deficient in omega-3  anti-inflammatory fats and high in omega-6 and arachidonic acid-which are inflammatory producing.  A optimal diet should contain a ratio of 4:1 of omega-6 to omega 3 fatty acids, our typical American diet contains about 20-30: 1 ratio.

Consuming large amounts of saturated fats, which contain arachidonic acid, promote inflammation. So when you have pain it is important to limit saturated fats so that you minimize inflammation and pain.

A person suffering with pain should utilize a diet rich in healthy anti-inflammatory fats, such as those found in seeds, nuts, flaxseed, fish, range-fed beef or chicken on omega-3 enhanced eggs. Minimize the saturated fats in lard, animal fats and high fat dairy products.

TRANS FATS= BAD FATS

Trans –fats or hydrogenated fats were introduced in order to prevent oils from turning rancid on the shelf. In addition these chemically altered fats and oils made the food smoother and taste better. As a result, hydrogenation or trans-fat was so successful soon all foods were made with the “chemically altered” fat. The food tasted better and had a longer shelf life. This was done at the cost of your health, however as these types of foods are very inflammatory.

Trans-fats are used by your body to make the cellular membrane of your tissue, however trans-fats are configured differently because of hydrogenation. Your body recognizes the trans-fat as a different form of the healthy fat it needs for optimal health and then mounts an inflammatory response. The altered form of fat, trans-fat, is now somewhat “alien” to your body yet is incorporated in the very cells that make the tissues of your body. This sets you up for the chronic low level inflammation that is detrimental to your health,  as this causes inflammation throughout your entire body- including arteries ,joints, connective tissue, even brain and nerve tissue.

AVOID HYDROGENATED, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED, FRACTIONATED AND TRANS-FATS ON PACKAGED FOOD

 

AVOID SATURATED FATS SUCH AS PALM OIL, PALM KERNEL OIL, AND COCONUT OIL.

AVOID CRISCO

The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oils, like canola and olive oil are a healthier choice and should be used for cooking. Fats and oils should be used sparingly mainly for purposes of flavor.

To maximize your body’s natural anti-inflammatory response eat a diet rich in seeds, nuts, flaxseed,cold-water fish, range-fed beef and chicken, and dairy and eggs from animals fed a grass diet(organic).

Minimize your intake of highly saturated fat foods including meats and dairy, lard, shortening. Use low fat dairy and cheeses.

CARBOHYDRATES= ENERGY AND FUEL FOR VITAL PROCESSES

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are carbohydrates loaded with phytonutrients, or large biologically active molecules that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Carbs are either simple, such as table sugar or honey.  Some are complex, such as grains, starches, and beans. Fruits and vegetables are not really a simple carb or complex carb, they are considered more of a fiber-rich carbohydrate. 

In nature we have simple, complex, and fiber rich carbohydrates that are healthy choices. However, of course we had to process complex carbohydrates. This changed the texture and shelf life of foods, stripping out the fiber that made the grains crunchy in nature and replacing them with a smooth almost melt in your mouth type of texture. Bread is a great example of this, as one slice of processed white flour bread with less than one gram of fiber almost dissolves in your mouth. The healthier choice is a slice of whole grain bread that will have 3-5 grams of fiber with small, crunchy grains, requiring some real jaw action to chew and digest.

The amount of fiber and sugar a food contains determines how slowly or how quickly food is digested and converts to glucose for absorption into the blood stream. When food contains little if any fiber, then the sugar in the food will be absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream.  The amount of fiber in food determines the rate of glucose release and the uptake of glucose into the bloodstream.

When the glucose is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, the body is suddenly overwhelmed with a load of sugar making the blood glucose levels rise high. Now the pancreas has to release a surge of insulin to try and normalize the level of glucose in your blood. This insulin surge leads to the release of the inflammatory molecule (IL-6) as well. As the insulin surge lowers the blood glucose levels, a rapid decline in blood glucose results, sometimes even below the baseline level that is normal for you. This is termed hypoglycemia. This triggers your body to feel hungry, craving sugar and leading you to another sugar binge. You are on a daily roller coaster of high and low blood sugar levels, that ultimately result in your body storing excess sugar as fat. This stored fat is biologically active, as mentioned earlier, and leads to the release of the inflammatory cascade of events that lead to low level inflammation. Processed, simple sugars should be avoided by pain patients.

 

PHYTONUTRIENTS

Fruits and vegetables are nature’s gift to patients who suffer with pain. They are loaded with fiber and help maintain healthy bowel habits. They are considered a low glycemic impact food, because the fiber in fruits and vegetables slows down the digestion, release, and absorption of glucose and fructose (fruit sugar) into the blood stream.

Phytonutrients and bioflavenoids are the real treasure found in fruits and vegetables. They are large molecules present in abundance in fruits and vegetables and often are responsible for the pleasing color of fruits and vegetables. They are a “virtual medicine chest” for someone with pain. They act as anti-inflammatory molecules, anti-oxidants, and even aide the liver in detoxification.

Each fruit and vegetable has certain phytonutrients and bioflavenoids with specific activities.  Grapes are a wonderful example , especially concord grapes, as they contain a bioflavenoid called OPC. OPC molecules have anti-inflammatory capability, antioxidant capability and can impact blood vessels to create vasodilatation and increase blood flow. The power of just one small fruit is amazing.  They can also extend the beneficial effects of Vitamin C or E as well.

Cruciferous vegetables such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, bok choy, and cabbage contain phytonutrients in them called (I3C) indole3-carbinol(name not important-effects are). These molecules or chemicals are powerful antioxidants and potent stimulators of the enzymes responsible for detoxification in the liver.

Speaking of detoxification, the way foods are cooked impacts the beneficial effects they have. Foods that are grilled to a charred effect result in a potential toxic load on the body, requiring detoxification. And overcooking vegetables destroys the soluble fibers and destroys vitamins and phytonutrients.

So once again, you should take responsibility for your own body and take the time to nurture it in a way to lead you to optimal health.

Your diet and lifestyle plays a large role in your pain.