For the past 16 days, I monitored everything I ate with regards to my pain level. Anyone suffering from either chronic pain, back pain or specific joint pain has been introduced to the concept of the happy face pain scale and the one I am most familiar with was the scale that runs from one to ten. Of course this is a very subjective measurement but then pain is a subjective concept. What bothers you, may not bother me at all.
I started exploring the concept of the Inflammation Factor Diet when my pain level was consistently an eight last winter and it was starting to damage my sense of humor. The first thing I found when trying to work with Inflammation Factors was that some of the food ratings were counter intuitive with tomato products bouncing all over the place between good and bad and Turkey and chicken legs being inflammatory but chicken breast being good. All this was just too much for me to remember until I discovered my list of five spices that fight inflammation. Using the five spices in combination and at normal amounts, almost guarantees that your Inflammation factor will be positive by over 1000. Of course, I took some days and nights off from spicy food to grill outside so my daily Inflammation Factor from Nutritiondata.self.com wandered between negative 246 and a positive 2327 when I totaled all the foods I ate for the day.
Except for a few foods like beer and candy, most foods seem to have a greater impact on the following day’s pain levels especially since I ate my primary meal at night and this had my higher spice loading. As a scientist, I am familiar with multiple linear regression and so I checked the values of pain for both the current day and the following day with calories, protein, Inflammation Factor and Carbohydrates as the dependent variables.
The results were incredible but not what I expected. First these variables correlated much better for the following day’s pain so there is a delay factor for eating and adsorbing all of the food value. The effect of protein and carbohydrates were minuscule and ignoring them did not change the correlation coefficient significantly. This was actually surprising because there is an awful lot published about high protein diets being important in fighting chronic pain. Over my 16 day period, I ate a fairly decent low calorie diet which was well balanced and averaged about 95 grams of protein per day (range, 54 to131) and about double that for carbohydrates, 187 grams (range, 133 to 307). The highest carbohydrate day came from a modest sugar candy binge.
Two variables were able to explain about 75% of the reduction on low pain days. It appears that in my body pain is a continuous state of affairs and that increasing my Inflammation Factor in a positive way is accompanied by a slight decrease in pain. Since I already like, cook and eat spicy foods, it would seem that my primordial instinct was already at work protecting me. The totally unexpected and even dangerous result is that there is a five times greater impact from the calories I consume. So eating more has a therapeutic effect on reducing pain.
Since I had my disc replacement surgery, I have been cussing my doctors for messing up my back and causing me a severe increase in pain which occurred the winter after my operation. It would now appear that I caused my own increase in pain by greatly reducing the calories I consumed each day to lose weight.
What had not occurred to me, was the pain got more sever as I ate fewer calories and dropped from obese to overweight to near normal in weight. It got so bad I complained to my daughter and her only comment was does it hurt when I walked? Yes! Does it hurt when I don’t walk? Yes!. Then stick to the diet, stop complaining and keep walking. Her logic was that being lighter and physically fit had to be a lot easier on my joints, than than being obese.
It seems the opposite is true: overeating helps mitigate chronic pain.
Go figure, another counter intuitive result but this one could have dangerous consequences if I give up on a pain free diet and revert to overeating as I had in the past.