By David Seaman, DC, MS, DABCN
Most of our calories should come from vegetables, fruit, fish, lean meats and nuts. These foods reduce heart disease because of their anti-inflammatory nature. In 1991, this type of diet was used in a study with patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating, painful disease, resulting in a substantial reduction in pain.
When considering supplements to help reduce pain, it is important to realize that pain expression is based on physical, psychological,and biochemical factors. From a biochemical perspective, it is important to remember that the chemicals which cause inflammation are the same ones that cause pain. Therefore, our goal with supplementation should be to help reduce inflammation.
Fish oil is one of the more popular supplements on the market today and can be taken by almost anyone who is not taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin). Studies have shown that supplemental fish oil is helpful for patients with neck pain and back pain, as well as joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis. The common supplemental recommendation is 1-3 grams of EPA/DHA, which are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. This typically means 2-5 capsules daily if a concentrated fish oil is used for supplementa-tion.
Vitamin D has emerged in recent years as a vitamin that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pain benefits. Autoim-mune diseases, such matory in nature and associated with vitamin D deficiency. Low back pain and widespread pain that can be confused with fibromyalgia are also known to be associated with vitamin D deficiency. We get vitamin D from the sun, but its production is reduced 95 percent when a sunscreen with a sun-protective factor (SPF) of 8 or greater is applied to the skin. No food contains adequate amounts of vitamin D, so we must either get it from the sun or from supplements.
Magnesium: Ever since I can remember, we have been bombarded with information about calcium, while magnesium is rarely emphasized. Yet more than 300 enzymes require magnesium, so it is involved in an inordinate amount of metabolic reactions. From a clinical perspective, the average American’s intake of magnesium is well below the recommended daily allowance (RDA) and this has been associated with the expression of numerous conditions including heart disease, hyper-tension, diabetes, osteoporosis, headache, chronic inflammation, and an increase in nervous system excitability. Approxi-mately 400 mg of supplemental magnesium per day is thought to be adequate for most individuals. (Note: The most common side-effect associated with magnesium supplementation is diarrhea. However, I take 1,000 mg of magnesium daily and have normal bowel function, while others take 400 mg and get diarrhea. The average person is able to tolerate 400 mg. As always, have your clients talk to their doctor before taking any supplement for the first time.)
Probiotics: Research is emerging that implicates poor digestive function with musculoskeletal pain expression. This speaks to the need to drastically reduce our consumption of sugar, flour products and refined oils that are devoid of fiber and known to compromise healthy gut bacteria. Supplementation with healthy bacteria called “probiotics” (Lactobacillus aci-dophilus and Bifidobacteria) are known to reduce intestinal inflammation, and for many this translates into less musculoskele-tal pain as well.
Ginger and Turmeric: Most herbs that we use to spice our meals are known to have anti-inflammatory functions. The most well-studied in the context of inflammation and pain are ginger and turmeric. Each has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal pain. The most economical way to take ginger and turmeric is with meals as an added spice. However, supplements are available and widely utilized. (I personally spice my meals and take a ginger/turmeric supplement.)
B Vitamins: The creation of cellular energy requires most B-complex vitamins. While B vitamins are not traditionally viewed as anti-inflammatory or analgesic, human and animal research suggests that B-vitamin supplementation may offer pain-reducing benefits.
The next time you discuss pain relief with your client, inform them of these simple dietary and supplement strategies, which have brought substantial relief to many individuals. Encourage them to discuss drugless solutions with their doctor
Foods That Promote Inflammation
- High-fat meats (especially red meat)
- Processed meats
- Sugary snacks, sodas and cereals
- Refined grains
- Candy and other junk food
Foods That Discourage Inflammation
- Salmon and other oily fish
- Flax/pumpkin seeds
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Brightly colored fruits and vegetables
David Seaman, MS, DC, DACBN, is the author of Clinical Nutrition for Pain, Inflammation and Tissue Healing. He has a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Conn. Massage Today
May, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 05