Pain and suffering is a part of the human condition and we cannot avoid it. We actually need pain to alert our bodies of danger or that something is wrong, otherwise we would not know to remove our hand from the stove when we touch it! However, chronic pain or even pain that is periodic is an indication that our body/mind complex is out of balance and needs some readjustment.
I could not mention pain without talking about prostaglandins (PG’s) and diet. These are hormone like substances, which are thought to play a role in regulation and function of every organ and cell in the body. Fatty Acids convert in the body to PG’s and are therefore essential to good health. The most commonly known PG’s are the E series of PGE1, PGE2 and PGE3. PGE1 and PGE3 are considered to be anti-inflammatory and therefore can help to decrease pain in the body whereas PGE2 is considered to be pro-inflammatory and therefore, if too much, can increase pain and inflammation.
To increase our PGE1’s we need to consume foods that are high in Linoleic Acid. These are fresh nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and some animal products (mainly grass fed and free-range animals). These fats will then convert to Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), which in turn converts to PGE1 under the right conditions (i.e. with the correct amount of nutrients available). Some people are best to get their GLA direct from the source, the best being spirulina, evening primrose or borage seed oil, especially for the pain of arthritis.
To increase our PGE3’s we need to consume foods that are high in Alpha-Linolenic Acid. These are flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seed, walnuts, organic soy products and dark green salads and veggies. These will then convert to the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA , which will then convert to PGE3, again under the right conditions. The best sources of EPA and DHA are salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovy and pilchards. However, because of farmed fishing, I would not recommend salmon nor tuna due to the high mercury content.
Now, the plot thickens as PGE2 is mostly sourced from animal products and if too many of these are consumed, then the naughty PGE2 will block the beneficial PGE1 and more pain and inflammation will result. Many researchers, including Paul Pitchford in Healing With Whole Foods, consider the high amount of meat and dairy consumed in our modern Western diets to be the main contributing factor to not only pain and inflammation but also heart disease and cancer, which are indicators of inflammation in the body.
As well as not being able to convert GLA into the beneficial PGE1 because of lack of nutrients and other factors, there are also other things that can block this conversion:
- Consuming trans-fatty acids in synthetic fats, margarine, shortenings and refined and heated oils.
- Alcohol and tobacco.
- Radiation (including that from appliances).
- Aspirin and most synthetic drugs.
- An excess of saturated fats and cholesterol.
- Excessive consumption of animal products.
- Deficiencies of B3, B6, C, E, Zinc and Magnesium.
So, my protocol for reducing and dealing with pain:
- Avoid animal and dairy products as much as possible except for sardines, pilchards and anchovy.
- Eat a mostly organic vegetarian diet free of processed and refined food and oils.
- Consume fresh nuts, seeds and grains especially, flaxseed, chia and pumpkin seeds regularly.
- Include organic tofu, tempeh, soybeans and miso in the diet regularly.
- Take 1-2 dessertspoons of organic flaxseed oil with food daily.
- Include 2-3 teaspoons of spirulina a day in fresh juices.
- Take Vit C, Magnesium, Zinc and B Vitamins daily (see your naturopath for recommendations).
- Exercise and stretch daily within your limits.
- Meditate daily for 10-15 mins or relax with a positive visualisation for pain relief.
- Address emotional blockages that are being stored in your body through different fields of therapy, e.g. family constellations, gestalt, network chiropractic, counselling etc.
Suzanne Staples, ND DBM
Naturopath, Herbalist, Homoeopath