Cure your pain: Avoid Soda

The origins of soda drinks can be traced to a pharmacist that wanted to stimulate the brain by creating a mixture that contained cocaine.  Despite the removal of the cocaine, though, many more drugs that activate the brain remain in these popular drinks like caffeine, sugar and flavor enhancers.   More and more popular drinks are heavily loaded with caffeine,  known to give people an energy boast and, when consumed regularly, these drinks also cause caffeine dependency.   The constant ups and downs of a caffeine roller coaster ride cause headaches, insomnia, mood instability and pain.  Caffeine is a brain stimulant, a drug that can over-stimulate the brain and sometimes even cause death.

Sugar in soda is also a drug.  Sugar not only stimulates the brain and causes dependency, it also harms the body in other ways.  Complications from sugar include diabetes, a disease hallmarked by the harmful effects of frequent blood sugar spikes and consistently high blood sugar levels.  Anyone who is experiencing pain should be extra cautious about avoiding anything that contains sugar because sugar promotes inflammation and inflammation leads to pain.  In addition to sugar, sodas contain another, lesser known chemical that can lead to more pain, Aspartame. For years, researchers have reported about the potential harmful effects of Aspartame, a flavor enhancer.  The effects are primarily seen in the nervous system such as: headaches, depression, anxiety and blurred vision.  This chemical is meant to stimulate the taste buds but it appears to do more than that in some people.  Aspartame could even contribute to a painful experience by sensitizing the nervous system.

We have seen dramatic pain relief in patients who eliminate soda, specifically in patients with neuropathic pain and Fibromyalgia.

Cure your pain: Attack Depression!

Chronic pain and depression are so closely linked that a viscous cycle can easily set in if one does not honestly address and treat any underlying depression.  Studies show that patients with chronic pain have lower levels of the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine compared to patients not in pain.  Lower levels of these hormones are known to lead to depression and anxiety.  Combine these physiological lower levels of hormones with the frustration patient’s feel regarding their lower quality of life and limitations from their pain and you have a set up for patients to fall into a feeling of hopelessness.

The first step toward finding your ‘cure’ and treating pain is to work to attack depression directly.  Depression is a medical condition that should be treated with a multimodality approach.  We work with our patients on setting up successful coping skills and techniques to improve their outlook on pain and depression.  For a good amount of patients, working with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist will also be a valuable member of a patient’s pain fighting team.  There are prescription medications that not only treat depression related issues but also have FDA indications for pain.  Cymbalta is one example, it has FDA indications for Fibromyalgia, Diabetic peripheral neuropathy, chronic low back pain as well as anxiety and depression.

For patients that want to avoid traditional pharmacological medications, supplements like Magnesium have been used to treat stress and are an excellent smooth muscle relaxant.  If you want to avoid pills all together, meditation and exercise are two successful strategies that every patient would benefit from.  Both meditation and exercise boost endorphin levels, decrease stress hormone levels and give patients an improved outlook on life.

Finally, anyone with depression issues need to find someone to talk with, whether that be a support group, licensed professional, or a close friend.  Releasing stress through the power of conversation is vital in helping patients gain both insight and learn tools to better cope with pain and depression.

Fibromyalgia 101

This is an absolutely huge topic, I can’t state that enough!  In fact, this article is only a primer to an entire book we are writing that will help to attack and treat Fibromyalgia.  I will give a few of the highlights on our ‘cure’ for Fibromyalgia.

Before we can treat Fibromyalgia, let’s try to put to the side the past stigmas associated with Fibromyalgia.  For many years a majority of physicians did not believe in Fibromyalgia and there are still a few physicians who refuse to recognize or treat Fibro.  While rounding on patients in the hospital, I overhead a colleague label Fibromyalgia as the “depressed, overweight, middle age, housewife syndrome”.  On the other spectrum, you had the theory that Fibromyalgia was a warning of things to come.  This group looked at Fibromyalgia patients similar to the theory of the canary in the coal mine.

Luckily, the medical community is finally coming around to recognizing this chronic pain condition.  Current Fibromyalgia research and philosophy is a mixed component of a central nervous system dysfunction with a chronic myofascial component.  Below is a list of recommendations we make to all of our Fibromyalgia patients on there first visit.

  1. Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, make sure to have labs to rule our other connective tissues diseases first, like Rheumatoid Arthritis, before accepting the Fibro diagnosis.
  2. Every Fibro patients needs a sleep study to treat any underlying sleep disorders that will directly complicate pain.
  3. Treat any underlying depression.
  4. Check underlying vitamin deficiencies that can complicate pain, including Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B1
  5. Start a daily home exercise/stretching program, Fibro will worsens with inactivity.
  6. Eliminate all soda’s immediately, totally toxic and can increase inflammatory levels in the body complicating pain.
  7. Restrict the ‘nightshade plants’ from the diet to limit their inflammatory related issues
  8. Limit yeast foods, so many of my patients struggle with this one but it will dramatically improve your energy.
  9. Work with a local physician and consider one of the FDA approved medications for Fibromyalgia:  Cymbalta, Lyrica or Savella.
  10. Consider a workup for gluten allergy.

So much more to cover in future blogs, but this will give you a good starting point and as always consult your local healthcare provider before starting any new health lifestyle modification.