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: Find your team!

To ‘cure’ your pain you will need to actively seek a health care team dedicated to achieving your goals.  Although our practice is only one example, you will want to seek providers that take a multidimensional approach.  Ideally you will have a healthcare provider who can manage any approach medication options needed.  Find a provider that doesn’t treat you like cattle.  Find  a provider that takes the time to know their patients and not someone who kicks you out the door after 10 minutes.  Avoid the ‘pill mill’ clinics!  If you suffer with underlying anxiety and depression, which is almost every patient, you will want to also work with a pain psychologist or psychiatrist to help with coping skills.

Some alternative add-ons that we recommend would involve joining a pain support group, either one specifically for your pain condition or one for chronic pain.  Having a support group to vent at, share ideas, share victories or frustrations is a critical component.  I like to call it the “Oprah  effect” as Oprah has done wonders with addressing issues and bringing them into the viewer’s living room.  So can these support groups be your “Oprah effect”.

As you become a more active participant, we then encourage our patients to actively seek an exercise instructor with experience in pain patients.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, aquatic Therapy are all wonderful examples of improving strength and flexibility while decreasing pain.

The goal is finding the right members to fill out your pain fighting team!

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.

‘Cure’ Your Pain: Become a Champion

To ‘cure’ your pain you must learn to become a champion. A champion is defined as an individual who overcomes great odds to achieve their goals.

This is an active approach to taking back your life. The first step is to pick one activity that you had quit due to you pain. This can be as simple as walking up the hill to the mailbox or going to the grocery store. There is no quit in a champion, you will start by telling your pain “I’m taking this back!” As you start to slowly add back more activities you will gain more confidence and improve your quality of life. These small victories will improve you mood and outlook. Just like any champion, the road to success will have its highs and lows. Don’t become frustrated if you have a setback, only by failing can we learn to succeed.

By winning more and more of these small victories you will learn to control you pain and not let your pain control you. When you learn that you control your pain you will become a champion!

Today’s “Cure”: Food Intake

To make progress in finding a “Cure” for your pain, every patient needs to evaluate the food they put into their body.  Your food is the fuel your body uses to heal and to repair itself.  There are countless studies that show direct correlation to increased inflammatory levels and increased pain with different food groups.

Here is a list of foods we recommend to avoid or consider a 6 week elimination trial.

#1 Avoid all sodas!  Interesting enough, diet soft drinks, due to the sweetener Aspartame,  seem to have even worse detrimental side effects for pain patients.  We have seen dramatic results from patients eliminating all soft drinks and replacing with water.  Eliminating soft drinks improves energy, decreases inflammatory levels that trigger or exacerbate Migraine headaches, joint pain and Fibromyalgia.

#2  Limit or eliminate “Night shade” plants.  Most patients assume that increasing vegetables would be a good lifestyle choice, however increasing studies are revealing that pain patients do worse with exposure to nightshade plants.  Nightshade plants include a list of vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, eggplant and more!  These nightshade plants increase inflammatory levels in the body and increase pain.

#3 Limit Carbohydrates!   Carbs, specifically yeast related products worsen pain and specifically Fibromyalgia patients.

#4 Avoid Fast food, not even going to explain this further.

#5  Do your best to shop the outer ring of the grocery store.  The outer ring of the grocery store will have more of the food that should be put into our body.  The inner aisles contain all the processed foods.  Obviously it’s impossible to avoid all of the inner aisles, but if you start on the outer ring you will improve your nutritional value.

#6  Consider being evaluated for Gluten.

This list will give you a good starting point to cleaning up your food intake and improving the food that fuels your body.

To “Cure” your pain: Get Moving!

To “cure” your pain, all patients need some level of an exercise routine. Obviously, many pain conditions can significantly limit the types of exercise a patient can perform but every patient can do some level activity above their sedentary status.

The gold standard exercise for chronic back pain patients is aquatic therapy. In fact most patients seem to respond to aquatic therapy as it is a way to improve range of motion, flexibility and attain some level of cardiovascular workout in a controlled environment that is less stressful to the joints than land based activities.

Low impact yoga or some form of a daily stretching routine is another excellent form of daily exercise that almost all patients should add to their daily routine. Fibromyalgia patients seem to be a particular set of patients that I have personally witness make great strides.

For wheelchair bound patients, there are now excellent chair based exercise classes. In 17 years of practice we’ve literally never found a patient that couldn’t benefit from some type of exercise routine.

A daily exercise routine, improves strength and flexibility which can help patients avoid falls. Falls are very common with pain patients and can lead to further pain and disability. Daily exercise will improve a patients mood and help them establish a positive routine to their day.

Check with your health care provide before starting an exercise routine. Afterwards, find some movement that you can stick with and perform most days of the week and get moving.

“Cure” your pain: Active participant

To “Cure” you pain you will need to be an active participant.  This seems obvious but too many patients take a passive approach to their healing and care.

Too many times I have treated patients who don’t follow the recommendations and plans given to them and then are surprised when they haven’t made any progress.  As future articles will explain, treating pain is complex.  You must treat both the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual nature of one’s being to find their “Cure”.  There are no shortcuts and no magic pill that will take all the pain away.

By finding this website and doing your own research, you are taking a good first step to becoming an active participant in your care.  In upcoming articles we will show you ways to become further involved as an active participant including nutrition, exercise, research, meditation and many more.  Join us on this journey.