Drivers of Pain – modifiable nutrition factors
If you have a condition that causes you pain, it can feel as though your health is out of your hands. Teams of consultants and nurses care for you well and you are on the best medications. But you wonder – is there anything else you can do – yourself, everyday – that might reduce your pain?
The answer is yes. There are known drivers of pain which are modifiable with nutrition and lifestyle. They may not be the complete answer, but getting them into balance can make small, subtle differences which can add up to significant change. This blog looks at 2 of the common drivers of pain – modifiable nutrition and lifestyle factors within your control.
If you have a diagnosis of arthritis, a systemic condition such as fibromyalgia, migraines, endometriosis, stomach cramping with bowel diseases, anything that causes pain, then this blog is for you.
Let’s dive into 2 of the key drivers of pain which are modifiable with nutrition and lifestyle and within your control.
Drivers of pain – modifiable nutrition and lifestyle factors within your control
Modifiable Pain Driver No. 1 – Insulin resistance and high HbA1C
The amount of glucose in your blood is likely to be higher than ideal if you have pre-diabetes or poorly controlled diabetes. Even without these diagnoses, your blood sugar management is probably less than ideal if you experience a slump in energy after lunch, feel jittery between meals, or frequently fancy something sweet. How can you find out if this is a problem for you?
How blood sugar is measured
Blood sugar is measured in 2 principle ways. A fasting blood glucose level measures the amount of sugar in your blood after an overnight ‘fast’. In addition, a marker called HbA1C gives an indication of blood glucose levels over the previous 3 months. When blood sugar levels rise – and they do every time we eat – we release a hormone called insulin which is responsible for maintaining glucose levels within tight parameters. If your blood glucose levels remain high over a long period of time, your cells can become ‘resistant’ to the action of insulin. This is because insulin is being constantly pumped out in an effort to bring your glucose back within safe levels. This is called insulin resistance.
Both these issues – raised HbA1C and insulin resistance – have been shown in the science to be a driver of pain. So this is something worth focusing on, whatever pain you experience. For some, a few simple changes to food choices will have a good impact; for others, putting the appropriate measures in place by working with a registered nutritional therapist is advisable. A nice side benefit of managing your blood glucose levels well: more energy, and who doesn’t enjoy that?
Modifiable Pain Driver No. 2 – Fatty acid imbalance
Fish oil or a vegan alternative is well known as an anti-inflammatory agent. They contain omega-3 fats, an essential fatty acid, that form part of the wall of every cell in our body. It is ‘essential’ because we have to eat it – we cannot manufacture it ourselves internally.
In addition to forming part of the cell wall structure, essential fatty acids provide us with a source of energy. They have also been shown in clinical trials to be good for (amongst others):
- Reducing joint stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis
- Reducing triglycerides levels and thereby, supporting cardiovascular health
- Supporting brain health, including depression and dementia
- Improving asthma symptoms
The truth is that we need a balance of omega fats. It is not as easy as throwing in a fish oil supplement and thinking that the anti-inflammatory job is done. Whilst the standard western diet tends to be higher in omega-6’s than omega-3’s, it is the balance that is crucial to the management of inflammation. Getting that balance out of kilter drives inflammation. And inflammation can drive ill-health and pain. A diet high in omega-6/depleted in omega-3’s, or taking long-term, high-dose omega-3 supplements can cause an essential fatty acid imbalance.
How to balance your essential fatty acids
2 pieces of advice:
- Get your omega-3’s and 6’s using food, rather than supplementation. Nature is miraculous, packaging things up in the perfect proportions. Bear in mind that we tend to eat more omega-6 fats (seed and seed oils, meat, eggs, soy) than omega 3’s (salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts), so focus on omega-3’s.
- Test your fatty acid status before supplementation and monitor routinely to ensure you are achieving a good balance.
I routinely conduct essential fatty acid testing with my pain clients, with good results. Call me if you would like to find out more.
There are many other drivers of pain – leaky gut and LPS, histamines, advanced glycated end products amongst them – that you can focus on. These will be covered in future blogs so keep checking back.
If you suffer from chronic pain and would like to discuss your own situation and how nutrition and lifestyle changes may be able to help, you can book a free call with me. It is worth investing in your health so you can get your life back on track. Call me to find out more.
You can also download my free eBook 5 Steps to Ease Chronic Pain.
We’ve also got a new eBook with 10 delicious recipes focusing on cruciferous vegetables. Good for our livers and the creation of the master antioxidant, glutathione, which can help modify pain. Grab it here!