Managing Chronic Pain, Naturally
Written by: Dr. Demetre Katrivanos, Naturopathic Doctor, Adelaide Health Clinic & Sport Medicine Clinic
Now that our beloved (to some) hockey team has finished another unfulfilling playoff campaign, trying to deal with the mental anguish and move forward can be a challenge. But for most, mental pain can also be a symptom of chronic physical pain that has not properly been addressed. Nearly 8 million Canadians, or 1 in 5 people, live with chronic pain. Many of those, report that often the pain limits their life or work activities. Many might turn to opioids but research suggests that extended use of prescribed opioids may cause more harm than benefit. This can include physiological dependence and withdrawal to depression and negative effects on hormones to even cardiovascular events and accidental overdose.
The causes of chronic pain can be complex for each individual and a comprehensive treatment strategy that includes a non-pharmacological approach is important to consider.
Among the range of complimentary/natural treatments, research indicates that nutritional changes and supporting mitochondrial health (the energy production powerhouse of our cells) can have great, promising results.
The mitochondria are the energy producing components of our cells and this energy is needed to power our biochemical reactions and keep us healthy. Studies have suggested that when there is chronic pain, our mitochondria do not function properly. Therefore, supporting and improving our mitochondrial function may be an effective strategy to alleviate or prevent chronic pain states.
Studies have also suggested that nutrition intervention can have a profound effect on lowering pain and changes in specific nutrients having the greatest effects. Clinical evidence is beginning to suggest that pain perception is related to inflammation, and common inflammatory foods such as dairy, wheat, and gluten can turn on the inflammatory process and worsen pain. Research is beginning to suggest that following anti-inflammatory diets - the best being the Mediterranean style diet - may reduce the inflammatory process and improve pain symptoms.
In essence, implementing two simple natural approaches can have a profound effect on that chronic pain we are experiencing daily and can improve our quality of life.