Recently, I was at Barnes and Noble, and as I walked past the Health/Wellness/Nutrition/Fitness/Weight Loss/Blah Blah Blah section, I was impressed by how large that section is – not just by the breadth of topics they shoehorn into one category, but by the unbelievable selection of titles within each subtopic. I’m not saying this as an endorsement of their selection, but as a “shaking my head in disbelief” statement. There are literally thousands of titles in health and wellness, ranging in quality from “you should memorize this book” to “you should avoid this like the plague.”
The reason for this is not that there is so much great advice to be found in the health and wellness arena, but that thousands of people have discovered that they can cash in by writing a health and wellness book. It’s a little disturbing.
The Internet is not much better. In fact, in many ways, the Internet is a bottomless cesspool of unfiltered data with a research rabbit hole for every topic you can think of. The problem is not that there is no trustworthy data available online, but that you have to wade through pages of trash to find it, and then you usually have to be able to decipher clinical abstracts with 10-syllable words.
My hope is that fitdocs.com is a safe, reliable resource for people who want to improve their health without needing a thesaurus.
With that said, this week I want to answer a question I hear a lot of people asking: “Why am I always tired, stiff, and sore – and what can I do about it?”
Getting to the Root of Pain
The bookshelves are littered with books trying to answer this question, and the pharmaceutical industry has become a trillion-dollar business by answering this question. Look at the ads you see airing during the evening news; they are all about treating different forms of discomfort: fatigue, joint pain, skin disorders, digestive problems, and similar health issues. On closer inspection, what they are really doing is managing symptoms, not treating disease.
I have my own convictions about why they do this, but I don’t want to get shut down by social media censors again, so I’ll save that for another conversation. In the meantime, I want to get down to the root of the problem behind these symptoms and suggest an inexpensive way to treat it.
Most of the diseases Americans suffer from have a common root: inflammation. Their bodies are under attack and their immune system is overwhelmed to the point that it is actually fighting itself.
In its most familiar forms, inflammation manifests as swelling, heat, pain, or a “burning” sensation. It goes by names like “arthritis,” “inflammatory bowel disease,” and “psoriasis.” But there are dozens of other forms of inflammation that you might not have realized were inflammation, like asthma, Chron’s disease, Rheumatic fever, allergies, and even cancer. We’ve talked about this in detail here, here, and here.
So where is this attack coming from?
Identify The Right Enemy
Some of it is the result of exposure to toxins in our environment. One of the most famous cases is the herbicide Agent Orange that was used as an exfoliant to clear out the jungles during the Vietnam War. Soldiers exposed to Agent Orange came home with a list of diseases people had never seen before as their immune systems worked overtime to attack and eliminate the toxins from their bloodstream. Closer to home, your immune system might be attacking cat dander cells or household cleaning chemicals with an inflammatory response. Both are cases of inflammation, although they might play out as a rash, upper respiratory issues, or even joint pain.
More often, though, inflammatory responses like these are triggered by food. You’ve probably heard of small children who ended up in the hospital with a breathing tube because they accidentally came in contact with a peanut at school. People scoff at this as if it were a form of hyper-protective parenting, but peanut allergies are real. If you do a little research, I think you will find that incidents of peanut allergies exploded in the 1990s, not because of greater awareness, but because of changes in herbicide and pesticide usage in the peanut industry. Unlike nuts, which grow on trees and bushes, peanuts are legumes that grow in the top layer of the soil, where pesticides tend to accumulate over time. Our bodies were not designed to handle the amounts of chemicals in pesticides, especially small children.
You may have had a similar, albeit less severe, reaction to a food and didn’t even know it. Do this next time you have a severe headache or joint pain: think back to what you have eaten over the last two to six hours. If you will start to keep track, I think you will find that certain foods precede specific discomforts, because they are directly linked. Your taste buds might enjoy them, but the rest of your body considers them a threat.
Typical Food Reactions
One of my good friends enjoys eating fresh breads and pastas (and don’t even think about serving Thanksgiving dinner without potatoes), but invariably needs to take a nap two hours after eating them. Why? One theory is that modern baking techniques and genetic modification of wheat have resulted in a strain of gluten called amylopectin A, which passes through your stomach without being properly digested and damages the lining of the intestines. The result is that your immune system goes to DefCon 1 fighting it off as an invader. In some cases, the toxin advances through the blood stream, leading to swelling in the brain, which is considered to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
I’ve had patients who have tried every diet in the bookstore and can’t seem to lose that belly fat. My first question is usually, “are you experiencing joint pain, too?” That’s when they flash a look of shock and ask, “how did you know?” I’ve picked up on a food allergy. If they are faithfully eating salads and still can’t lose weight, they are probably having an allergic reaction to something in the salad. The usual suspects are: potato, tomato, bell pepper, and eggplant – the plants we call “nightshades.” Even organic versions of these super-popular veggies can shred your insides. It’s worth noting that tomatoes weren’t even considered a food until the 1800s (and, for all you foreign cuisine nuts, the Italians didn’t discover them). Some things we consider food are just…not food.
If you enjoy processed lunch meats on a regular basis, you probably spend longer in the restroom than you would like, too. Or your hands hurt in the afternoon. Or you have acne you can’t seem to get rid of. That’s because most processed meats are filled with spices and preservatives your body can’t handle, like nitrates, nitrites, monosodium glutamate, maltodextrin, and the list goes on.
Do they taste great? YES! Are they like swallowing drain cleaner? Pretty close.
If you really want to go for the gusto and send your body into a toxic tailspin, start combining these elements in a meal: processed meats, tomatoes and peppers, refined grains, and then add pasteurized dairy for all of our lactose-intolerant friends…oh, wait. Crud. I’ve just described pizza, the All-American food.
Yes, pizza is one of the most toxic mixtures of allergy-ready substances you can consume.
What About You?
I’m sorry to rain all over your parade, but I want to help you get to the root of your pain, and in many cases, the root is food. Often, it’s a favorite food that you eat so much that your body begins to develop a sensitivity to it. I’ve seen cases where children with a sensitivity to gluten crave Wheat Thins, and will gulp down a whole box of them in one sitting, then sit and stare off into space in a daze. Which came first, bingeing on gluten, or the gluten sensitivity? It’s a fair question and it deserves study, but that’s not for right now.
If you’re game for a little sleuthing and want to get to the bottom of your aches and pains, I’d like to challenge you to do some research at home. Jot down how you feel every hour for a couple of days, and then make note of everything you eat. There probably won’t be a one-to-one correlation of food to pain, but you will begin to see a pattern of feeling achy two to three hours after eating specific foods.
Now, keep in mind that, if your diet includes a lot of sugary items, you will likely feel spikes of energy followed by massive crashes over the next two hours. Some people get grouchy after they’ve eaten bread, and it’s because of the refined carbs converting to sugar, spiking their insulin, and then dissipating. One of my good friends told me that, when he takes his four kids out for ice cream, the car ride home always involves three kids getting loud and rowdy, and the other one getting grouchy and sullen. Same sugar, different reaction.
That’s a slightly different issue; what I’m talking about here is pain.
So, to wrap up, here is a list of inflammatory conditions to look for:
Acute (sudden onset, short-term):
- Acute bronchitis
- A sore throat from a cold or flu
- Acute infective meningitis
Chronic (ongoing, long-term):
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic periodontitis
- Chronic active hepatitis
And here are several foods to avoid or minimize if you are dealing with any of these issues:
- Processed meats.
- Grain-fed meats.
- Fried foods.
- Vegetable oils.
- White flour.
- Artificial sweeteners.
- All fast food.
- Food coloring.
Obviously, everyone’s body responds to different foods in different ways. That’s why I usually start my patients with a 28-day detox cleanse, where we remove all foods from your diet over 28 days and gradually put them back until we can identify clearly which foods cause reactions in your body. Call my office nad we’ll be glad to give you more informatiom about it. It really has been nothing short of miraculous for many of my patients.
Finally, to keep you from giving up entirely and sinking into a cold pool of misery, here is a list of great foods that fight inflammation:
- Green Tea – for all you coffee addicts
- Organic Dark Chocolate
- Black Beans
- Wild Salmon
- Raw Oats
- Chia Seeds
- Organic Yogurt
- Raw Honey – there’s your sweetener, you sugar addicts
- Bone Broth
- Canned White Tuna – there’s a great lunch meat
- Coconut Oil – there’s your cooking oil
Obviously, we covered a lot of ground here today, and we barely scratched the surface. But I encourage you to look through some of the other articles we’ve written here on the topic, starting with this piece on histamines and allergies that several people have found helpful. If you have questions, please post them on Facebook in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them. Of course, if you live here in Southwest Florida, please stop by my office behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road in Naples and let’s talk. And if this article was helpful to you, please help me get the word out in a world of endless health and wellness noise by sharing this article on your favorite social media channel.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas