Several years ago, my doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. We tried pain pills for about a year, but I didn’t want to be on that merry-go-round, so I stopped taking them. I’ve been able to control the pain fairly well with exercise and cutting back quite a bit on sugar.
Now, as I’m getting older and have a bit of arthritis, too, I’m finding the pain management to be a bit more difficult to handle. And, my sweet spouse is working hard to deal with his own aches and pains from working a labor intensive job for 30 years.
As is my nature, I’ve embarked on a learning and practice adventure consisting of many different spokes to the health and aging wheel, and I thought you might like to join me. We are going to look at pain management through diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, water, holistic health alternatives, and attitude.
Let’s start where many of us don’t want to start – our diet. I don’t know about you, but I like to eat and I want my food to taste good. In addition, I don’t have a large repertoire of fruits and vegetables. I grew up in Nebraska; a land of beef and grains, steak and potatoes. With this, we drank gallons of milk, and our regular treat was ice cream. We never had a garden, just a small bed of tomatoes and cucumbers. My mom loved to bake and we always had fresh bread, pies, cakes and cookies around the house. And, of course, chocolate is one of the four main food groups. This has been the way of our food for a very long time. What we didn’t know was the damage we have been doing to our bodies for over 50 years!
If you have fibromyalgia or arthritis, you are already painfully aware of how inflammation affects you. As I talk to people with fibro, they often speak of “flare ups” that rival Mt. St. Helen with the explosive power of pain. But, even more critical is the silent stealth of the inflammation attacking us at the cellular level, playing a significant role in developing heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and prostate disease.
Your body uses inflammation to signal you that something is wrong, and you should stop doing whatever it is that you are doing, or it sends millions of white blood cells to overpower whatever bacterium or virus has invaded your body, or your immune system raises the temperature of your body so high that whatever bug has hold of you dies of heatstroke.
It stands to reason that you don’t want your body to stop protecting and healing you, but you do want to get rid of the excessive, chronic and inappropriate inflammation. What is causing the malfunction in your body? You are out of balance! And, so are are millions of other people!
Our cells produce chemicals (prostaglandins) to create and quiet our inflammatory responses. These chemicals are produced by using the nutrients in our food, more specifically our bodies use the fatty acids in our foods to make prostaglandins.
Omega-6 fatty acids make inflammatory prostaglandins.
Omega-3 fatty acids make anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Those of us living in modern industrialized nations consume about twenty times more omega-6 as we do omega-3. In order for us to be in balance, we should be eating roughly equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Since most of us aren’t nutritionists, you are probably asking just like I did – ‘splain please!
When you go to the store, what do you buy? Boxes of processed food, some soda (which has it’s own problems), crackers, pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce, maybe some cookies, breakfast bars, bread, cereal, milk, a little beef, and because we are eating healthy – chicken and/or turkey. Most of us will get some vegetables, salad, salad dressing, etc. And, if you are single, and hate to cook for one – you may get some frozen TV dinners, pizza, and other assorted frozen items.
Today’s modern diet includes too many grains. They tend to be high in omega-6 fatty acids. We don’t eat as many fresh vegetables and legumes, which give us high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. More importantly, our livestock and even our seafood (farm-raised) are consuming high amounts of grains as well rather than their natural diet, so the milk we drink, eggs and meat we eat are lower in omega-3 and higher in omega-6 fatty acids. The end result?
Higher omega-6 + Lower omega-3
Higher pro-inflammatory prostaglandins + Lower anti-inflammatory prostaglandins
In part 2, we will talk about additional factors that can throw us out of balance, but this is enough to start with.
For the next week, when you go to the grocery, pay careful attention to what you are putting in your cart. You don’t need to change anything, just write it down to increase your awareness. We are creatures of habit and we tend to walk through the aisles of the grocery and pick up what we are familiar with.
Once you are really paying attention and have increased your awareness, shift to more fresh vegetables and legumes, along with free range beef, chicken and turkey in lesser amounts that you might have eaten before. Eliminate as much sugar as you can, and move toward a fresh diet rather than processed foods. Let’s start there, and begin paying attention to what your body is telling you.
Georgia Feiste, owner of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner, living with Fibromyalgia. While Georgia specializes in career, business and personal life transitions for people seeking change in their life, she is also passionate about working with people with chronic pain associated with FMS. She is uniquely skilled in providing support and encouragement as her clients set intentional goals to attain their desires, holding open the space they need to stretch and grow. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. Her websites are http://www.collaborativetransitions.com, where you can find her blogs about business and career, http://www.rainbowbridgecoach.com , where she and many other coaches blog about mind, body, spirit and emotion, and http://www.georgiafeiste.com where you can catch her thoughts on a wide variety of topics. Georgia can be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute consultation.