5 Tips to Manage Pain, the Natural Way
If you are suffering from chronic illness or an autoimmune condition like I am, you know what it means to be in pain and to experience a flare.
Flares seem to come out of the blue, but they are generally related to what we are doing, or what we haven’t been doing.
For 3 months my little daughter decided to give up on sleeping; she was possibly going through teething, a growth spurt and a leap all at the same time, and she had the chance to keep up her energy, sanity, and appetite by napping during the day. I, instead, had to endure long nights filled with uncertainty, while going to work or be a fully present mother the next day.
It was a tough moment for our little family, especially because the pain that I was so invested in keeping at bay, was slowly creeping back up in my life. From one day to the other my knees started hurting, my lower back went on spasm, and I couldn’t even dream of wearing pants. I still had to show up to life, every day, but it wasn’t much fun.
Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells.
The exact causes of autoimmune disorders are not known, but the literature is agreeing that stressors are major triggers for autoimmune flare-ups. And when I talk about stressors, I’m including everything such as financial, work-related stress, poor lifestyle choices, under sleeping, overtraining, undernourishment, etc.
I normally notice that when I don’t sleep enough, I tend to make poor food choices and I indulge in a second (or maybe third?) coffee, I say yes to sugarish items and I skip meals when nauseous; this lifestyle sets in motion a chain of reaction that obviously increase the inflammation level and the overall pain.
For those times when sleeping or relaxing completely aren’t an option (although I always try to increase my time spent walking and meditating), I have come up with some dietary tricks that work; every single time.
This is as tough as it sounds, but if I have a flare, I know it takes me a shorter period of time to get energy depleted; in those instances my aims are to calm my mind, decrease the level of cortisol running around my body and support my adrenal; I do sometimes have a cheeky decaf, and although is not what I recommend, it works beautifully when the cravings are too strong.
Have small and frequent meals
Always packed with anti-inflammatory, nourishing, and easy to digest nutrients. What I’m trying to achieve is to support my digestion, and decrease the inflammatory mediators which are going berserk all around my body. To give you an example, and depending on what you can eat based on your condition, I have a cup of turmeric bone broth with ginger, egg and chopped sweet potato, or a slice of buckwheat bread with avocado and tahini.
I also find that my condition does well without gluten and dairy, but I know this can be a very subjective topic.
Add “THE” nutrients to your meals
Some nutrients are the real deal when it comes down to inflammatory conditions, and some of them are:
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It is a potent anti-inflammatory and is a very strong antioxidant. It is so powerful that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, as it blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of your cells and turns on genes related to inflammation.
Evening Primrose Oil
EPO is a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid with significant anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to improves symptoms of neuropathic pain and to repair damaged nerves.
This enzyme derived from the pineapple fruit is important for inhibiting some of the inflammatory mediators that are directly related to pain, including the Cox-2 enzyme (Rathnavelu et al. 2016). Bromelain is helpful to relieve pain from traumatic injury or muscle spasms, and it reduces the formation of blood clots.
Quercitin is found in foods such as kale, green tea, and blueberries; It is known to have both antioxidant and antinociceptive effects, it stabilises mast cells, and is considered one of the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet; quercetin plays an important part in fighting free radical damage, the effects of aging and inflammation (National Center for Biotechnology Information 2019) While you can get plenty of it from eating a healthy diet, some people also take supplements (normally combined with Bromelain) for their strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Take your supplements
There are two supplements that I can’t live without when having a flare.
These are Magnesium, which is the ultimate chillax nutrient, and Omega 3.
Magnesium supports approximately 300 different reactions in our body, and the store gets depleted during an inflammatory state; it is great to relax our muscles, support our brain and sleep quality.
The purest quality of Omega 3 (not that one that you buy at Costco) is rich in DHA and EPA, which are a potent anti-inflammatory, which supports the cardiovascular system, decrease platelet aggregation, cholesterol level, and support our brain development.
And a final word on Perspective
Having a flare is freaking hard, and we need to put perspective in it. We don’t know for how long we will have to deal with the pain, but if we put effort into it, the pain will substantially decrease. In the meantime it is important to focus on our mental sanity; go for a walk in nature, take some extra time to simply be (yes, this can mean bingeing on Netflix) and talk as much as we can, and share. Start a blog, an IG account, a FB support group…autoimmune conditions are the plague of this century and people are dying to find a safe place where they belong.