What’s all the fuss about food as medicine?
Have you heard all the chatter about food contributing to chronic pain and illness? Are you wondering if it’s all a bunch of BS? I’d like to share my personal experience, along with some quick tidbits about foods that are known to increase pain and inflammation, (the root of so many chronic illnesses).
When I was 3 or 4 I started having crazy shooting pains in both legs. My mother will argue that I was older, but I vividly remember wearing my favorite crocodile nightgown while lying in bed waiting for the Children’s Tylenol to kick in. Definitely preschool age.
The doctor’s told my mom I was making it up to get attention, (my brother had just started kindergarten and supposedly this was meek little me trying to get some acknowledgement??).
For the next 22-ish years, “my legs hurt” was a common phrase from me. Being left in excruciating pain by cold air conditioning in the car was a constant torment. Needing to lie in dark rooms so my head didn’t throb just seemed normal. It wasn’t until I was neck deep in a crazy stressful job that a lifetime of suffering just couldn’t be compartmentalized anymore.
I got desperate for help but my newly minted life as a vegan/animal rights crusader meant I wasn’t going to be able to take conventional pain medicine and needed to find something outside the box.
Enter a passion for “alternative” treatments, food therapies and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
After a few false starts, I found the world’s greatest Acupuncturist and studied to become a Certified Health Coach. Now I’m pain free almost all the time and when I do have a flare up I know what to do to make it go away on my own, quickly.
I quit my job and dove into a career helping women who are suffering silently to heal themselves and start living the life they’ve always wanted.
I’ve seen first hand the pain that can be caused by food: I’d long heard that people with Arthritis (I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at 14) should avoid “nightshade” vegetables: white potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet or hot peppers, cayenne, and paprika. I always shrugged this off as being a bit…excessive.
How could a small amount of one veggie possibly hurt me?
So one night I got myself some (gluten free) pasta with organic and locally made tomato sauce for dinner. As I sat there eating…all of a sudden I started having shooting pains in my hips (a spot where I had severe pain for years). I was like – “WHOA what did I do today that’s making my hips hurt?” I hadn’t been on my feet all day or anything like that.
After a few more minutes of WTF-ness I literally looked down at my giant bowl of pasta and thought “holy crap! It’s the tomatoes!” I cut out all nightshade veggies after that and haven’t had a sudden flare up of the sort for more than a year.
After not having a flare up for some time – I tried adding really high quality sundried tomatoes into my diet. No pain! So I started eating them, like…every day. Guess what happened? After a few weeks of over doing it, I started having pain in my joints again. So I stopped eating them and within a day, the pain was gone.
Moral of the story: the foods that you eat are like a light switch that turns your pain levels on and off.
The way foods affect you will be different depending on your body type, your genetic make up, the root cause of your pain and your gut health. However, both western scientists and health practitioners from ancient societies tend to agree on some specific foods that can cause pain in a lot of people.
Here are some you should be on the look out for:
• Processed white sugar
• Aspartame (nutria-sweet)
• Nightshade vegetables
Speak to your Doctor about testing for food sensitivities. Try a kinesiology (muscle) test to see what foods may be your personal triggers. Many chiropractors and other licensed health practitioners are trained to perform a muscle test.
Try an elimination diet. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, it is exactly as it sounds. Try cutting out potential “trigger foods” for 2-4 weeks and see how your health changes. Then add back in each of the foods and see if the symptoms return. Sort of like what I accidentally did with tomatoes! If you suspect a serious allergy, it’s best to not reintroduce these foods back into your diet without the supervision of a professional.
For many people food won’t be the thing that creates a massive shift, but it’s a great place to start. I definitely recommend that you find an integrative doctor or trained health coach that can support you as you navigate these sometimes confusing waters.
There’s so much waiting for you on the other side.
Ashley Williams is a holistic healing coach and vegan lifestyle expert who works with women to heal their chronic health issues. Trained in natural healing and plant-based nutrition, she focuses on making it simpler for her clients to get healthy and get back to the lives they’re supposed to be living.