Pain is your body’s way of getting your attention. It is a loud voice shouting that you have an inflammation that needs to be addressed.
By now, you know that inflammation is the underlying cause for a number of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. I’ve talked about this in the past and spoke about some nutrients you can use to reduce inflammation. But the more information you have, and the more you attack this problem from a variety of directions, the more likely you are to become pain-free.
Many people who have arthritis pain simply reach for a bottle of glucosamine sulfate with or without chondroitan sulfate. They think that’s all they need to do. It’s not. Glucosamine is a popular and effective joint-pain remedy. But as good as it is, it’s not the whole answer. Pain medications are not the answer either, since they just mask the underlying cause and contribute to other health problems.
Arthritis used to be an old person’s disease. Now I’m amazed at how many of my patients in their 40s and 50s have it. If it seems like arthritis is becoming more common, that’s because it is. And since long-term inflammation damages tissues and contributes to other diseases, reducing arthritis pain today could prevent major problems tomorrow.
Beyond a healthy diet — eliminate nightshades
The fats in meats help make pro-inflammatory substances, while fish oil, flax oil, and walnuts, high in essential fatty acids, make anti-inflammatory substances. A healthy diet high in essential fatty acids and low in animal protein can reduce inflammation in general, but particular foods have been found to trigger arthritis pain.
Here’s why: All chronic pain is a sign of inflammation, and whenever there’s inflammation, your body’s defense mechanism produces extra white blood cells to clean up debris from damaged tissues. These extra cells make chemicals that produce pain. So the more you eat foods that trigger this white blood-cell response, the more your pain will continue.
Any food to which you have a sensitivity or allergy will cause your body to produce more pain chemicals. In many people with arthritis, this is particularly true with foods in the nightshade family. Nightshades (Solonaceae) include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, some spices, and tobacco.
It’s difficult for some people to avoid the nightshades because they love them so much. The reason for their craving may be a physiological addiction. You may actually have an addiction to one or more nightshade foods because they contain small quantities of powerful drug-like substances called alkaloids.
Years ago, I had a patient with severe arthritis pain who changed her junk food diet for a healthy one high in fruits and vegetables. No matter what she did, her pain persisted. Then she confessed that she couldn’t wait for her glass of tomato juice each morning. She had forgotten to list it on her food diary. As soon as she stopped drinking tomato juice, her pain disappeared.
This doesn’t always happen. But when it does, the results can be dramatic. Even tiny quantities of nightshades hidden in other foods can contribute to excruciating arthritis pain, and nightshades are everywhere. For instance, potato starch is disguised in many frozen and processed foods in the form of modified food starch, modified vegetable protein, modified vegetable starch, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Look for it in meatballs, mock crab, sausages, and all deep-fried foods that have been cooked in the same vegetable oils as French fried potatoes. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications use potato starch as their filler. Is it in your drugs? You or your pharmacist may need to call the pharmaceutical company to find out. It’s a pain, to be sure. But it’s not as painful as your arthritis!
Tomatoes are an ingredient in brown meat sauces like Worcestershire and steak sauce, as well as salad dressings, some luncheon meats, gravies, and baked beans, so read labels carefully. Green olives may be stuffed with pimentos, a sweet red pepper, and dried pepper flakes are frequently sprinkled over pasta dishes. Don’t forget that many spices contain different varieties of peppers including cayenne, chili, paprika, and curry powder. Cayenne pepper is also called capsaicin, an ingredient added to many vitamin and herbal formulas. Yes, it’s important for you to eliminate them for now.
Eliminate Hidden Nightshades
Avoid sauces, especially Thai, barbecue, Cajun, Mexican, Southern, and Jamaican dishes as well as Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire. Prepared mustards usually contain paprika also.
Rogers, Sherry A., MD. Pain Free in 6 Weeks
Is it worth reading labels carefully for two weeks and temporarily avoiding nightshades to identify the source of your arthritis pain? I think it is. Here’s a way to make it a little easier. Spend a day or two getting ready for this experiment, then eliminate all nightshades entirely — 100 percent — for two full weeks. Did your pain subside or disappear during this time? If so, nightshades are a problem for you.
At the end of two weeks, eat one food from the nightshade family by itself, like a tomato or bell pepper, and watch for any reactions. You may feel tired, agitated, your heart may race, you could have more pain, or you could have other undesirable side effects. If so, continue to avoid them for three months or more. If not, bring them back into your diet. Some people with arthritis can eventually add small amounts of nightshades back into their diet – like the amount found in salad dressing. Others can’t. But it’s important to avoid them completely at least for two or three months if they trigger arthritis pain.
Cigarettes and Alcohol
Tobacco is a member of the nightshade family. If you smoke, you won’t know how much it’s contributing to your pain until you stop. If you drink alcohol, avoid vodka. It’s made from fermented potatoes, remember?
Beyond EFAs: cetyl myristoleate
Many great discoveries are made by chance. Cetyl myristoleate (CM), a fatty acid that regulates inflammation and pain, is one of them. Its application for arthritis was discovered accidentally by Harry Diehl, a chemist doing research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His assignment was to research and develop drugs that would be effective against arthritis. Harry began by injecting laboratory rats with a bacteria-like substance that caused extreme inflammation in their joints. Then he injected this same substance into a strain of mice. Remarkably, the mice remained arthritis-free.
After careful examination, the only difference Harry could find between the rats and mice was that the mice naturally had CM in their joints. Could this fatty acid actually have prevented arthritis in the mice? To find out, he gave the rats CM and then injected them with the arthritis-producing bacteria. None of the rats developed arthritis!
For the next few years, Harry experimented with CM on his own and found that CM not only prevented arthritis, but relieved its pain and symptoms as well. For some reason, the NIH wasn’t interested in Harry’s discoveries. This doesn’t surprise me. After all, you can’t patent CM and sell it through pharmaceutical companies. It’s simply a fatty acid found in fish oils, coconut oil, and other foods that lubricates joints and reduces inflammation.
There are only a few studies on CM, and by now you know that I prefer to talk about substances that have been subjected to rigorous testing. However, one of the brightest doctors in the country, one I respect tremendously, Sherry Rogers, MD, has had remarkable success using CM with her patients. And the few studies that have been done show a significant decrease in arthritis symptoms and protection against getting arthritis.
In one study, researchers gave 64 patients with knee pain either CM or a placebo for two months. Only CM improved their range of motion and overall function.
At present, there is a number of CM products available, but no product standardization. Of all the brands available, I’d personally use CM-Plus, a product available from Longevity Science, Inc. (800-933-9440). This is the brand that Dr. Rogers used successfully with her patients. I have known the head of this company, George Klabin, for years. His supplements are of excellent quality. His CM is also less expensive than many other brands. CM-Plus usually costs around $40 for a month’s supply, but if you call and mention my name, George will send it to you for $34.95. By the way, I have no financial interest in this product.
EHP Products, a company owned by Harry Diehl’s family, makes a CM product called Myristin. A month’s supply will run you $55-$60/month. Contact his company by calling 888-347-0100 (toll free). This company considers Myristin to be the gold standard of CM products, but a less expensive brand may work just as well for you. In fact, you may want to try one formula for a few months and then try another if you don’t get the results you’re looking for. CM works in about half of all cases of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
CM is often combined with glucosamine sulfate and other anti-inflammatory products, so feel free to add it to your other nutrients like essential fatty acids and Women’s Preferred Joint Formula (800-728-2288). It’s likely to give you additional benefits when you take it with co-factors.
Before using CM, eliminate all nightshades in your diet. Since CM works only in half of the people who try it, you want to give it the best opportunity to work for you.
Beyond this article
The subject of pain is complex, but Sherry Rogers, MD, has made it simple to understand. In her book, Pain Free in 6 Weeks (Sand Key Company, Inc., 800-846-6687), she explains in great detail how you can eliminate all kinds of pain from arthritis to fibromyalgia, back pain, headaches, etc.
Twenty years ago, when I was talking about the dangers of taking too much calcium, Dr. Rogers was talking about the importance of increasing magnesium and not over-doing calcium. In fact, at that time, we were among a handful of health professionals who dared to confront the calcium promoters and make a strong case for boosting magnesium intake. Now, the importance of adequate magnesium is well accepted.
Dr. Rogers is among the sanest, most knowledgeable doctors of integrative medicine in the country. Each of her books is a treasure of information. If you want more information on inflammation, your next step is to read some of her books and methodically work her programs.
Hesslink, R., Jr., et al. “Cetylated fatty acids improve knee function in patients with osteoarthritis,” J Rheumatol, 2002 August;29(8):1708-12.
Hunter, K.W., et al. “Synthesis of cetyl myristoleate and evaluation of its therapeutic efficacy in a murine model of collagen-induced arthritis,” Pharmacology Research, 2003 January;47(1):43-7.
Rogers, Sherry A., MD. Pain Free in 6 Weeks, Sand Key Company, Inc., Sarasota, FL 34242, 2001, www.prestigepublishing.com.