Pain Relief Without Drugs: The Radically Natural Approach to Curing Aches and PainsDr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. February 1, 2016
“Pain in this life is not avoidable, but the pain we create avoiding pain is avoidable.” – R.D. Laing
Your muscles and joints hurt all over but you are not incapacitated enough to miss work. Some days it’s just your back and thighs that ache. Other days it’s your knees. You visit your family doctor, fearing that you have some grave illness, but blood tests and assorted x-rays and scans indicate that there is nothing wrong. The doctor explains that it might just be due to inadequate sleep or possibly fibromyalgia or “aging.” He tells you to take Aspirin or Tylenol, or perhaps he could prescribe something more powerful, like the drug Lyrica. You worry about the side effects of drugs, so you wonder if you have alternative options for good pain control and improved mobility.
First Check Out Your Diet
“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
If all other medical diagnoses have been ruled out, chronic unexplained aches and pains could be the result of hidden food intolerances, something referred to as delayed hypersensitivities. Over 90% of the documented adverse reactions to foods are not true allergies, occur on a delayed basis (up to 4 days after exposure), and will avoid detection by conventional skin scratch tests. They are often referred to as “Type 2 Allergies” and they may have either immune or non-immune system mechanisms.
The most accepted method of identifying these non-classical food reactions is an elimination diet. This identification is accomplished by following a hypoallergenic diet for three weeks, eliminating the most commonly eaten foods (sugar, sweeteners, grains, milk and dairy products, eggs, yeast, corn, soy, citrus, caffeine, red meat, bacon, and any other foods eaten on a daily basis), and then challenging the body by re-introducing the eliminated foods one by one, noting the reactions.
During the three weeks that the hypoallergenic diet is underway, participants often notice that symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, wheezing, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, itching, and more will improve or disappear. If one then reintroduces the individual to these trigger foods and the symptoms reappear, the person is most likely allergic (or intolerant) to one or more of the test foods. He or she is then advised to abstain from these foods for a period of months or years. This process only works if all the foods are discontinued abruptly or by “cold turkey.” Easing into this diet slowly or through some other compromise does not work at all.
This approach is not recommended for severely ill people and is best performed under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner. A safer and more accurate alternative to the elimination diet is the IgG (subclass 4) RAST blood test. This is a blood test performed by one of several labs that can assess how your blood reacts to as many as 250 foods. In Ontario, Gamma Dynacare Labs [A] will perform this test based on any doctor’s order. The cost will vary from between $250 and $325, depending upon the number of foods tested.
Recently published studies conclude that eliminating the foods detected by this test are at least 80% effective in reversing or reducing the symptoms of dozens of chronic health concerns, including various chronic pain syndromes.
“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you can not bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond that pain.” – Kahlil Gibran
If you don’t move it, you lose it. So the next thing to look into is the benefit of physical therapies like acupuncture, massage, exercise, sauna therapy, chiropractic, and osteopathy. Some respond better to one than the other but all can be effective for the right individual. Physical exercise, stretching, and muscle strengthening by lifting weights are also effective for assorted aches and pains. Some people do well with movement routines like yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong, and others with martial arts like karate. It’s all a matter of individual likes, dislikes and compatibility, but the bottom line is you’ve got to improve your circulation somehow and, with the exception of sauna therapy, that requires movement.
Natural Health Product (NHP) Supplements
“If nutritional supplements are allegedly so “dangerous”, as the FDA, the news media, and even some physicians still claim, then where are the bodies?” – Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA) 2016
Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs used for pain control work quickly but are linked to numerous unwanted side effects, the seriousness of which depend on the drug. With narcotics, for example, the potential for addiction and death are significant, and even Tylenol, Aspirin, steroids and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can have serious consequences if used for extended periods of time. In 2013, deaths caused by prescription and OTC drugs in the U.S. were over 47,000. Those are the documented cases but it is estimated that the figure could be much higher if full reporting of drug deaths were recorded. This is a far cry from what can be expected from natural health products (NHPs).
A recent report published by the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service (Jan. 12, 2016) declared that in 2014: “Not only are there no deaths from vitamins, there are also zero deaths from any supplement.” NHPs are generally regarded as safe. They can, however, interact with some drugs, so caution should still be exercised if one is taking certain medications on a regular basis.
NHPs usually take from weeks to months to be fully effective for control of aches and pains. They are by no means a quick fix. The good news is that, unlike drugs, they have never killed anyone. You would be hard pressed to commit suicide with an NHP. The same cannot be said for most painkillers, many of which have successfully been used for that purpose.
There are literally dozens of NHPs that have been recommended as remedies for aches and pains. Listed below are those that I have found work the best for people suffering from chronic pain syndromes of just about any kind.
1) Vitamin D – 10,000 IU or more daily. This NHP has been in the news nearly every day for the past decade, and for very good reasons. Vitamin D works primarily as an anti-inflammatory agent. Since low-grade inflammation is at the root of chronic pain and disability in most cases, it stands to reason that it should help anybody with aches and pains. In fact, several recent studies have provided evidence for its use in this connection. I’m constantly amazed at how many people treated for heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders, who start taking high doses of vitamin D, improve their low back pain, arthritic knees, and headaches within weeks of supplementation. Since most chronic illness also has inflammation at its core, it’s easy to understand why vitamin D would be helpful to those conditions as well as the aches and pains.
2) Omega-3 – 4000 mg or more daily of combined EPA and DHA. This NHP has been proven to relieve chronic pain due to arthritis, muscle stiffness, or injury, as well as headaches. Omega-3 enhances the action of vitamin D, and together they are effective treatments for depression and numerous other mental health concerns, including ADHD and some cases of autism.
3) Magnesium bisglycinate or threonate – 500 to 1000 mg daily is an absolute must for anyone suffering from pain anywhere, especially for those afflicted with fibromyalgia. You can read much more about magnesium in my Vitality magazine article entitled ‘Magnificent Magnesium’.
4) Curcumin (BCM-95) – 1000 to 2000 mg daily – is an extract of the spice turmeric, which has been extensively studied as one of the most effective anti-inflammatory agents available. Not only does it help alleviate the pain of arthritis and muscle pain, curcumin also has an anti-cancer, anti-fungal, cholesterol-lowering, and anti-depressant effect. Please note that the most bioavailable form of curcumin is the BCM-95 fraction of turmeric. Other forms may claim greater absorption but studies only appear to validate BCM-95 with the highest bioavailability.
5) Serrapeptase – 120,000 to 240,000 units twice daily – is an enzyme derived from the silkworm. It too is strongly anti-inflammatory when taken on an empty stomach and has numerous applications for arthritis, fibromyalgia, coronary artery disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, along with numerous other chronic health concerns. Other enzymes such as pancreatin, bromelain, papaine, and vegetable enzymes are also effective for pain relief when taken on an empty stomach but serrapeptase is far stronger clinically, in my opinion and experience.
6) Probiotics – 1 to 3 capsules of a multi-strain probiotic can reduce pain, especially in those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. If your gut is loaded with unfriendly bugs that secrete various toxins, chronic inflammation can be the result. Probiotic supplements can help rebalance your gut flora in favour of more friendly microbes that will actually secrete various pain-relieving substances.
7) Vitamin C – 1000 to 3000 mg daily has been shown to help reduce muscle soreness in several studies. Many athletes swear by the benefits of vitamin C for enhancing athletic performance. It just makes perfect sense because vitamin C is critical for the nourishment of connective tissue like muscles, ligaments, gums, bones, and joints.
8) Glutathione (Setria brand) – 1000 mg or more daily is also very important for pain control. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. I wrote an article on Glutathione for Vitality in September 2015. In it, you will read about glutathione’s multiple benefits for a long list of chronic conditions. If you didn’t know it already, antioxidants are anti-inflammatory agents and vice versa.
9) MSM (Methylsulfonyl-methane) – 6000 mg or more daily is effective for most general aches and pains. MSM is the physiological form of sulfur in the body and is another extremely important mineral needed for connective tissue repair. MSM has applications for muscle and joint injuries as well as for chronic pains of unknown origins. Hair, skin and nails also receive benefits from MSM, especially if the body absorbs sulfur poorly from the gastrointestinal tract. About 20 years ago, I wrote a small article in The Toronto Star on MSM. Shortly thereafter, I received a nice letter from a horse trainer at the Woodbine horse track in Toronto. He told me that he had used MSM for many years on his horses, both orally and topically, to relieve their aches and pains so they could run faster. Since MSM is a NHP, it could never be detected in the urine as a doping agent. So, MSM is used extensively in the horse-racing field.
10) Glucosamine sulfate (with or without chondroitin) – 1500 mg daily. This remedy combo has long been a mainstay in the treatment of osteoarthritis and the pain associated with that condition. It will do very little, if anything, for chronic muscle pain. It works by healing the cartilage in the joints and this takes six or more weeks before you’ll see any improvements in pain and mobility. If you’re in your senior years and suffer from joint pain, it’s worth trying.
11) Herbal remedies – alone or in combination: arnica, boswellia, ginger root, cayenne (capsaicin), devil’s claw, ginseng, kava kava, St. John’s wort, valerian, white willow bark, and feverfew can all sometimes be effective for numerous aches and pains. Experimenting with these can sometimes be quite rewarding. For instance, feverfew has a good history of benefits in treating migraine headaches, while boswellia has gained a good reputation for its arthritis benefits.
Aches and pains are indeed a nuisance for far too many people. Over the years, I have witnessed that most can overcome the discomforts by using the strategies described here. You can work with a natural health care practitioner to get a personalized plan of action.
A] Gamma Dynacare Labs (Tel: 905-790-3000) will perform this test based on any doctor’s order.
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Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, offers consultations on nutrition and natural remedies in Thornhill. He has recently retired from medical practice as a Complementary and Alternative medical practitioner and now strictly offers nutritional consultations. He is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing and has also published several Canadian bestselling books, including Vitamin D, The Sunshine Vitamin. To see more of Dr. Rona’s articles, visit: www.highlevelwellness.ca and for appointments, please call (905) 764-8700; office located at: 390 Steeles Ave. W., Unit 19, Thornhill, Ontario