Do you suffer from back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, or one of the many forms of arthritis? If so, you are used to dealing with pain daily, and have likely been searching for years for some relief. You may have also noticed that your pain levels fluctuate independent from activity and weather…so what could be causing it? It could be your diet…
Many people don’t realize just how much your diet influences your pain and inflammation levels daily…but it does influence it, a lot! If you suffer from fibromyalgia, someone at some point has probably told you to eliminate “nightshades” from your diet. Most people aren’t familiar with nightshades, but they don’t just effect fibromyalgia…they effect everyone, but people that suffer from chronic pain tend to be more sensitive…especially including arthritis sufferers.
So, what are these nightshade vegetables? Nightshades are a classification of vegetables (honestly, technically they’re fruits and vegetables…but for simplicity purposes we’ll stick with calling them vegetables 😉 ). They get their name from the type of plant they come from…the nightshade is a classification of plant that tends to be poisonous (like Belladonna), but the fruits of these plants are not poisonous. Foods that fall within this category include: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, white potatoes, paprika, and tobacco (also Goji berries, but those aren’t commonly found in our diet because they are a berry from the Himalayan mountains). All of these vegetables interfere with enzymes in the muscles, and this can lead to muscle pain, trembling, in some it can even effect breathing! These vegetables are also high in alkaloids, and some research suggests these can cause inflammation and even some joint damage! Yikes. Although the jury is still out on joint damage, you can reduce the amount of alkaloids present by cooking your vegetables (preferred methods are steaming or sauteing, so you can retain most of the other nutrients…boiling just releases the nutrients into the water. So, unless you’re going to drink your veggie water, don’t do that 😉 )
With my job, I talk to a lot of patients that suffer from fibromyalgia, and many of them will tell you that when they encounter someone that is smoking or has just smoked…when they smell the cigarette smoke they almost immediately feel the onset of headache or migraine, sometimes flu like symptoms, many report fatigue, achiness, and so on…This is because the reaction with this enzyme is happening at a much faster rate because the reaction occurs by inhaling the substance, whereas when you consume it in food form, the body has to break it down before those components begin to interact. Because the reaction isn’t immediate, many don’t relate the occurring effects to food. Start keeping a food diary…track everything. You may notice that you are more sensitive to some nightshades over others. You may also notice that other foods are causing you to feel like junk too…that may be an underlying food intolerance.
One way to reduce inflammation and help keep your joints lubricated it to start taking and Omega-3 Fish Oil (click here for the blog on how to find a good fish oil…it is important to make sure you’re taking a good one). If you have chronic muscle pain or bone pain, have your doctor check your vitamin D levels (click here to read more about the importance of vitamin D).
Something else to consider when trying to reduce inflammation in the body to help with pain, is gluten. I hate to go there, because I’m not on the “everyone needs to be gluten free” bandwagon…but gluten IS inflammatory. Many people are overwhelmed by the prospect of going gluten free, but it’s not that bad…I swear. I tell anyone that is considering going gluten free to just give it 2-3 days. If it is causing issues 48-72 hours is enough time for it to dissipate from the system and see some alleviation of symptoms to be able to determine if it is adversely affecting the system. Most people are capable of substituting their breads and crackers with oatmeal, rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes for a few days (for more information on going gluten free, click on the image to the right to enlarge it). If you feel better…try going at least 2 weeks, after that point add some gluten in at lunch and see what happens. If you notice you start having issues that you haven’t dealt with in two weeks, you could have a sensitivity or intolerance. I would definitely keep a food journal during this time tracking all of your symptoms. That way when you start incorporating it again you can track all of the side effects and take the journal to your doctor and discuss it. If your doctor feels that you have an intolerance or sensitivity…they can write a prescription for your records indicating this…and from that point forward, just keep track of your receipts for all of your gluten free foods. You will be able to claim it on your taxes, as it becomes a medical expense once you have the write up from the doctor.
A few other factors that can help with alleviating joint pain is staying properly hydrated. Ensuring that you maintain an optimal body weight…excess weight puts stress and strain on your joints, increasing pain. I have a few blogs pertaining to weight management ( check them out here, here, here, and here) if you would like to attempt it on your own. If you would like assistance with menu planning, feel free to contact me or schedule an appointment in the office.
Lastly, one of the most important factors for alleviation of pain is sleep… I know it can be difficult if you struggle with chronic pain, but there are some things that you can do to make sure you’re getting a more solid sleep, like taking a melatonin supplement. But getting a good nights sleep helps to lower inflammation levels, and when you’re body is less inflamed you are less sensitive to pain.
If you have any other questions about foods and how they effect your pain, feel free to send me an email or leave a message below 🙂
If you would like to read more on nightshades click on the following links: