Managing Pain with Dr. Heather Tick
Sometimes we don’t even know what’s actually causing the pain to keep going. Sometimes, it’s just ongoing inflammation in the body, and sometimes, it’s nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and so all these things have to get taken into account once you’ve got chronic pain. The good news is, is that by paying attention to all these different facets, you actually have many ways in which you can improve your pain situation.
So let’s talk about a few of them. When you eat sugar or foods that are called high glycemic— and I’ll explain that in a minute— you increase your inflammation. In fact, you change your body chemistry every time you eat. You either increase your inflammation or you decrease your inflammation. And inflammation means more pain.
Now, going back to what high glycemic means, there’s something called the glycemic index. And it tells us how fast the food turns into sugar once we eat it. If it turns into sugar fast, it is called high glycemic and it usually has a number over 55. If it has a low number and it’s low glycemic, then it doesn’t turn into sugar quickly and it doesn’t increase your inflammation.
So let’s look at some common foods. We know that sugar, eating straight out of the sugar bowl is not a very healthy thing to do. That has a glycemic index of about 62. But most people are surprised to find out that refined flours that we often find even in whole grain breads, whole grain cereals, that are made in large factories have been so over-processed that those foods also have a high glycemic index, sometimes as high as in the 70s, which means they turn into sugar faster than sugar does.
When you eat foods that are high glycemic, they spike your blood sugar and they give you more inflammation. They also cause a reaction in the body to lower your blood sugar again because your body doesn’t like to have high blood sugar all the time. It knows that that’s not healthy. So your blood sugar goes down, but usually what happens is that it goes down too low and at that point, it makes you hungry, tired, sleepy, cranky. And then you go looking for more food, usually something that’s high glycemic because your brain is craving something that will cause your blood sugar to go up again.
And so very often, we’re on this rollercoaster of blood sugar through the day. High blood sugar when we eat high glycemic foods, the reaction a couple of hours later is low blood sugar and then we eat high glycemic foods again, we crave them, and up again goes our blood sugar. This makes us eat more food than we should and it gives us more inflammation.
This is a problem for two reasons: one, when we’re eating the wrong foods and getting more inflamed, we’re having more pain. We’re having poorer health. We have less healing capacity in our body. It also causes our brain function to change. We get fuzzy-brained when our blood sugar is low. We get sometimes anxious when our blood sugar is too high.
Eating high glycemic foods and being on this rollercoaster of blood sugar going up and down causes us to gain weight. We often eat as much as eighty percent more calories than we really need when we’re on that kind of a diet. And so we become overweight and obese, and what does that do? It causes heart disease, diabetes. It causes more wear and tear on our joints. All of those things impact on our health overall and on our pain.