"Let Food Be Thy Medicine" - Nutrition and Pain
I’ll venture a guess that most of the people who will read this blog will do so because they are either part of a pain clinic (The Doleys Clinic or another) or are suffering from chronic pain and stumbled on our website while looking for solutions. In the interest of helping all people suffering from chronic pain, I’d like to use this blog as a way of communicating some information about nutrition. Nutrition is often overlooked in pain management as the common assumption is that there is something that someone can do to make pain go away (prescribe a pill, give a shot, etc…), but we at The Doleys Clinic recognize that there is no cure for chronic pain and that the patient ultimately has the greatest responsibility for his or her own pain management. Think about it like this, you may spend an hour or two a month visiting with your chronic pain physician but the other 718 hours are spent elsewhere. It’s up to you to take action. Hippocrates was born in 460 BC and is considered the father of modern medicine. In his writings he left future generations with the message “let food by thy medicine”. To this day every medical doctor recites the Hippocratic Oath, so just maybe he was onto something important. With that in mind, I’m going to post one blog each month for next 12 months discussing a food, why you should be eating it, and I’ll even share a recipe of my own. Each of these foods is intended to either reduce inflammation and/or aid in digestion.
We’ll start with green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, and collards. I’ll keep this short and to the point. Here’s why you should be eating these nutritional bombs every day:
Vitamin E: Let’s talk about activating proteins for a minute. There are proteins in your body that are hard at work when responding to inflammation. Basically, you eat something that the body doesn’t like (ex. saturated fat, alcohol, and sugar) and just like turning on a light switch, the body turns on the immune system in an effort to get rid of what it doesn’t like. This is same thing that happens when you have an injury like a cut, a bug bite, or a sun burn. Guess what, the symptoms are the same too. Including inflammation. We know that vitamin E reduces inflammation thanks to a study that showed lower concentrations of inflammatory proteins (C-Reactive Proteins) after proper consumption of vitamin E. The same study also showed that vitamin E slowed the production of a molecule in the body that tells the liver to create more C-Reactive proteins. Simply put, vitamin E stops the body from responding negatively to some of the foods we eat by keeping the immune system from getting involved. Remember your mother telling you eat your greens if don’t want to get sick? If your immune system isn’t fighting inflammation, it has soldiers available to fight infection.
Vitamin K: Studies have shown that proper consumption of vitamin K can reduce the risk of adult onset diabetes, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and atherosclerosis just to name a few. Vitamin K has long been known as a blood clotting vitamin (it helps you recover from wounds by activating proteins that help blood to clot). But in the 21st century, scientists discovered that vitamin K played a large role in activating a group of proteins in the body called Gla-proteins. Gla-proteins perform several functions in the body that are vital to preventing calcification (accumulation of hard calcium salts) and strengthening bones. Gla-proteins are vitamin K dependent meaning they cannot be activated without vitamin K.
Lowered cholesterol: Interesting fact: without cholesterol, you die. The body needs cholesterol to regulate hormonal function and to aid in the digestion of fats. Two problems with cholesterol, 1) some people naturally create more than they need, and 2) the body needs to get rid of the cholesterol once it’s served its purpose. Cholesterol binds to the fiber in dark leafy greens and is then excreted from the body. This frees up the liver to draw in more cholesterol from the blood as needed and bingo! Lower blood cholesterol.
Energy production: We eat carbohydrates for energy, but the body doesn’t use carbs for energy, it uses the glucose that carbs convert to for energy. Dark leafy greens contain B vitamins that help convert carbohydrates to glucose for energy.
Prevent colon cancer: Dark leafy greens help prevent colon cancer by adding ample fiber to the diet. Fiber helps clear waste from the colon. In an anti-inflammatory diet we’ll talk a lot about proper fiber consumption because the colon can only hold so much waste. Once it’s full, it’s a lot like an overflowing trash can. That is to say, all of that waste goes back into recirculation and takes another trip around the body waiting on its turn to be cleaned up. All of this waste triggers the immune system and encourages chronic inflammation. The bottom line? Don’t be full of crap, eat your fiber.
I’m a fan of leafy greens both steamed and in salads. Leafy greens and vinegar just makes sense to me. Vinegar can either be used as a steaming liquid or as a salad dressing and I frequently will have one of each over the course of a day. Important note: speaking of Hippocrates, he used apple cider vinegar to solve all kinds of ailments for its natural alkalinizing properties.
My favorite salad dressing:
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (red wine also works if it suites your taste)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Raw, unfiltered honey to taste
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Put all ingredients in a jar, snap on a lid, and shake until mixed. Very simple but it works well as both a salad dressing and a marinade. Make a big jar at the beginning of the week for a quick salad dressing that is far better for you than anything you’ll buy from the supermarket shelves. I’ll put this over a salad of spinach, kale, and chard with sliced mushrooms and tomatoes.
Steaming your leafy greens is a great way to get nutrition if you don’t care much for salads. A bag of mixed greens will steam down to about half a cup of actual food. Even if you don’t care for greens, I think you can handle 2 or three tablespoons a day of concentrated green power.
A bag of your favorite leafy greens or green mix chopped or torn into smaller pieces (I cut them with a pair of scissors)
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½ tsp of onion powder
½ tsp of garlic powder
¼ tsp of chili pepper flakes (feel free to leave out if you don’t like spicy foods)
2 Tbsp. of water
Add all ingredients to a skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted down. This reminds me of the smoky, vinegary collards my mom has always made (maybe not quite as good but it gets the job done). I serve this over a bed of wild rice cooked in low sodium chicken stock with grilled chicken tenders (marinade the chicken in your salad dressing first!)
If you still just can’t stand the thought of eating leafy greens, throw a handful into a blender with a cup of almond milk, half of an avocado, a banana, and half a cup of frozen blueberries. You’ll never know the greens are there.
I hope you find some useful information herein and that it will help you take greater control of your physical and mental wellbeing.
Yours in good health,