Chronic pain in the US impacts about 100 million adults, which is more than the number impacted by diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Most suffering from chronic pain turn to their family physician for help, but many leave the office with nothing more than a prescription for painkillers in hand. Why? Most doctors simply do not know how to help their patients heal their chronic pain. This is only going to continue, for now less than 4% of medical schools have a required course in pain where before many offered no dedicated courses at all. Even so, a medical course on chronic pain in those schools that required them amounted to less than five hours and the focus was only on drug therapy.
The following is not conjecture or theory but now established scientific fact. The National Library of Medicine now has more than 5000 scientific papers on the subject matter of chronic pain and our modern day diet and environment. So yes at the very least your diet and environment makes a huge difference in why you have and how you might alleviate your chronic pain.
First you have to realize and accept that pain signals are not something to be ignored or blocked by drugs, Pain is your body’s prime signal that something is not functioning properly and needs attention, so taking a drug that blocks pain signals is like putting a piece of black tape over your flashing check engine light. It makes perfect sense that, if your body is malfunctioning and chronically sending you signals (PAIN), it is essential that you stop, take a hard look, and address your diet, environment and lifestyle as a possible reason and concern.
One of the primary triggers of chronic pain is chronic systemic inflammation and a primary cause for this inflammation is sugars and simple refined carbohydrates. Like spilled gasoline, excess blood sugar levels create a highly combustible environment which leads to free radicals and inflammatory fires chronically erupting and sweeping the body. A spike in blood sugar levels that comes from a meal or snack of highly refined carbohydrates and sugars (white bread, pastas, baked goods, white rice, French fries, sugar-laden soda, etc.) increases levels of inflammatory messengers from your immune system called cytokines. Excess blood sugar levels from improper diet causes your body to inadvertently attach glucose (blood sugar) to proteins and lipids making them abnormal, a process called glycation. Then these abnormally glycated or sugary proteins and lipids attach to receptors on your cells turning on a master switch that leads to tissue inflammation and dysfunction, causing your body to send you the message of pain to the brain.
A second hidden cause of systemic inflammation and chronic pain is a condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. SIBO is ‘an overabundance of non-infectious microorganisms adversely affecting the human host’. SIBO is driven by the consumption of fermentable simple carbohydrates and sugars. It is an underlying cause of many functional digestive disorders such as: GERD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and colitis. Some of the bacteria found in SIBO can even produce toxins that damage the lining of the small intestine. This damage can prevent your small intestine from absorbing the micronutrients you need. Deficiencies in B1 Thiamine and magnesium can result, a third hidden factor in chronic muscle and joint pain.
Furthermore, these toxins can damage the “glue” that holds the intestinal cells to each other leading to what has been called and “Leaky Gut Syndrome” our fourth hidden cause of chronic pain.
With a leaky gut (yes it is real) foreign molecules like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, can escape from these leaks in your gastrointestinal, now pay attention!; -70% of your immune system exists in this lining, so a leaky one gives it ample opportunity to mark these “foreign invaders" as pathogens, so it attacks them! This immune response is natural, essential and in the case of this preventable condition will cause local G.I problems e.g. IBS and systemic inflammation leading to…pain!
There is more! Your immune system’s reaction to the leaking through of undigested food proteins, particles etc is also a primary cause of food allergies, our fifth hidden cause of chronic pain. Food allergies and sensitivities occur when your immune system mistakenly identifies a normally harmless substance (e.g. a food protein) and tags it as an invader, as it does to bacteria or viruses. Your immune system then attacks this substance the same way it would attack any invader. When your immune system chronically attacks an invader it releases inflammatory cytokines, which have side effects. (aches, pains, fatigue, brain fog, mood and behavioral problems). much like the symptoms you experienced when you last had the flu.
All five of these hidden causes of chronic pain have specific laboratory tests that can be run to determine if they are a factor in your suffering. Tests such as HA1c for glycation driven inflammation, SIBO Breath Test for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, micronutrient assays for tissue deficiencies of magnesium and B vitamins, a blood test specific for “Leaky Gut Syndrome” and high quality IgG food allergy blood tests. You will need to go outside of a visit to your local health care conglomerate and see a doctor of functional medicine who can show you how to reverse these causes through diet and nutrition.
About Dr. Greg Fors
Dr. Greg Fors, D.C. is a Board-certified Neurologist (IBCN), certified in Applied Herbal Sciences (NWHSU) and acupuncture. As the clinic director of the Pain and Brain Healing Center in Blaine Minnesota he specializes in a functional medicine approach to fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety. He is a sought after international lecturer for various post-graduate departments and state associations. Dr. Fors is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Why We Hurt” available through booksellers everywhere.