Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Feeding Your Pain

I have been thinking a lot about nutrition lately. My husband and I recently did a juice fast that really made me take a look at my diet and the amount of nutrients that I was getting - or not getting as the case turned out to be. I watched a documentary recently about food and how what you are eating really matters. As a nation, so many are obese, but also malnourished and it is because we are eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. I'm guilty of this myself. According to experts, the Standard American Diet (SAD- the acronym for our diet is SAD! how terrible is that?!) consists of too many fats and carbohydrates and not enough fruits and vegetables. The vegetables that we do eat tend to be over-cooked and have lost their nutritional value. (Can you say fried green beans?!) So many Americans are seriously deficient in many vitamins and minerals. So you may be saying, "that's why I take my Flintstones chewable every day" but the truth is that many vitamin supplements are not well absorbed by the body. Its a start, but your body absorbs these nutrients best when they are gotten from food.

So what does this have to do with pelvic pain? The answer may be a whole lot.
Many people with chronic pain have nutrient deficiencies. For those who are unaware, vitamins are not just a pill that you take every morning. That is a supplement. Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that are essential for basic cell functions in your body.

I recently took a course regarding chronic pain from Dr. David Musnick and what he had to say really opened my eyes to how my patients could be better feeding their pain.

So here is a list of common deficiencies for people with chronic pain:

Vitamin D
It is recommended that anyone with chronic pain have their Vitamin D levels checked. If your levels are low, talk to your doctor about how you can increase them. The sun is a great source of Vitamin D, however with skin cancer risks this can be a challenge. It is typically recommended that one increases their intake through diet and supplements. Fatty fish and fish oils are a good source of Vitamin D, though the major dietary source of vitamin D in the US comes from fortified diary, along with some yogurts and cereals. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and beef liver provide small amounts of Vitamin D.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary for tissue repair after injury or surgery. You can see how this would be important in regards to chronic pain. Okay, this is an easy one. What has lots of Vitamin C? An orange, right? Wrong. Although there is a good amount of Vitamin C in oranges, there are better foods to eat to get your daily amounts. There are 50 mg of Vitamin C in an orange, while Brussels sprouts have 80 mg, broccoli and kiwi have 90 mg and red peppers have 190 mg!

Zinc is also necessary for tissue repair after injury or surgery and for normal muscle function. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of zinc food sources available naturally for you to take advantage of.
Zinc is highly associated with protein foods and the highest concentrations are in beef, lamb, pork, crab meat, turkey, chicken, lobster, clams and salmon. If you are a vegetarian, high zinc foods would be found in dairy products such as milk and cheese, peanuts, beans, and wholegrain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes and yogurt. But of all the vegetarian zinc foods, pumpkin seeds offer one of the most concentrated non-meat food sources of zinc.

Calcium is required for your muscles to function normally. Again, this is an easy one right? Dairy? This time its not a trick - dairy is a great source of Calcium. But its not the only source.
Dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cheese, are good sources of calcium. One cup of milk or buttermilk contains 300 milligrams of calcium. Yogurt contains approximately 450 milligrams of calcium per cup. One ounce of hard cheese, such as cheddar or 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese contains 200 milligrams of calcium. Fish, leafy greens and certain nuts and seeds contain calcium as well. Three ounces of canned sardines or mackerel contains 370 and 250 milligrams of calcium, respectively. One cup of cooked broccoli contains 180 milligrams and 1 cup of raw arugula contains 125 milligrams of calcium. One ounce of sesame seeds contains 280 milligrams of calcium.

Magnesium is also required for your muscles to function normally.  Magnesium is widely distributed in plant and animal foods and in some beverages. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are good sources. Bottled and mineral waters can also be sources of magnesium.

There are so many other considerations regarding your diet, including inflammatory foods which I will be discussing in my next post.  I encourage you to talk to your doctor and a nutritionist about your diet and what areas may be lacking. Take a look at what you are eating and what you are (or aren't) feeding your pain.

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