By Forest Tennant, PNN Columnist
If you have Intractable Pain Syndrome (IPS) or a condition that commonly causes IPS, such as arachnoiditis, adhesive arachnoiditis, cauda equina syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, stroke or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), you should underpin your treatment program with a nutritional one.
Our research and experience clearly tell us that a proper nutrition program is essential for pain relief and to prevent the progression of IPS. Without a good nutritional program, neither medication or other medical measures will be very effective.
Persons who have IPS develop what is known as a “catabolic state.” The term means that the cellular matrix of the body is slowly degenerating, rather than its normal state of constant cellular regeneration, known as an “anabolic state.”
In IPS, cells and tissues inside and outside of the brain and spinal cord (CNS) progressively degenerate because of IPS’s combined effects of inflammation, hormonal deficiencies, and autoimmune attacks on tissues. If one has a genetic connective tissue/collagen disorder (EDS or other), then cellular catabolism or deterioration is grossly multiplied.
Cellular deterioration in IPS initially attacks small nerve fibers and the small cells in the CNS and skin, but later other tissues may be involved. Muscle mass deteriorates and is replaced by fatty tissue, so weight gain occurs. In late stages of catabolism, severe muscle loss may occur, giving the patient the appearance of starvation and emaciation. Weakness and fatigue set in. Memory, reading ability and logical thinking decline. Medications, including opioids, may not be as effective as they once were.
Persons with IPS must daily attempt to control catabolism through proper nutrition, which helps stop disease deterioration, reduces inflammation, regrows damaged nerves (neurogenesis), alkalizes body fluids, and improves pain relief and energy.
There are five basic components of an IPS nutrition program:
Eat protein every day and include protein in ALL meals.
Eat green vegetables, and select fruits and nuts
Control cholesterol and glucose
Daily multi-vitamins and minerals
Daily supplements for nerve regrowth and inflammation
Protein is Key
The most critical component of an IPS nutrition program is protein. IPS tends to decrease a desire for protein and promotes a craving for sugar and starches. The major protein foods are beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, seafood, cottage cheese and eggs. Protein drinks and bars can also be used as alternatives.
Why is protein so important? It contains all the fuel (amino acids) needed by the body to make more endorphin, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, insulin and other hormones. Protein builds tissue, repairs cells and helps stabilize blood sugar. Meals with no protein will likely increase pain and inflammation, which prevents healing.
Foods that are mainly sugar and starches (carbohydrates) cause sugar (glucose) to rise in the blood. Fatty foods cause cholesterol to raise in the blood. New research shows that high levels of glucose and fat may cause inflammation and damage to the neurotransmitters and receptor systems that control pain.
IPS patients should have their glucose and cholesterol levels tested on a regular basis. If abnormally high or low, work with your medical practitioner to normalize them.
You can help by reducing sugars and fats in your diet, and by eating meals on a regular schedule, even if you are not hungry. This will help balance your glucose and lessen your pain over time.
You may also want to consider a gluten free trial. Stop eating bread, cereal, noodles and other foods containing gluten for one week to see if you feel better.
Green Is Good
Vegetables, fruits and nuts can also help reduce inflammation, alkalinize your body fluids, and promote tissue healing. The best green vegetables are broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, spinach, snap peas, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, and cabbage. Avoid eating potatoes and corn, which are loaded with carbohydrates.
The best fruits are blueberries, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, oranges, plums, apples, strawberries, and peaches. Avoid eating bananas. The best nuts to eat are pistachios, almonds and peanuts.
To help regrow damaged or diseased tissues, take daily supplements containing vitamins B12 and C, collagen, amino acids and natural hormonal agents such as colostrum or DHEA. A daily multi-vitamin and mineral tablet is also helpful, along with a daily plant-based anti-inflammatory agent such as curcumin/turmeric or quercetin.
Ask yourself: Is what I am eating right now helping or hurting? If you don’t know or want more information, the IPS Research and Education Project has just published a 12-page nutritional program designed specifically for people with IPS. You can download a free copy by clicking here.
Forest Tennant is retired from clinical practice but continues his research on intractable pain and arachnoiditis. This column is adapted from newsletters recently issued by the IPS Research and Education Project of the Tennant Foundation. Readers interested in subscribing to the newsletter can sign up by clicking here.
The Tennant Foundation gives financial support to Pain News Network and sponsors PNN’s Patient Resources section.