Louise H Connolly MD
What's New in Treating Chronic Pain?
DIET AND EXERCISE
Not that old hack again you groan, wondering why in the world you even bother to read this post. What do doctors ALWAYS say? "Better diet, more exercise." But then again, diet and chronic pain? Weird. Isn't chronic pain just treated with a pill after the physical therapy or surgery fail? Could there really be a gut/joint axis?
So your back is hurting again, you don't feel like moving, so you comfort yourself with pretzels, pizza then ice cream. And then you feel better. Add a few shots of tequila and surprisingly the pain is all gone. At least for now. But worse tomorrow and every day thereafter. There are actual studies showing that processed nutrient poor foods increase arthritic pain, narrow joint space, increase swelling, and limit range of motion. One recent study followed 2092 arthritis sufferers for 4 years. High saturated fat intake as opposed to omega 3 PUFA, olive oil, avocado, and nut oils was associated with worsening pain, decreased range of motion, and joint narrowing on X-ray. Why am I not surprised?
Ok, inflammatory foods lead to joint, tendon, nerve and muscle inflammation. How simple, but how true. Gut dysfunction, "leaky gut", "upset stomach", "bloating" or whatever you've got has direct links to rheumatoid arthritis, but I'd go further and link it to all achy joints, muscles and tendons. I'd even go further and link diet and a host of other pain syndromes. MSG lead to migraines? Added salt lead to swelling? Alcohol lead to a hangover and dehydration? Common "allergic" inflammatory foods notoriously the gluten grains, sugary or dairy concoctions, and the myriad of packaged processed convenience foods with a list of unpronounceable additives longer than my arm..... could any of these make your knee hurt, your neck tighten up or your ankle swell? Of course! Maybe we should call it the "Gut/Pain Axis" .
So, you have some arthritis or tendonitis. JUST WHAT IS THE STATE OF YOUR PLATE? Diet comes first. A good diet shifts and diversifies the gut microbiome, modulates the immune system, decreases inflammatory cytokines, eliminates pain triggers, addresses nutrient deficiencies and more.
Respect your plate and feel better for many tomorrows. Magnesium, omega 3 in fish, cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic all decrease inflammation. Add ginger and curcumin to spice things up. Blood markers you can follow? HsCrp, F2 isoprostanes, fibrinogen, TNF alpha to name a few. How are yours? I've run them on you. Get them down and you are on the right track. Then eat a little less, lighten the load a bit and you will also ease the pain. You know that, now just do it.
Exercise? You are asking me about exercise? Ok, I admit it. This subject is one of my weak points. After all, it's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I am sitting on my couch writing this blog. At least get out in the sun and take a walk. When it comes to pain, diet and exercise together was more helpful then either one alone. And a good sunshine dose of Vitamin D may be the best anti-inflammatory of all.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of...."The Connolly Chronicles". Hopefully just in time for Halloween, I'll be delving deeper into chronic pain and look forward to including a scarier picture. Just remember "The State of Your Plate" affects your "GPA".
(that's Gut/Pain Axis for those not paying close attention)