1

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Can Diets Fight Chronic Pain? NPR says: "The Science Isn't There"

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created May 10, 2011 at 3:16 AM

This piece really got me rankled when I heard it this morning. You can read the article, but I recommend the audio if you're really looking to get a bee in you're bonnet.

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/09/135844983/can-diets-fight-chronic-pain-the-science-isnt-there

Or perhaps you agree with this agenda-driven fluff. Yes? No?

Have you found any pain-relief through dietary changes? Got a story?

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on May 13, 2011
at 02:04 AM

Sorry, Charlie, but I also have celiac disease, so have been grain free or low grains for a very long time. It's nice to think diet will cure everything, but Kamal is right, it doesn't. Kamal, I do take d-ribose regularly now. Every time I think it's not doing anything and I stop taking it, I get a flare up, so I'm quite sure it's helping. I take more on days like today where I'm doing very hard work outdoors (prepping the veggie garden!) and expect to be sore as hell tomorrow. D-ribose often surprises me, but no miracle cures!

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:40 AM

amazing story, thanks for sharing. :)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 12, 2011
at 03:33 PM

Hi Charlie-- forgive me if you were just joking around, but how much have you read about fibromyalgia? It has a very complex pathophysiology, and is likely less related to nutrition than something like rheumatoid arthritis. Tension from varying causes can cause things like malfunctioning entheses (tendon insertions) and trigger points (muscle contractures). But fibro can exist independent of these things as well, and can spring up quite randomly as a pain syndrome in active healthy eaters. I understand the good intentions in advising strict paleo, but it's also good to inform yourself first.

D8195c5ae6c967027a3133d74969d0e1

(543)

on May 11, 2011
at 12:36 PM

Thanks Kamal - this is an inspirational diet - I want to get the word out as well! (I'm originally from a suburb of Boston - now NYC for over 40 yrs) - my story is dramatic (to me) - I'm the one who's shocked every day I wake up now, and realize my cane is behind a door - not in my hand! I would go so far as to say this diet is "miraculous" - but then I'd sound like an infomercial - LOL! Thanks for the encouragement.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 11, 2011
at 02:40 AM

If you did no grains, no dairy, high animal fat, and little fruit, and intermittent fasting, then you should have very minor symptoms of fibro, if not cured all together. And is has to be 100%. 100% no grains (and this means alll processed foods) is what really matters. I bet this works. Cmon...nothing has had more success in treating any health problem than going no grains. No medicine has had results with fibro than going grain free has. Please try it and write back

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 11, 2011
at 01:35 AM

Hey semirade-- just wanted to say that every time you post your story, I really really find it inspirational. I made a meetup group in Boston for chronic pain patients, just to get people together that understand what a different kind of life it is. Well, and to evangelize paleo :)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 11, 2011
at 01:33 AM

Hey semirade-- just wanted to say that ever time you post your story, I really really find it inspirational. So that means you're going to have to keep posting your experiences, okay?

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 11, 2011
at 12:35 AM

EXACTLY. Ha! I was yelling at the radio too! Maddening! And look, surprise, surprise who's the sponsor for the online audio? Aetna. "Promoting wellness, health and access to high-quality health care." They don't make money unless you stay sick, friends! Keep taking those drugs-- after all, they've been PROVEN to work.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 11:53 PM

I have some similar reasons, and similar outcomes. It's so empowering to know that I am the Decider of how I will feel. I used to be cranky, achey, anxious, and puffy. And now, I'm not.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 11:20 PM

Look, I know that 'science', such as it is, will never "prove" that diet can reduce or eliminate pain or inflammation. (not least of all because nobody would pay for that study.) but 'science', as much as I love it, is NOT THE ONLY LENS we have. It is one paradigm we find useful. But that's another story.. The reason this little 'news' piece gets me so wound up, is because it is not intended to be informative. It's the equivalent of an ANTINUTRIENT.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 10, 2011
at 08:06 PM

R_P_S-- have you perchance tried d-ribose for fibro?

9722850c9a1c47b79edf7c4233040248

(1276)

on May 10, 2011
at 01:39 PM

This is me, too. I'm 24 and paleo for over a year.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on May 10, 2011
at 04:19 AM

Oh wow uwiniwin, that's just flat-out ignorance. Maybe if the mainstream actually looked at the causes of inflammation instead of trying to "prove" that saturated fats are somehow the cause of every malady. Dr. Bill Lands has been pulling his hair out over this for 40 years. Kamal nailed it. They assume that their current doctrine is a prime example of close to perfection. Eh, I probably should end the rant here.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 03:52 AM

i am looking forward to your website, sir!

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 03:46 AM

They don't even give people the space to IMAGINE that dietary changes could be beneficial. And this quote? - "We are not at the point yet that we can say that diet directly modifies the inflammatory process," - is just false. Well, maybe *she* isn't there..

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7 Answers

6
F6ea948ab43dc51d72509c0989e670fe

(1639)

on May 10, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I will avoid the audio, since I don't feel like raging about stupidity in the general news arena...I'm trying to keep my stress down and fix my cortisol levels...

So for over 29 years I have done the standard american diet (I just turned 30). Sometimes it was slightly different with weight watchers, counting calories, etc. I'm talking about cereal for breakfast, protein shakes, meat, lots of carbs (white rice, pasta, bread) and fat. Oh, and sugar content through the roof.

I have had joint/back pain and inflammation for the past 4-5 years, and it always seemed to get worse. On a bad day I thought 800mg of ibuprofen was awesome. Was seriously considering going to the doctor and getting something a bit stronger, since there was times that even that didn't work.

I originally started primal blueprint about 75 days ago. I really got on the paleo wagon about 60 days ago, after realizing that I had a decent allergy to milk (or what at least appears to be inflammation).

Since switching, I've gone from having headaches 6-10 times a week to an odd one every 14-15 days. My joint pain is completely gone. My back pain flares up every once in a while with high stress or an occasional cheat meal. I find that I have to stay wheat/gluten free, otherwise my back doesn't like me at all.

I think that scientists have a hard time understanding how much inflammation and diet influences pain (well, at least for me). I fixed my omega 3/6 balance (yeah, I do the Robb Wolf method) and I have no swelling or inflammation to speak of. I can actually feel the joints/bones in my knees/elbows/wrists/ankles since the swelling has gone down, I move differently, and I feel great. On SAD, I had no changes in movement with glucosamine, so I wasn't sure what was causing the pain. I may be 30, but at times I felt like I was 60.

Oh, and with my inflammation gone, my allergies went away too! My doctor is surprised, but happy for me!

9722850c9a1c47b79edf7c4233040248

(1276)

on May 10, 2011
at 01:39 PM

This is me, too. I'm 24 and paleo for over a year.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 11:53 PM

I have some similar reasons, and similar outcomes. It's so empowering to know that I am the Decider of how I will feel. I used to be cranky, achey, anxious, and puffy. And now, I'm not.

5
E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on May 10, 2011
at 04:20 AM

I have had fibro myalgia since I was a kid and have been on numerous diets/etc for years (I'm 40, well educated, and health conscious, so I've explored a number of diets/eliminations for a very long time now, and stuck to them - have not been on SAD for the last 10+ years) and I can say that no diet or supplement has cured my fibro. Not paleo, not low carb, not anything. The day I start thinking dairy elimination has cured my muscle aches, I wake up the next in a massive flare-up.

Certainly, it depends on what your ailment is, but I have found no rhyme or reason to my fibro flare-ups, nor have I seen anything convincing from my fibro network friends or in any studies that suggest there are true dietary cures for fibro myalgia, so no bee in my bonnet, other than they don't really address pain specifically, just generally, and there is a big difference between things like arthritis, fibro (which includes repetitive use syndrome and can include chronic fatigue, but both of those can be from other things, too, migraines and other problems), especially when the article states "Cimperman says there's no question that what we put in our mouths ??? and how much of it ??? has a big influence on our health. But no one diet has been shown to prevent inflammatory-linked diseases." This is true - we may FEEL a certain way from digesting some things and not others (or some of you do while I maybe don't) but, the headline is right... the science (as in: journaled redundant studies) isn't there.

Nothing to get upset at the story about - it's just that we're all still in the very early stages of understanding nutrition. Homo sapiens have been around for a LOT longer than nutrition studies, which at best have been over the last 50 years, and the earliest studies were rubbish. The article story is stating that little is documented, and given the time frame of Home sapiens vs. nutritional studies, I'd say that's a very correct assessment.

We're on our own, folks. Get used to it.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 10, 2011
at 08:06 PM

R_P_S-- have you perchance tried d-ribose for fibro?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 11, 2011
at 02:40 AM

If you did no grains, no dairy, high animal fat, and little fruit, and intermittent fasting, then you should have very minor symptoms of fibro, if not cured all together. And is has to be 100%. 100% no grains (and this means alll processed foods) is what really matters. I bet this works. Cmon...nothing has had more success in treating any health problem than going no grains. No medicine has had results with fibro than going grain free has. Please try it and write back

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 12, 2011
at 03:33 PM

Hi Charlie-- forgive me if you were just joking around, but how much have you read about fibromyalgia? It has a very complex pathophysiology, and is likely less related to nutrition than something like rheumatoid arthritis. Tension from varying causes can cause things like malfunctioning entheses (tendon insertions) and trigger points (muscle contractures). But fibro can exist independent of these things as well, and can spring up quite randomly as a pain syndrome in active healthy eaters. I understand the good intentions in advising strict paleo, but it's also good to inform yourself first.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on May 13, 2011
at 02:04 AM

Sorry, Charlie, but I also have celiac disease, so have been grain free or low grains for a very long time. It's nice to think diet will cure everything, but Kamal is right, it doesn't. Kamal, I do take d-ribose regularly now. Every time I think it's not doing anything and I stop taking it, I get a flare up, so I'm quite sure it's helping. I take more on days like today where I'm doing very hard work outdoors (prepping the veggie garden!) and expect to be sore as hell tomorrow. D-ribose often surprises me, but no miracle cures!

3
D8195c5ae6c967027a3133d74969d0e1

on May 11, 2011
at 01:06 AM

i can only speak from my own experience - I know PAIN - the pain I've suffered in the past 5-7 years has made me wish for death on a daily basis, until last summer. I had to discontinue my meds for bowel resection surgery (for the 2nd time) - I have been disabled and placed on disability by pain for approx 5 yrs - after surgery (in hosp for 5+ wks) I came out and my son led me on a campaign to start paleo - started in Feb, NOONE will convince me that diet can't effect pain! My RA symptoms have vanished (a few aches now and then to keep me motivated) I've discontinued the medication for Barrett's esophagus, I was using Enbrel 2 injections a wk for the RA - I'm essentially med-free now for the first time in 7 years! I have a pending surgery for another hernia repair this summer - I'm unable to exercise strenuously and cannot lift weights over a few lbs - so I walk regularly - i've dropped about 25 lbs and am at a good weight (5'8" - 158lbs) I dropped 2 inches in height over these last few yrs. - perhaps most significant is the change in depression - I've always experienced it to some degree, but since a cancer diagnosis 7 yrs ago - and associated depression as well as the intolerable pain over these last 5-7 yrs I've really been off/on suicidal for 3-4 yrs - Not so now- and I can only attribute that to paleo - so BullPucky to NPR - I'll write a testimonial after I've completed a yr on this - and I get through my (hopefully final operation) this summer!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 11, 2011
at 01:35 AM

Hey semirade-- just wanted to say that every time you post your story, I really really find it inspirational. I made a meetup group in Boston for chronic pain patients, just to get people together that understand what a different kind of life it is. Well, and to evangelize paleo :)

D8195c5ae6c967027a3133d74969d0e1

(543)

on May 11, 2011
at 12:36 PM

Thanks Kamal - this is an inspirational diet - I want to get the word out as well! (I'm originally from a suburb of Boston - now NYC for over 40 yrs) - my story is dramatic (to me) - I'm the one who's shocked every day I wake up now, and realize my cane is behind a door - not in my hand! I would go so far as to say this diet is "miraculous" - but then I'd sound like an infomercial - LOL! Thanks for the encouragement.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 11, 2011
at 01:33 AM

Hey semirade-- just wanted to say that ever time you post your story, I really really find it inspirational. So that means you're going to have to keep posting your experiences, okay?

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 13, 2011
at 01:40 AM

amazing story, thanks for sharing. :)

2
43d33eea1cbc69af32352b1753a40458

on May 10, 2011
at 05:46 PM

I found that cutting out gluten from my diet made a huge improvement in the widespread pain caused by fibromyalgia. Cutting out sugar and other grains has also helped with bloating and fluid retention. My fatigue and migraines are also better, but I have to be very conscious about over-activity, stress, and nutritional pitfalls.

Most of the scientific tests try to look at one variable independent of the others. I believe it is the synergy of good fats, lowish carbs, optimal sleep, and other Paleo minded practices that are so beneficial in turning health around.

2
0d50f54d2c57d74806be35d916f8dc74

(634)

on May 10, 2011
at 04:09 AM

The migraines I've had for 30 years have become very rare. My gallbladder pain is gone. Disabling menstrual cramps are gone.

My 11-y.o. son, who has also been paleo for a couple months, no longer has the back pain that has plagued him for the last couple of years. I suspect it was a gluten issue.

1
3b803506ca7d7b5796bc16ee5b9f11d3

on May 11, 2011
at 12:11 AM

I heard this one on the radio yesterday morning. At the end is the (literally) money quote:

??But they warn that diet is meant to enhance, not replace treatments that have been shown to work??

Then I was cursing at the radio, "it's the other way around!". Don't you dare take health into your own hands, you have to buy drugs! won't anyone think of the poor doctors?

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 11, 2011
at 12:35 AM

EXACTLY. Ha! I was yelling at the radio too! Maddening! And look, surprise, surprise who's the sponsor for the online audio? Aetna. "Promoting wellness, health and access to high-quality health care." They don't make money unless you stay sick, friends! Keep taking those drugs-- after all, they've been PROVEN to work.

1
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on May 10, 2011
at 03:26 AM

They are correct, without realizing why. Making one or two dietary changes to a SAD diet has a tiny chance of improving pain. Why would they think that popping a couple fish oils pills could counteract an ocean of omega 6? Making a wholesale change to paleo on the other hand...

Here's a thread with pain/diet topics people on here are interested in. Feel free to list more! http://paleohacks.com/questions/28181/paleo-and-pain-which-issues-are-you-interested-in-nightshades-bone-broths-pu#axzz1LuSRMpx2

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 03:46 AM

They don't even give people the space to IMAGINE that dietary changes could be beneficial. And this quote? - "We are not at the point yet that we can say that diet directly modifies the inflammatory process," - is just false. Well, maybe *she* isn't there..

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on May 10, 2011
at 03:52 AM

i am looking forward to your website, sir!

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on May 10, 2011
at 04:19 AM

Oh wow uwiniwin, that's just flat-out ignorance. Maybe if the mainstream actually looked at the causes of inflammation instead of trying to "prove" that saturated fats are somehow the cause of every malady. Dr. Bill Lands has been pulling his hair out over this for 40 years. Kamal nailed it. They assume that their current doctrine is a prime example of close to perfection. Eh, I probably should end the rant here.

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