Your stress response is heightened all the time.
And the uncertainty of what will happen next keeps your body stuck in fight or flight mode.
The constant stress state interrupts your ability to manage pain signals so the body stays inflamed.
You feel like your body has betrayed you and is waging war against you and you just want it to stop.
And because it’s invisible those who have never had chronic pain don’t understand the struggle.
Not to mention the toll pain takes on the body day in and day out.
Chances are you can’t remember your last restful uninterrupted night of sleep.
The nagging daily wake up thought of – how bad is it going to be today? – pops in your head each morning.
Your mind is consumed with the hope that something will provide relief today.
If you could just get the pain to go away – how incredible would that be?
Understanding pain at it’s most basic levels has helped many of my patients gain a new perspective on their pain and help to manage pain better.
Chinese Medicine’s simple explanations of pain combined with a little physiology basics have helped my patients to understand their pain better.
So let’s dive into the basics….
Pain is a signal from the body to the brain that something needs to be fixed.
In Chinese Medicine pain is considered:
- "stuck blood" = inflammatory markers stuck causing just enough inflammation in the area of pain over and over to keep signaling pain to your brain - you can't visibly see there's pain (why chronic pain is a frustrating "invisible condition")
- "dampness" (hence the picture here) - blood and fluids around the area of pain not moving = lymphatic system not clearing toxic debris from the body being inflamed in the area of pain
- "cold" = really poor circulation to the point that blood moves like molasses and good nutrients are not getting to the area of pain
- "hot" = a heightened area of inflammation that is warm to the touch as the body is actively fighting with increased force in the area
Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs & Chinese Dietary Therapy take all of these characteristics into account to help with pain control.
Natural medicine sees pain as an over-inflamed region of the body that needs help with:
- circulation - enhance movement of new blood into areas of pain and flush out the stuck stuff - do this with contrast hydrotherapy, movement & nutrition
- nourishment - circulation gets blood to the areas of concern, massage, myofascial work, cupping & topical herbs can help here to get good blood flow to the area of pain
- immune signaling correction - this is done with herbs to control the overzealous pain signaling response - essentially resetting the nervous system to regulate inflammation in the area of pain is huge - ex: tumeric for muscles, frankincense (Boswellia) for bone pain, arnica topically for nerve pain
- stress management is huge here to as are using adaptogenic herbs - cordyceps (I really like using mushrooms to work on immune regulation (ImmPower is a great product), rhodiola, ashwagandha to name a few
What are the characteristics of your pain?
So now that I break them down I want you to explore a few things about your pain, arthritis and headaches with these questions...
- do weather changes make pain or headaches worse - if so cold/dampness or heat?
- does stress make things worse?
- have you connected any foods to making headaches worse?
- what about hormones? say around the period or postmenopausal
- did your headaches start in menopause?
Your diet influences your pain levels
Food - what you eat has a direct impact on how you feel - you have to pay attention to this....
- lectins - the list is long but grains, legumes & nightshades fall in this category - if you take them out - do you feel better?
- dairy (most damp food according to Chinese along with eggs & sugar - so if weather increases your pain consider limiting these foods OR try eating them with cayenne, spicy peppers or other items)
- high histamine foods - bananas, nuts, wine, aged cheese, sausages, chocolate, eggs (see autoimmunewellness.com for a more expansive list)
- And of course junk foods but really many of us eat well and there are some issues with foods that can really upset our delicate immune systems causing pain.
For anyone that has pain I recommend going to the autoimmunewellness.com website as it has a “what to eat and what to avoid” list and trying this for 3 months and see how you feel. Yes the site is for autoimmune conditions BUT really pain, arthritis and headaches are all signs of over inflammation and your body attacking itself by not being able to control inflammation in the body.
The better you manage stress the better you control inflammation, the driving force behind pain
The more you can control inflammation the better and you do that via:
- diet – autoimmune paleo or low lectin styles are best to reduce inflammation
- stress management - breathing, relaxing, taking fun breaks
- hydration – ½ your body weight in water daily
- enhancing circulation - increasing how much you move - walking, swimming, mobility work - whatever you can do to move just a bit more each day will help; you can also enhance local circulation with red light therapy too
- enhancing circulation with massage, lymphatic drainage massage, dry brushing or myofascial release, acupuncture (of course one of my faves), cupping (2nd fave)
- contrast hydrotherapy - 3 minutes hot and 30 seconds cold to the area of pain - 3 rounds and end on cold
- topical herbs/oils to stimulate circulation - Doterra's Deep Blue, Dr. Bob's Medicated Oil (my fave), Arnica, Rosemary, Grapefruit, Cinnamon, Sage, Mustard, Cayenne (you can eat these too to help circulation)
- Stop overcomplicating your health.
Go back to the basics.
Try out one of the basics above – and stick with it for a month!
Comment and let me know how it goes.
AND if you’re looking for more information on this topic…check out my podcast on this very topic right now!
WHAT TO AVOID WHEN YOU THINK YOU HAVE FOOD SENSITIVITIES
Are you gassy, bloated, suffering from stomach aches, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, migraines, itchy skin, hives, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, muscles or joint pain? You suspect it’s a food but not sure where to start? Eliminating the most common food allergens is one place to start to reduce inflammation in your gut.
GO GRAIN FREE
Gluten isn’t the only grain on the block causing trouble. Gluten free grains/seeds can be problematic too – oats, rice, buckwheat, amaranth, millet and quinoa can irritate as well. Gluten containing grains: couscous, tabouli, kamut, spelt, kamut, farro, durum, bulgur, semolina, barley, rye, triticale and non-gluten free oats. Ditch these for a bit to give the gut lining a break.
GO DAIRY FREE
Dairy products from cows are hard for humans to digest and typically it’s either the casein, a milk protein or lactose, a milk sugar that cause trouble. Goat’s milk seems to be an option for some while others may do well with almond, flax, coconut or cashew milk. The alternative milks may be an irritant due to their added stabilizers such as guar gum and carrageenan. It is best to either make your own milks from nuts or seeds or consider coconut milk from non-BPA lined cans
GO NIGHTSHADE FREE
Avoid the common nightshade veggies – tomato, potato (this means sweet potato too), eggplant, peppers (paprika, black pepper, bell pepper, spicy peppers) and goji berries
Legumes: lentils, peas, peanuts, soybeans, chick peas, green beans and anything else that carries the bean name behind it. Soybeans aka edamame are legumes and can irritate your digestive system lining as they are one of the most genetically modified foods on the market. Legumes are hard for humans to breakdown and most of us consume portions beyond what we can break down. Let your gut lining heal a bit by avoiding these guys for a while.
GO LOW HISTAMINE
Histamines play a huge factor in food sensitivities. Avoid these high histamine foods and let your belly heal: strawberries, bananas, avocado, nuts, lunch meats, cured meats (sausages/bacon), olives, aged cheese, food that has been sitting out for more than a few hours, left overs past one day, shellfish, anchovies, alcohol, beans, pickled or fermented foods, smoked meat, chocolate, vinegar, papaya, citrus fruits and teas with caffeine.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS
If you are consuming foods that are not in their natural state that nature intended ie: in boxes, bags or frozen ; you are adding extra preservatives and color additives to your diet that you can be sensitive to.
GO WITH ORGANIC WHEN YOU
You don’ t have to purchase everything organic but make sure that apples, celery, nectarines, peaches, pears, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, spinach, kale, and collards are all purchased organic as they are heavily treated with pesticides.
Less is always more in this case. Make meals with 5 ingredients or less so that the body has time to repair and process . Eat proper portions and slow down to focus on your meals. Chew 25 times per bite to not overload your digestive system with huge pieces of food.