Pain is your body’s way of getting your attention. It is a loud voice shouting that you have an inflammation that needs to be addressed.
By now, you know that inflammation is the underlying cause for a number of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. I’ve talked about this in the past and spoke about some nutrients you can use to reduce inflammation. But the more information you have, and the more you attack this problem from a variety of directions, the more likely you are to become pain-free.
Many people who have arthritis pain simply reach for a bottle of glucosamine sulfate with or without chondroitan sulfate. They think that’s all they need to do. It’s not. Glucosamine is a popular and effective joint-pain remedy. But as good as it is, it’s not the whole answer. Pain medications are not the answer either, since they just mask the underlying cause and contribute to other health problems.
Arthritis used to be an old person’s disease. Now I’m amazed at how many of my patients in their 40s and 50s have it. If it seems like arthritis is becoming more common, that’s because it is. And since long-term inflammation damages tissues and contributes to other diseases, reducing arthritis pain today could prevent major problems tomorrow.
Beyond a healthy diet — eliminate nightshades
The fats in meats help make pro-inflammatory substances, while fish oil, flax oil, and walnuts, high in essential fatty acids, make anti-inflammatory substances. A healthy diet high in essential fatty acids and low in animal protein can reduce inflammation in general, but particular foods have been found to trigger arthritis pain.
Here’s why: All chronic pain is a sign of inflammation, and whenever there’s inflammation, your body’s defense mechanism produces extra white blood cells to clean up debris from damaged tissues. These extra cells make chemicals that produce pain. So the more you eat foods that trigger this white blood-cell response, the more your pain will continue.
Any food to which you have a sensitivity or allergy will cause your body to produce more pain chemicals. In many people with arthritis, this is particularly true with foods in the nightshade family. Nightshades (Solonaceae) include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, some spices, and tobacco.
It’s difficult for some people to avoid the nightshades because they love them so much. The reason for their craving may be a physiological addiction. You may actually have an addiction to one or more nightshade foods because they contain small quantities of powerful drug-like substances called alkaloids.
Years ago, I had a patient with severe arthritis pain who changed her junk food diet for a healthy one high in fruits and vegetables. No matter what she did, her pain persisted. Then she confessed that she couldn’t wait for her glass of tomato juice each morning. She had forgotten to list it on her food diary. As soon as she stopped drinking tomato juice, her pain disappeared.
This doesn’t always happen. But when it does, the results can be dramatic. Even tiny quantities of nightshades hidden in other foods can contribute to excruciating arthritis pain, and nightshades are everywhere. For instance, potato starch is disguised in many frozen and processed foods in the form of modified food starch, modified vegetable protein, modified vegetable starch, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Look for it in meatballs, mock crab, sausages, and all deep-fried foods that have been cooked in the same vegetable oils as French fried potatoes. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications use potato starch as their filler. Is it in your drugs? You or your pharmacist may need to call the pharmaceutical company to find out. It’s a pain, to be sure. But it’s not as painful as your arthritis!