Nutritional therapy for body aches and pains


Today is the last and fourth segment of our pain management series. I'd like to share with you my nutritional approach to reduce or completely turn off pain and aches in the body. I coach privately dozens of clients every year specifically to help them getting off pain medication and they have been hugely successful. In fact, several have achieved their goals within 3 months after years of suffering and taking daily OTC, NSAIDs and steroid drugs.

On the personal front, you know my personal story with sports injuries, a broken back as a child, then a small back fracture 3 years ago and then again this past September. I use food to manage pain, even dire pain, and to speed recovery. My diet even works for menstrual pain and enabled me to move from debilitating menstrual pain to not noticing when this time of the month comes around (my boyfriend keeps better track than I do. Ah!). Three years ago, my back recovery prognostic was 1 year, it took 3 months until I could walk normally and go back to teaching group exercise and ride my bicycle.

So let me share what it is I ate to heal my back injury and numb the pain (I was not taking any medication, not even Advil) and as a newsletter subscriber, I will share with you the list of herbs and very important supplements, I learned about in Nutrition School and publications.
Emma lemon dress
Making delicious raw juice concoction to keep my body aches and pain free.

Emma's Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Pain Diet and Lifestyle
As we've discussed in the first "pain blog", inflammation is a natural reaction to injury and assists with the healing process. Monitoring and controlling it followed by naturally reducing it was essential for my daily comfort and sleep. There is no comfort and quality sleep when the pain is raging and sleep is essential for healing. In 4 days of implementing my plan below when I hurt my back 3 years ago, pain was reduced to a whisper or nothing at all. Here is what I was doing EVERY DAY (and kept at it for 3 months):

  • Raw food. I was eating a diet composed of 75% raw vegetables and fruit and drink plenty of water, herbal and green ice teas and green juices. I had 3 green juices a day, 1 or 2 Zenberry Blue and Zenberry Green shakes in home-made cashew or almond milk.
  • Common potent spices and herbs. I had one or two turmeric shots every day (2 tbsps. of water, 1 tsp. of turmeric powder and 1 tsp. of lemon blended together). Turmeric is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory herbs. I also flavor my lightly cooked veggies with it (the other 25% of my diet). I had a shot of wheatgrass with fresh turmeric root at the health food store near me a few times a week. Ginger is another anti-inflammatory spice. It has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and I ate copious amounts of it in my green juices, vegetable stir-fries and ice teas daily. I also read in one of Andrew Weil's publications that Basil contains a volatile oil, including eugenol, which appears to have activity in the body similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, blocking the COX enzyme associated with inflammation. Aloe Vera is also very useful against inflammation and I keep a bottle of it in the fridge to supplement 2 tbsps. a day. BONUS: More on herbal supplements at the end of this newsletter.
  • Antioxidants. I ate foods rich in flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants and useful for inflammation reduction (spinach, blueberries and all the superberries in Zenberry Blue, strawberries). Quercetin, found in onions, is good for lowering inflammation as well.
  • Essential Fatty Acids. Essential fatty acids are necessary for repair and flexibility of muscles. I ate one meal this week with cold water fishes such as salmon and mackerel sashimi as they are rich in essential fatty acids and support healing and reducing inflammation in the body. I got the rest of my protein from nuts and seeds as well as the greens.
  • Supplements: I was taking 5,000 mg of vitamin C in the morning and at night. Vitamin C is essential for collagen, which holds the tissues together and it is needed for the repair of tissues. It also relieves tension in the back area. I was also taking supplemental chlorophyll and a food based multi-vitamins. BONUS: A list of very important nutrients at the end of this newsletter.
  • Simple foods, simple digestion, more healing energy. Because I wanted to recover a.s.a.p. I decided to keep my digestion to the minimum effort possible so that most of my body's energy was redirected to healing, not digesting. My food intake was therefore 2/3 liquid (vegetable/fruit juices and shakes, home-made nut milks, etc) and I had one meal a day, typically dinner, solid, consisting of steamed or sautéed vegetables, fermented wholesome soy or seeds and nuts or a salad with plenty of ginger, turmeric, basil, onions and once a week fish (you could go 2 or 3 times a week at the most if you find the right quality).
  • No inflammatory foods. I cut out all inflammatory foods containing animal saturated fat (red meat, chicken) and excess salt. I cut out all refined sugar and flour products (bread, pasta, cookies, commercial chocolate), the occasional coffee because of its acidity, all dairy products and of course I was still not consuming sodas and junk foods.
  • A note on papaya and pineapple. My nutritional healing encyclopedia recommended that I eat half a fresh (not canned) pineapple or fresh papaya daily as they respectively contain bromelain and papain, two enzymes that reduce swelling and inflammation within 2 to 6 days. Bromelain is also available in pill form if that much Pineapple does not work for you (not a good idea if you have diabetes for instance). I have not tried that. I have been busy eating berries which are much less caloric dense on my 1200 cal plan.
Papaya and Pineapple
Because my exercise regimen had changed from 20 hours a week to 8 AQUA classes a week that I was still able to teach due to water buoyancy (and I could barely walk under gravity), I had reduced my calorie intake from 1600 to 1200 cal a day but kept my required protein intake of 44 grams a day. To calculate your protein needs, multiply your ideal weight in lbs by .37 or your weight in kg by .80. My intention was to eat a simple diet which was nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory yet required little energy to digest so that my energy could be spent to heal my injury and eliminate pain. I was never feeling hungry and my energy was stable throughout the day. In addition, I strictly adhered to a sleep and modified exercise schedule. It is well known that back pain can worsen with immobility, even in my case with a fracture of the lower back.Pos 4 Breast Stroke Bent Arms
Aquacycling at Aqua Studio NY. (Photo by Matthew Pecora)
  • Plenty of rest and sleep. I got to bed at 9PM every night and slept about 8-10h a night and napped on the weekend. It was when I slept that my body worked hard at healing and if I did not get enough time in bed, I felt more pain the next day (still the case today). So I practiced dropping everything I was doing at 8:45 and get ready for bed. I learned how to be ok with an untidy house, emails left unanswered, unfinished deliverables and postponed deadlines. I did not turn on the TV to unwind. I went straight to bed. My back was more important.
  • Gentle exercise to remain flexible and pain free. I tried doing nothing at all but the stiffness in my entire back increased and other areas in my body started hurting mildly such as my hip, knee and leg muscles if I did not exercise at all. So I tried to teach my Aquacycling classes and it worked wonderfully. I felt better during and after my class than I did before getting into the water. I did not feel any pain. Aquacycling was created by a physiotherapist in Italy who needed a new way to rehabilitate injured athletes who were too broken to train their body on land. Whether your back, knees, hip are killing you AQUA may be your answer. It helped me and I did not think any of my students suspected my back injury until they saw me limp and hold on to the walls outside of the water.

Implementing such a strict dietary and lifestyle regimen is a real change management project which is why I am often hired to help with the intervention. I design weekly recipes, menus and even complete a Fresh Direct shopping list for my clients. I teach them very targeted stretches, yoga poses, strengthening movements to practice daily to drastically alter their standing and seating posture and teach them correct movement patterns. One generally leaves such an experiment transformed and the new "pain management" way tend to stick around for much longer leader to other health improvements. Everything is connected, isn't it. If you follow this program outlined above diligently, you will experience a lessening of your pain and aches.

I wish you luck in your journey, and as usual, do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have in the comments below. You may also join my mailing list to receive additional bonus tips not available on my blog in your mailbox weekly (in connection with this BLOG, I had shared a list of herbs to treat pain with my subscribers).

With love and care,