Do You Think Your Weight is Causing Your Back Pain? Not So Fast.

Big_Fat_Red_Cat

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If you are carrying a little more weight than you would like or than is considered technically ideal for your frame, then you probably already have enough guilt and shame around this.  If you’re overweight and you have back pain the last thing you want to hear and yet the first thing you’re ready to assume is that your back pain is because of your weight.

This assumption is a very common one because according to popular media, obesity is the reason for all of our problems.  I don’t deny that morbid obesity is called “morbid” for a reason.  It will tend to shorten your life according to the science.  But when it comes to back pain the connection isn’t as clear as you think if you’re just moderately overweight – and I use the term “overweight” loosely because standardized charts that tell us who is and isn’t “too heavy” do not take into account body density, composition and activity level.

Focusing on and stressing about your weight is a sure fire way to put on more pounds and it won’t do a darn thing for your pain.

I’ve been seeing and treating back pain of all shapes and sizes for over twenty years and the only common thread is inflammation – not size, not shape, not weight.  Inflammation can reach critical mass anywhere in any body and when it does, our structurally and chemically vulnerable areas will be where we experience the discomfort of that inflammation…and sometimes that comes in the form of back pain.  The story of inflammation is extremely complex and deserves more than a blog post to do it justice, but the bottom line is that inflammation is triggered by three main things:

  1. mechanical stress or imbalance
  2. chemical stress or imbalance
  3. emotional stress or imbalance

These imbalances have to reach a critical mass before they cause any pain at all, so they often go on for years undetected and then when there finally is pain, we are reluctant to acknowledge these real causes and instead turn our attention to the easy target like body weight.  Each of these three things when out of balance, can be caused by excess body weight but are also caused by a multitude of other things that aren’t necessarily related to being overweight.  Plenty of skinny people have back pain.

Heavy and thin people alike put their spines under mechanical strain by sitting too much and developing poor body movement mechanics throughout life.  None of us will know it until we are in pain.  Then we can’t help but notice all the things we thought were okay to do suddenly hurt like crazy.

Heavy and thin people alike put their body under chemical stress by the foods they choose to eat or the toxins and allergens they are inadvertently exposed to.  Some have genetic predispositions to experience chemical stress more easily than others.

Heavy and thin people alike experience emotional stress with varying sensitivities and thresholds; all of which can add to the expression of inflammation.

It’s not your weight, but it might be your fat to muscle ratio…

…and this is something that the lean crowd should be sure not to overlook, because it’s easy to buy into the pervasive notion that someone is healthy just because they’re thin but no one is exempt from having a high fat to muscle ratio.

Fatty tissue is also called adipose.  Adipose produces a type of cell called an adipokine.  Adipokines are cell signaling proteins that help fatty cells communicate with the rest of the body.  Unfortunately these adipokines are pro-inflammatory and the more adipose you have the more inflammation your own body will produce.

On the up side, muscle cells – when active – secrete something called a myokine and for a reason that still eludes researchers, even though this myokine is in the same family as adipokines, it exerts an anti-inflammatory effect on the body!  What better motivation could there possibly be for getting your body moving?!  This is such a no-brainer.  Keep your muscle to fat ratio high and you’re much less likely to have back pain associated with chemically inflammatory adipose.

It’s not your weight alone, but it might be if it was a sudden gain…

What I’ve observed is that when there’s a sudden weight gain, like with pregnancy for example, there is a much greater probability that back pain is related to that weight gain because it’s a sudden change that the structures of the spine haven’t had time to adapt to.  When someone has had the same proportion of “extra” weight without much fluctuation throughout most of their life, then the back pain is less likely related to weight.

It’s not your weight, it’s the fact that you think  it’s your weight.

Now that you know it’s not necessarily your weight that is causing your pain, you can stop stressing about it. Just this simple decrease in stress is going to lower the inflammation in your body…and possibly make it easier for you to shake the pain.

The other problem with people who are stressed about their full figures, is that they will adopt the particularly stressful body habits of trying to suck in the gut and tucking the butt.  You can read more about why these are so bad for your back here, but for now do your best to eliminate that mechanically inflammatory habit!

For most moderately overweight bodies losing weight is not the answer to back pain.  Gaining strength and muscular balance is  the answer for all body types when dealing with back pain.  This is not to say that taking a few pounds off would not ease the load on any skeleton in pain but to focus on weight loss will backfire eventually and is not a good use of your energy.  To focus on strength building will cause an incidental weight loss that is much more sustainable and far reaching.

Even if you’re not in pain, please stop fixating solely on what and how much goes in your mouth, and start focusing on moving your body to make it stronger.

To read more about what is really behind your back pain go to Stop Everyday Pain.

 

References:

Advances in Medical Sciences 2009, 54(2): 150-157 Role of adipokines in complications related to obesity. A review. Gnacinska M et al.

Journal of Experimental Biology 2011; 214(337-346) Muscles and their myokines. Pedersen BK.

Science 1991 Oct 18;254(5030):421-3.Autocrine or paracrine inflammatory actions of corticotropin-releasing hormone in vivo. Karalis K, Sano H, Redwine J, Listwak S, Wilder RL, Chrousos GP.

One Thing People Don’t Tell You About Peri-Menopause…

Menopause concept.…is that it can be a highly inflammatory time for your body!

All the things you used to be able to get away with like strange sleeping positions, eating the wrong thing, or taking on too much at work; suddenly you start to experience critical mass in all of these areas of your life – not to mention the emotional toll of the added stress from hormonal fluctuations. So now you’re even less well equipped to emotionally cope with these sudden chemically based inflammatory triggers in your life – none of which previously would have been a big deal at all.

Have you ever heard anyone describe the time leading up to menopause as feeling like PMS 24-7?  Well, since every woman’s PMS feels different, regardless of what exactly that means to you, that analogy is not actually too far fetched.  As we approach menopause our hormones start to take on a sustained state of affairs that hormonally mirrors the time in our cycle right before menstrual flow.

The thing about female reproductive hormones is that the multitude of actions they coordinate day in and day out throughout a one month cycle is more like a sophisticated concert symphony rather than a simple switchboard-like action => reaction and on/off function. The harmony of this symphony that is being played by many different hormones at the same time, is highly dependent on how  they interrelate rather than on their individual measurable levels alone.  The concentration and resultant effect of circulating estrogen is to some degree only significant in relation to the concentration of progesterone.  Because they dampen or heighten each others impact on the body, it’s more about proportion than it is about their sole presence.

Using just the main two groups of hormones, estrogen and progesterone in our example, here’s roughly how a smoothly played symphony  goes for the duration of a four week / one month cycle:

1st two weeks of the month:

Estrogen rises – going up first then not until a few days later Progesterone starts to rise – going up as well.

Estrogen peaks then starts to decrease – going down but Progesterone is still increasing…going up

Beginning of the 3rd week: (or whenever ovulation occurs for you)

Estrogen still goes up slightly then levels out and stays  steady for a little while but Progesterone is still on the rise…going up

Beginning of the 4th week:

Progesterone peaks and then starts to decrease – going down but Estrogen is still level – same for a few days…

once Progesterone and Estrogen levels are equal again then they both start to decrease – going down together at a similar rate all the way until bleeding phase of the cycle happens.

Then it starts all over again!

When this symphony is in complete harmony, we don’t experience very significant symptoms even during that pre-menstrual time.

If this all happens according to plan, harmony is high and symptoms are few.  Women experience symptoms of PMS mainly when these events happen out of order or each group of hormones rise or dip to strange levels – in relationship to the others and this is what creates disharmony.  It’s not just one poorly behaving hormone it’s the whole symphony of hormones losing their way and becoming unsynchronized – creating noise rather than music.

The three main players are: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.  Each of these can cause symptoms of excess if they are high in relationship to one or both of the others.

Progesterone Excess = Inflammation

Progesterone can seem high when estrogen is low – this happens to varying degrees during the second two weeks of the menstrual cycle aka: the two weeks before menstrual flow.  This is when women often experience greater levels of inflammation which can lead to sudden strains and sprains or headaches or an increased stress response or simply more generalized aches and pains.

Progesterone definitely will seem high for some women approaching menopause because of the steadily but erratically declining estrogen levels.  Again the body becomes more inflamed  but now at odd times – much less predictable than during the regularly cycling lifetime.

Testosterone = Anti-Inflammation

Women produce testosterone from the ovaries and adrenal glands and this notoriously “male” hormone actually stays the same before and after menopause.   It only seems higher after menopause because of the absence of estrogen and progesterone to dampen its effect, so it becomes dominant and we start to notice symptoms associated with testosterone effects like facial hair, deepening voice, balding etc.

Estrogen Excess = can be Both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory depending on the situation.

Estrogen dominance is a big problem in our society because of all of the chemicals that we are exposed to that mimic the structure of estrogen.  But this is  a much larger topic for a different blog post.

What I want you to take away from this necessarily over-simplified snapshot of peri-menopause, is that if you or anyone you know are in the throws of it, you should be aware of the fact that this can be a very inflammatory time for the body. While this simmering inflammation will be part of what feels discouraging and as though you’re aging before your time, be patient, be careful and respect the process. But know that it will end and if you care for the inflammation now even though it seems so out of proportion, you will be okay and in fact better off once the fluctuations end.

There are many resources out there on natural food based anti-inflammatory nutrients including turmeric (curcumin), boswellia serrata, ginger and quercetin.

Stress management is also a great way to deal with the overall inflammatory response in your body.  Magenesium is an important mineral that can help the nervous system with this.

Speak to your natural health care provider for more specific guidance as to what your body needs during this time.  He or she will know best based on your full clinical picture.

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What do Bats and Sloths Have to Do With Osteoarthritis?

three-toed sloth

Photo Credit: Robert Hosker – Fotolia

Just as much as the rest of us do apparently.

There’s a myth out there (that I’ve been guilty of perpetuating myself in the past) about the fun idea that bats and sloths don’t show any evidence of osteoarthritis — the kind of degenerative changes in the joints that all vertebrates show evidence of at some point in their lives. It’s not a disease. It’s the natural side effect of being inhabitants of a gravity bound planet.

So, what is it exactly?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that results from wear and tear. As we move around upright and against the compressive forces of gravity we exert wear on our joints. Wear and tear causes a roughening of the normally smooth surfaces between joints. Rough surfaces moving against each other increase friction. Friction leads to inflammation and given the perfect set of circumstances, inflammation can reach a point that causes pain. In the case of osteoarthritis, the inflammation and pain starts in the joints.

So, why are we talking about bats and sloths?

The myth that these creatures don’t show wear and tear in the joints despite being vertebrates like the rest of us, comes from the idea that the massive amount of hanging about that they do, eliminates the compressive forces of gravity. While it may decrease it, it probably doesn’t eliminate it, so sorry folks, poor bats and sloths age the same way we do. Maybe the degree of the wear and tear is less extensive for them, but they’re not exempt from gravity.

If you grab a random sampling of people walking down the street and x-ray them, you’ll find all of them have some evidence of wear and tear (and thereby “osteoarthritis”) but not all of them have any pain at all, nor will they necessarily.

So, we can have signs of wear and tear in the joints without pain and it’s not necessarily a predictor for pain but it is a given that you’ll have this happening to you if you don’t already. (That is, if you are human and live on this planet…I don’t mean to box you in…)

If you have pain and a physician tells you that your problem is because of arthritis (i), what he or she is saying to you is that they really don’t know why you have pain, but it’s not bad enough to be terribly interesting. Having visible evidence of arthritis is not necessarily the reason for your pain. It can be one factor but you should not be satisfied with that diagnosis because all it really translates into is: “joint inflammation”. In this case the joint inflammation happens to be accompanied by the changes seen with osteoarthritis, so naturally we want to point and say: “Look! See?”.

Getting a determination of “arthritis” is like saying: “You have pain.”

No kidding?! That’s brilliant!

If you have pain, it’s because you’re experiencing inflammation that is out of proportion with what your body can usually handle. The body’s systems are constantly working to keep inflammation at bay. When we feel pain it’s because these mechanisms have fallen out of balance. The answer is to search out what it is that fell out of balance; what was the trigger? Only then can you effectively work on restoring balance to eliminate the pain.

You will still have evidence of degenerative changes associated with osteoarthritis but that’s not anything special. It’s always good to determine that that’s all there is to see on x-ray, but most of the time it’s a fairly insignificant finding that might not have anything to do with your pain. As much as we would like, it’s just not that simplistic.

How quickly our joints wear down and whether or not we experience pain because of it, varies widely based on genetics which determine our chemical resiliency. Chemistry determines the composition of our bones and joints and the environment in our tissues around them. Chemistry is what governs our reaction to inflammatory triggers. Chemistry is the reason the same amount of wear and tear manifests very differently from person to person.

There are many different ways to trigger wear and tear stress on our joints living on this planet but the bottom line is inflammation. Learning about your individual triggers and finding your balance is what will get you and keep you out of pain.

You’ll find out more about triggers of everyday pain, inflammation and how to find your balance if you follow along with my weekly posts on Stop Everyday Pain

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Are You a (Spinal) Crack Addict? Just Say No!

Skin care

photo credit: Fotolia

I fondly refer to you as a “crack” addict if you’re someone who can’t sit in front of me for even just a few minutes without tilting your head in an attempt to make your neck crack.   Like with any addiction there’s a reason it started.  It probably feels good –  it gives you relief from some discomfort you might be feeling in your head neck or shoulder.  But before you know it, you’re stuck in a vicious cycle that is out of your control and you’re cracking parts of your spine several times a day without even thinking about it.

For some people it’s the mid back crack that happens when you squeeze your shoulder blades together and stick your chest out.  For others it’s the spinal twist that you do in your chair when you get stiff instead of just getting up for a minute to move around because you don’t want to lose your train of thought.  Both are very common problems for our computer bound modern lives. Here’s more from my book preview on the danger of doing these kinds of movements.

The desire to crack comes from a sensation of tension, stiffness, or pressure.  The cracking you do to yourself helps alleviate this discomfort. The reason this self-cracking becomes an addictive habit is because it feels good but more than that, it’s because joint “cavitations” (cracks) actually access a natural pain killing chemical feedback loop.  But how long is the relief lasting for you before you need another “fix”?

The problem is that when we try to crack our own spines we are naturally not able to be very specific.  The methods we use involve long levers (movement or stretching over a long distance from point to point) and so usually what ends up releasing and cracking is an area that is already hyper-mobile in the first place. The weakest link is what yields first.  The joints that need the release can’t be accessed in this way and so, what we are doing when we crack ourselves in this non specific way is reinforcing the original reason for this tightness and pressure sensation.

Your body is really smart and when there is a hyper-mobile area of your spine that is doing an uneven, unfair extra amount of work, it’s generally because there are neighboring areas of the spine that have stopped pulling their weight – either they have jammed up or there’s been a mix-up in the messaging to that area because of prolonged one sided tasking or bad body habits. When the neural messaging gets mixed up sometimes muscles just turn off and stop working – leading to joint dysfunction. The muscles around the hyper-mobile segments of the spine will start to tighten up and over-engage in an attempt to help you stabilize this area that they are told, by the brain, is moving too much.  So, when you squeeze and twist and stretch to get those already hyper-mobile areas to crack, what you’re doing is reinforcing the need of the muscles in that area to stiffen up.  So, while the crack itself feels good because of the short lived release of pain killing endorphins, it’s actually feeding the problem.

Not only are you adding to the problem and creating a greater ongoing need for relief, your chosen method of relief (constant cracking) creates friction.  Friction causes inflammation and as that inflammation builds it causes pain – in addition to the stiffness and pressure. (You can read more about inflammation and pain in this post excerpt from my book)  Over time this friction related inflammation will cause real structural damage to your joints.  This kind of damage over time can result in things like weakened and bulging discs, facet syndrome, formation of bone callouses or osteophytes. (click here for more on this in another post excerpt from my book about everyday pain)

Now you have a joint that is over-worked and irritated and if you keep up with the cracking you’ll also be disabling the more appropriate first line of defense in spinal stability and that is the ligament system.  The ligaments are like guide wires that connect bones to bones and provide architectural integrity.  Without good tone in the ligaments your muscles have to work overtime to protect your joints from excess movement.  Your muscles should not have to do the job of your ligaments.  But that’s often what we’re experiencing when we develop that desire to crack and pop ourselves.

The only way to break this cycle and get the joints that are really stuck to move again, is to have professional help.  Chiropractors are trained to be extremely specific with spinal adjustments and our goal is to introduce movement only to areas that are not moving correctly.  Restoring motion to segments that are stuck will alleviate the work load in those areas that chronically do too much.  This is the only long term answer to the “crack” addiction that so many suffer from.

A healthy spine does not feel the need to crack.  A spine that is moving correctly and to it’s full potential does not let you know that it needs a crack.  A spine that has strong supporting muscles does not ask for this sort of attention.

If you think you might be a spinal “crack” addict, think about getting some help.  Find a chiropractor who will work with you to make it a goal to help you feel that urge to crack with decreasing frequency.  You also need to get some advice on what you can do specific to your situation, to stabilize your spine in order to help make your treatments last longer and avoid undoing all of the good work.

More on the cracking or lack of cracking of spinal adjustments in a future post…

What are your thoughts?

It’s That Last Drop in the Bucket That Makes the Difference Between Pain and No Pain.

Overflowing bucket

photo credit: Fotolia

The only difference between the time that you’re blissfully oblivious and the moment pain and stiffness strike, is sometimes completely un-measurable.

One thing is for sure and that is the fact that we are all constantly filling our proverbial buckets with everyday pain triggers, but the body, by design, wards it off and sustains balance by all three means available: mechanical, chemical and emotional for as long as it can.  The reality is that we make our body constantly work hard behind the scenes to keep everyday pain at bay because of the way we live life.  For the majority of our years, the body is reasonably healthy and when we have all systems working in balance, we seem able to keep everything in check efficiently enough, so that the bucket is not ever brimming to that precarious point where it would take only one more drop to cause a spill.

Unfortunately with time, stress and continued imbalance, the body starts to become more vulnerable and less efficient at keeping the bucket contents in check.

In this blog post excerpt from my book I discuss in more detail how inflammation can exist without pain but pain does not exist without inflammation. Based on this fact, it’s indisputable that we do have some ability to either ward off the pain, cut it off at the pass or extinguish it effectively right away, the very moment it hits us – even if it’s out of the blue as it often can be – just like that bucket overflowing with water from one tiny little final drop.

“How do figure?” you might ask…

I say to you: Control the inflammation that is within reach, and you will buy your body time and more room in the bucket.  With fewer inflammation triggers filling your bucket to the brim, you create a buffer against all the inflammatory triggers that you cannot control – of which there are unfortunately plenty.

What are some examples of inflammatory triggers you can control?

Inefficient posture that causes friction which results in inflammation.  Food choices incompatible with your chemistry cause pH changes which result in inflammation.  Emotions like stress when out of control cause changes in hormones that govern mood, and inflammation can result from that as well.  All of these things are within our control to some degree.

Then there are the things we cannot always predict or sidestep quite as easily…

The second half of the menstrual cycle causes inflammation body wide. Viruses like the common cold cause inflammation.   Genetic predispositions like serum positive Rheumatoid factor (which is the familial tendency to develop a type of inflammatory arthritis), are also something we cannot control. But, we can control how much more inflammation we throw in the bucket alongside these irritants that are out of our reach when we take action to moderate things that are within reach like posture, pH and stress.

Now, don’t forget that the body is a cohesive unit that relies on a single system of waste and inflammation elimination, so, if there is inflammation in one area it will affect how efficient other parts of the body are in dealing with inflammation risk similarly to how traffic congestion on the highway will cause spill over traffic on the side streets.  Take a look at this post excerpt from my book for some fun visuals about the inflammation congestion that can lead to pain…

When you visit Stop Everyday Pain, be sure to sign up for email updates so you can be among the first to learn about what to do to control your individual inflammation triggers.

Natural Anti-Inflammatories Are Not Just Pills to be Popped

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photo credit: superfamous.com

Anti-inflammatory aids include over-the-counter medicines like Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), or foods like Turmeric, Ginger, Boswelia and nutrients like quercitin and enzymes.  But did you know that some of the most consistently effective anti-inflammatory measures aren’t necessarily in the form of a pill?

If you’ve started following the Stop Everyday Pain blog, you know that inflammation is the painful result of a build up of one of these three things:

  1. broken down parts of injured or stressed tissue
  2. the body’s own inflammatory response molecules
  3. natural byproducts of regular tissue metabolism

So, while it can be very helpful to take in substances that chemically disable and reduce the impact of these three things in our body, there are also very simple steps we can take to address this inflammatory build up and back up, which would in turn forestall the painful effect in the very first place.

Flush and Move to Speed Elimination of Inflammation…Literally

The first thing always to do is to stay as active as you can without increasing your pain while doing so.  In the case of a sprain, sometimes that means using your hands to gently move the injured area in all of the available ranges of motion with as little pain as possible – this way you spare yourself the use of your injured muscles and tendons that need to rest in order to recuperate.  Other times, when it’s not as obvious as a sprain, it just means taking a gentle walk and trying to avoid  more than 20 consecutive minutes of immobility. The human body is like a hydraulic system in some regards.  You have to mechanically pump the fluids to encourage movement and drainage.  Movement will activate your sump pump and get the garbage out.  Lack of movement will allow fluids to pool and fester.

How else do you get inflammatory “garbage” out of your body?  You flush it out with water.

Drinking water will act on the hydraulics with pressure, pushing from one end creating movement internally emptying out at the other end.

A fair amount of waste from inflammation is also excreted fecally, so doing what you can to make sure you keep regular bowel movements is just as relevant.  The ironic thing here is that many people react to pain killers and / or some NSAIDs with constipation –  creating another kind of back up of waste molecules. It’s considered a common and expected side effect.  Unfortunately it’s not the only ironic action of over the counter medication but one that is often overlooked as being significant in the role of pain.

Neutralize, Devour and Disable

So, you can probably see by the brief discussion of ways to mechanically move inflammation-causing chemicals and other irritating molecules out of the body, that these tactics are things we should all employ on a daily basis to prevent inflammation.   We are all our own best anti-inflammatory machines.  We already make our own enzymes which help to break down, neutralize and digest a good deal of the irritating molecules around an injury, but when the pain and inflammation overwhelm our natural capacity, it’s important to send in some help.

Another way to buffer your tolerance and capacity for pain is to capitalize on your natural inclination to break down inflammation-causing waste by what you choose to eat on a daily basis – as was discussed in this previous post: “Are You Eating Your Inflammation?”.  Your system’s ability to deal with adversity depends on the quality of it’s fuel.

Aside from making those low impact food choices, here are a list of other key anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients for those time when you need to supplement for a short time in order to restore your balance:

  1. Turmeric
  2. Ginger
  3. Boswelia
  4. Full spectrum Enzymes
  5. Quercitin

I highly recommend the reference website www.examine.com for a really thorough scholastic treatment of these herbs and nutrients and their pharmacology.

What has your experience been with natural vs. pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory aids? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Are You Eating Your Inflammation?

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Photo Credit: Fotolia

If you’re in pain, you are inflamed. No question. Inflammation is your body on fire (read more about that in this post on my blog-to-book project site Stop Everyday Pain).  To put out this fire, you need to first of all, stop throwing kindling on the flames. Then find a way to put the fire out altogether – smother it or douse it with water.

One of the things we do to feed the fire of inflammation is to eat things that keep the body chemically irritated and inflamed. What are these things that cause and add to inflammation? Processed foods, preservatives, sugar etc. are all evil but that’s yesterday’s news. Did you know that you might also be stoking the fire of inflammation simply by not eating in a balanced way. We might be eating technically well with all the right whole foods and organic meats and unprocessed naturally packaged snacks, but if the proportions are off, then our acid/base balance is also off and too much acidity is what leads to inflammation.

You’ve all heard of Omega 3 fatty acids. We’re all trying to get more in our diets because of all of the health benefits – one of them being anti-inflammatory. Chickens are even being fed omega 3s so that their eggs can be packaged and labeled as “Omega 3 Eggs”. This seems a little extreme doesn’t it? But this is what it’s come to.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of important things that are getting overlooked in our crush to gobble up fish oil and flax seed as our main sources of Omega 3 supplementation in our quest for relief from pain and inflammation.

Is Your Fish Oil Making You More Toxic?

First of all, if we mega-dose on Omega 3 oils then there is a possibility that the body will become overwhelmed and unable to properly metabolize the oil via our natural anti-oxidative processes. So, it becomes equally — if not more – important to take in foods that will help with breaking down the inflammatory free-radicals that can accumulate from high doses of Omega 3 supplement sources. If high doses of “good” oils are allowed to accumulate in the body they can pose an inflammatory oxidative stress on our tissues – completely counteracting our good intentions.

Are You Eating More Inflammation-Kindling Than Inflammation-Dousing Food?

Secondly, there needs to be a very important ratio balance between Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. These are both essential to us for survival so we have to eat them – our body does not make them. The problem is that research shows that when we have too many of the Omega 6 variety and not enough of the 3 variety, the result is inflammation and disease. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this is exactly what the average modern diet provides! We are all eating our inflammation by having too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3.

If you’re having trouble keeping those two straight you’re not alone. Think: “Omega Three will Set You Free” and whether you’re superstitious or religious or not – you’ve probably heard of the number six associated with “the devil” (666) – well, you can think of Omega 6 as just a little bit (just one third) on the evil side. It’s still important to our health but the 6s are just too easily abundant and tempting.

Here is a really quick over-simplified synopsis of where you find which Omega:

Omega 3 – to “set you free”, you’ll find in one form or another with the following

  1. leafy greens
  2. flax seed or oil
  3. fish

Omega 6 – just a little bit evil, is what you’ll get when you eat the following:

  1. grains
  2. most seeds
  3. vegetables that store energy in the form of seeds like the squashes and some nightshades

The realistic take-away is to do your very best to eat as much from the first group (leafy greens, fish and flax) as you can and just think about it before you stuff yourself with the other.

Some good online sources for more detailed discussion about Omega fatty acids: Dr. Ben Kim’s website and Acupuncturist Chris Kresser’s site

I have no personal or business affiliations with either individual.  I just found their handling of the material to be fair and balance.

Follow along on my blog-to-book site Stop Everyday Pain to discover other unexpected ways we often contribute to the fire of inflammation when we’re in pain.

References:

[i] pH => pain: Bray GE, Ying Z, Baillie LD, Zhai R, Mulligan SJ, Verge VM. Extracellular pH and neuronal depolarization serve as dynamic switches to rapidly mobilize trkA to the membrane of adult sensory neurons. J Neurosci. 2013;33(19):8202-8215. Ugawa S, Ueda T, Ishida Y, Nishigaki M, Shibata Y, Shimada S. Amiloride-blockable acid-sensing ion channels are leading acid sensors expressed in human nociceptors. J Clin Invest. 2002;110(8):1185-1190. Wu WL, Cheng CF, Sun WH, Wong CW, Chen CC. Targeting ASIC3 for pain, anxiety, and insulin resistance. Pharmacol Ther. 2012;134(2):127-138.

[ii] Simopoulos AP. The Importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79.