I recently wrote about A Painful Diet and how you are what you eat, because of the clear link between dietary choices and risk of developing certain painful conditions. The field of nutrition, as it relates to our bodies, reflects that:
We get out of our body what we put into it – good, bad, beneficial and detrimentalThe doctor who shared that phrase, Dr. Hal Blatman, has dedicated his medical practice to the links between food, pain and inflammation. He and others believe that** there is an epidemic of pain afflicting our nation and actually pacing with obesity,** likely because the average diet in the U.S. is an inflammatory-provoking diet and inflammation is linked to pain. When it comes to the “why” of why we may be experiencing pain, Dr. Blatman refers to the following equation:
G minus B + R = Pai is “the good things we put in and do for our bodies”
B is the “bad foods we consume or bad choices we make for our bodies”
R is the “reserve your body has” and it’s what you were given at birth in terms of baseline health, minus what’s been “used up.”
Pain is the net result of an imbalance between** G** and** B** and poor or depleted reserves.
Dr. Blatman concurs with many of the experts in the fields of integrative and functional medicine who all believe that the Western diet causes a gut microbe imbalance, and he is especially concerned about our use of artificial sweeteners, margarine, sugar, wheat (in its modern modified form), fruit juice (soda) and trans fats. He believes these foods, and white potatoes—if consumed regularly—are toxic to the body and the gut microbiome. He’s “down” on highly processed and refined foods (he refers to them as fake foods) because their typically long shelf life speaks volumes in terms of the number of chemicals and preservatives added to achieve that stabilizing food feature.
When it comes to painful conditions, Dr. Blatman is keen on certain tools we can use, mostly from a nutrition perspective, to incite healing or to reduce pain. He believes that probiotics containing specific ratios of EPA and DHA can help to manage depression. Evening primrose oil can help with atopic eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oil (1 gram daily) can reduce pain in patients suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. He uses even higher doses in patients with cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases that have pain components. He has also seen a remarkable downregulation in rheumatoid arthritis pain when these patients remove all vestiges of sugar from their diet.
Eating a fibromyalgia-friendly diet
He calls fibromyalgia “a condition of body injury on many levels.” He connects the disease to certain possible risk factors including obesity, an inflammatory diet, and other “Bs” in the G minus B + R = Pain equation, along with a significantly depleted R (reserve). His theory is that it then takes only one stressor that pushes the equation over the edge, causing decompensation across all systems in the body. These patients often benefit from a significant diet overhaul, and the introduction of exercise, if they can be convinced to engage in a long term lifestyle change.
Dr. Blatman suggests that the body has zero tolerance for the poor lifestyle choices we make. On the plus side, our bodies are resilient and have an extraordinary capability of rebounding and self-healing, once we implement healthier lifestyle choices and limit (as much as possible) toxic exposures. In the treatment of fibromyalgia, his goal is to limit the pain patients suffer with, and also to help the patient improve their overall health. Specifically when discussing ways to intercept fibromyalgia, he is a big proponent of:
- Limiting wheat consumption (white flour foods and white/red potatoes)
- Limiting refined sugar consumption
- Cutting out trans fats
- Cutting out potato starch
- Taking a daily fish oil supplement (1 – 5 grams)
- Eating several servings of greens daily to support gut flora
- A consideration of supplements like arginine, glutamine and inulin prebiotics
- Limiting stress as much as possible
- Embracing daily exercise (start slow)
The biggest hurdle with fibromyalgia patients is that they often feel they have “given up so much” because of their multi-symptoms and pain, that they are hard-pressed to change their diets “and give up their last pleasure.” Doctors caring for these patients need to communicate the message that their diet can either extend the pain cycle or intercept it. The power to limit the pain is their choice.
Integrative Health Symposium, Food Pain and the Dietary Effects of Inflammation, Hal Blatman, M.D., DAAPM, ABIHM
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”