Category Archives: pain control

Twenty Surprising Facts About Vitamin D

Vitamin DThe following facts about Vitamin D may surprise you:

  • Vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin. (This post refers to it as a “vitamin” because that is the common terminology used.)
  • Vitamin D is a powerful anti-inflammatory
  • 90-95% of Vitamin D is produced by the skin through sun exposure
  • The natural form of Vitamin D the skin produces is Vitamin D3 
  • The Vitamin D that is added to milk and other products is Vitamin D2, which is not well absorbed
  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning the body stores it 
  • Experts estimate that 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D regulates more than 200 genes in the body
  • Grass fed beef contains Vitamin D3; mainstream beef does not
  • Vitamin D is a powerful immune booster
  • Studies proved 2000 IU/day is more effective than flu shots at preventing the flu
  • Vitamin D is known to protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, and over 800 different cancers
  • It is very difficult to get adequate D3 through the diet
  • Ten to thirty minutes of unprotected sun exposure is the best way to boost levels
  • Pregnant women need twice as much Vitamin D as other people
  • Dark-skinned people typically do not produce Vitamin D well and are often deficient
  • The best test to check Vitamin D levels is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D test
  • The 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D blood test is very inaccurate and may return false levels if D levels are low
  • The ideal range of D in the blood is 50-75 nmol/L. Higher and lower amounts may cause or worsen health challenges.
  • Deficiencies in Vitamin D have been connected to depression, inflammatory conditions, cancer, fatigue, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders, weight gain, headaches, bladder disorders, and much more

Do you take Vitamin D? I generally recommend starting with 2000-5000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day. Check your blood levels every three months, adjusting the dose as needed. The goal level of Vitamin D should be 50-75 nmol/L.

If you do not have a doctor, you can order a home test kit at: Vitamin D Home Test Kit

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Why You Need More Magnesium

Experts estimate that 80% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium, a very basic mineral that is essential for good magnesiumhealth and which is used by every system in the body.

A lack of Magnesium in the body may cause any of the following: 

  • muscle cramps
  • heart palpitations
  • headaches and migraines
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • muscle weakness
  • digestive disorders
  • impaired pituitary and thyroid function
  • PMS
  • kidney problems
  • insulin resistance and/or hypoglycemia
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • vertigo
  • problems swallowing
  • muscle aches
  • tremors and shaking
  • anxiety or over-excitability
  • muscle twitching and tics
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • kidney stones and heel spurs
  • coronary spasms
  • atrial fibrillation
  • dizziness
  • memory problems
  • numbness in extremities
  • worsening of asthma symptoms
  • water retention
  • high blood pressure
  • loss of appetite or nausea
  • and many more 

The problem with these symptoms is that many are very vague and most could be caused by a wide variety of other issues. Unfortunately, it is extremely rare for a medical professional to consider a magnesium deficiency and act accordingly when faced with symptoms that indicate one. Additionally, plasma levels of magnesium measured during blood tests are very inaccurate because only 1% of magnesium in the body is stored in the blood. The majority of magnesium in the body is stored in the tissues, making blood tests almost worthless. We live in a society where mainstream physicians are taught to place more weight on blood test results than on symptoms, which makes it even less likely that a person exhibiting multiple symptoms of magnesium deficiency will be given magnesium. (There is a blood test that is more accurate, the ionized magnesium test, but it is not widely available.)

As the huge list of symptoms indicates, magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of every body system. A deficiency can have devastating consequences. Magnesium is the most prolific mineral in the body and is responsible for almost 400 different biochemical reactions in the body. A short list of the body functions magnesium directly influences include:

  • Allows the body to absorb calcium and to place it where it belongs 
  • Essential for the production of energy
  • Essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats
  • Relaxes muscles so they remain flexible
  • Essential for the activation of B vitamins
  • Helps build bone and keep it flexible enough to not shatter
  • Helps maintain a normal electrical flow of nerve impulses in the heart
  • Essential for hormone balance (especially during PMS and menopause)
  • Essential for initiation over 300 different enzyme reactions essential for health
  • Essential for proper digestion
  • Essential for the production of key brain chemicals
  • Essential for normal kidney and liver function

Obviously, you need magnesium. If you eat a standard diet, drink alcohol, or drink coffee, you are probably magnesium deficient. Many people are magnesium deficient because of digestive disorders and malabsorption. (Please read Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion for tips on improving digestion.) 

It is possible to maintain adequate magnesium levels by eating high levels of dark leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds on a daily basis. If you’re eating well and don’t have absorption problems, you’re probably not deficient. If you don’t eat well, drink alcohol or can’t get by without your daily cup of java, you need to be getting supplemental magnesium other ways. (Coffee and alcohol sap the body of magnesium very quickly. It is not unusual for alcoholics to have anxiety and sleep disorders as a result of their magnesium deficiency.)

Drinking a daily Green Drink is a wonderful way to get sufficient magnesium and other essential nutrients. If you don’t care for the taste of green drinks (which taste like grass, to be blunt), try Green Vibrance Capsules by Vibrant Health. It is one of my favorites and is one I use frequently.

If you prefer to increase your magnesium using supplements, do NOT take Magnesium Oxide. It is a form of oxide that your body cannot absorb. It is worthless. Read labels and make sure whichever supplement you purchase does not contain magnesium oxide. Most people do best taking 200-800 mg of magnesium on a daily basis. I recommend starting with 200/day and very gradually working up (not exceeding 1200 mg) until your symptoms disappear. Having loose stools is a good indicator that you’re taking too much. If you develop diarrhea, take less magnesium.

I recommend doing or using the following to increase magnesium levels, in conjunction with a healthy diet:

  • Take a very warm bath three times weekly with 2-3 cups of Epsom salts in the bath. Your skin will absorb the magnesium, eliminating the need for it to be absorbed through the digestive system.
  • Use Magnesium Oil:  Magnesium oil is not an oil, but has an oily feeling due to the high concentration of magnesium in the liquid. Note that it is necessary to use high doses of magnesium oil in order to receive a high amount of magnesium. Most oils need to be used in doses of eight sprays, three times daily.
  • Take Magnesium Glycinate:  Magnesium Glycinate is one of the more easily absorbed forms of magnesium. The magnesium molecule is bonded with glycine, which is an amino acid. The human digestive tract is maximized to absorb amino acids, and glycine is known to improve digestion, so the combination of the magnesium and the glycine greatly increases the absorption levels. The amount of glycine absorbed is minimal, so please do not use magnesium glycinate instead of a glycine supplement if you need supplemental glycine.

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

As always, none of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none were intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Check with your medical practitioner before starting or stopping any supplement or medication.

References:

Yu ASL. Disorders of magnesium and phosphorus. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 120.

Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

Natural Lifestyle Approaches for Relieving Pain

One of the most common problems I hear is “I ache from head to toe,” or “I have constant pain.” This is heartbreaking because chronic pain affects quality of life, may cause impaired sleep and is one of the leading causes of depression. If you have chronic pain, please work with a medical professional to determine and address the cause of your pain instead of merely treating the symptoms. In this post, I will discuss lifestyle changes and therapies that are proven to reduce and eliminate pain. I’ll discuss my favorite supplements for pain in my next post. 

I’ve mentioned much of what I discuss in this post in other posts. Instead of mentioning the title of every post that is pertinent to this post, I’ve merely provided a link including certain words. Click the link to view the post.

Most pain is caused by inflammation, so the most common natural and pharmaceutical pain relievers focus on reducing or preventing inflammation while others work to prevent the production of chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. The most important phase of eliminating pain is to IDENTIFY THE CAUSE. This is a step that many mainstream practitioners kind of skip, opting instead to prescribe pain relievers that mask the symptom but don’t address the cause of the pain.

Lifestyle Techniques for Reducing Pain 

The following lifestyle habits and techniques can be used to reduce pain:

  • The Old Stand-Bys: We all know we should get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat healthy food, but each of these lifestyle habits can have a profound effect on pain. I recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, although many people with chronic pain feel better if they get eight to ten hours. I also advise drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Dehydration will increase pain, so staying hydrated can have a direct impact on pain levels. Eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods will decrease the toxic load on your body. Many people find their pain levels dramatically decrease when they switch to a predominantly organic, whole food eating style. It is also very effective to follow an eating style that includes anti-inflammatory foods and avoids inflammatory foods.
  • Stay Engaged: Many people who suffer from chronic pain often do not have the energy or the emotional desire to engage in social activities. Staying involved can not only help decrease  depression associated with your pain, but can also help diminish the pain. The simple act of having fun can increase the brain’s production of serotonin, a chemical that is directly related to pain relief. If necessary, force yourself to get out of the house and engage in a fun activity at least once a month. Once you begin having fun occasionally, it will become very obvious how much better you feel when you do. If it’s easier, invite people over to your house instead of going out … and don’t even think about how your house looks or how clean it is … I promise your friends don’t care and won’t notice.
  • Massage: Getting a massage is a wonderful way to relax muscles, eliminate toxins and relax. Although it is a treatment that many consider “pampering,” it does have a proven physiological effect that helps diminish pain levels. Find a licensed massage therapist who is proficient in therapeutic massage. Most people benefit most from two to three sessions per week, but even a single session can provide relief.
  • Identify Food Sensitivities: One of the most common but least discussed symptoms of food allergies and sensitivities is joint and muscle pain. If you have a food sensitivity and eat the offending food, your body creates antibodies that wind up circulating in the blood stream. These antibodies are highly inflammatory and may cause muscular pain and joint pain. I personally know that if I eat dairy, my knees hurt like crazy. I’ve helped many patients and clients identify food allergies who found their chronic pain disappeared once they stopped eating foods they were allergic to. Unfortunately, most mainstream doctors don’t associate muscular pain (or fibromyalgia) with food sensitivities.
  • Visualization/Meditation/Prayer: The simple act of taking time each day to “decompress” and relax can be very helpful in controlling pain. Many people also find that visualizing themselves leading a pain-free life and engaging in activities that pain prevents them from enjoying is very helpful. For those who have a spiritual foundation, prayer that focuses on healing and grace is known to help.
  • Very Gentle Yoga, Tai Chi, or Water Exercise: The key words for these helpful forms of exercise are “very gentle.” Yoga and Tai Chi are forms of exercise that help maintain flexibility, provide relaxation, and help increase the release of mood-lifting serotonin in the brain. (Recent studies have found that people with fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain also have low serotonin levels.) Many yoga centers offer classes that are specifically designed for people with chronic pain. Finding Tai Chi classes may be more difficult, but there are many videos on YouTube that provide instruction. I am always happy to see more fitness centers offering water-based exercise classes for folks with chronic pain. Exercising in a swimming pool can be very helpful. It is very low impact and the buoyancy of the water often makes movement easier for those with chronic pain. The most important factor in any exercise technique is to modify the movements to fit your personal abilities. Exercise should not hurt. Choose movements that come easily and don’t try to force yourself to accomplish movements you cannot. The following resources may be helpful: – Body Wisdom Media: Tai Chi for Beginners
     – Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Heal Chronic Pain
     – Yoga for Fibromyalgia (A book on gentle, chair-based yoga)
          
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): EFT was discovered by a psychologist who had an interest in acupuncture and acupressure. He discovered that the body and the mind could be positively affected by this technique which combines gentle tapping on acupressure points with the use of affirmations. I use it in my practice and have had people describe it as “magical.” It is wonderfully effective for negative emotional states, food cravings, addictions, etc., but is also very effective for relieving pain. The technique is so simple that it is easily learned by children. I know several parents who taught EFT to their children who suffer from frequent headaches, nightmares, etc. The beauty of EFT is that it can be effective for emotional and physical issues. It is very useful for pain. To learn more about EFT and download free manuals to learn the technique, I recommend visiting any of the following sites: – Free EFT Manual
     – Free Manual from EFTfree

     – Basic Steps to Emotional Freedom

Alternative Therapies to Reduce Pain

 The following alternative therapies are known to be very effective for reducing and eliminating pain:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an ancient art, but it  is gaining new popularity among mainstream medical practitioners because it is so effective. It is also gaining new popularity because multiple studies have proven that it works. Many people with chronic pain report immediate results from a single acupuncture treatment and experience a prolonged decrease in or elimination of pain after receiving multiple treatments. The needles used are similar in size to a human hair, so most people experience zero on the insertion of the needles. Acupuncture can be used to decrease inflammation and improve nerve flow, each of which may be helpful in decreasing and preventing pain.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis has gotten a bad rap due to its popularity as a stage show. What you’ve seen on Vegas stages has nothing in common with a hypnosis session delivered by a certified practitioner. During a hypnosis treatment, you are fully aware of everything that happens and cannot be “programmed” to do something you don’t want to. (Such as walking around quacking like a duck.) Certified hypnotists work to help the right side of your brain communicate more clearly with the left side. They also help you access and control subconscious thought patterns. Hypnosis can be used to help diminish someone’s perception of pain. It is a good option for someone experiencing pain due to a physical cause that cannot be controlled, but please be aware it will not address the physical cause of the pain. Hypnosis can also help eliminate stress and depression related to pain.

There are many other lifestyle habits and alternative treatments that are known to help relieve pain, but I’ve covered the ones I consider the most effective. What techniques do you use?

Top Seven Natural Pain Relievers

This post is a follow-up to my post on Natural Lifestyle Approaches for Relieving Pain. Everyone has times when they experience pain. Sometimes the pain is short-lived, sometimes it becomes chronic. My encouragement for anyone with chronic pain is to use the tips shared in the post I mentioned above along with the pain relievers shared in this post while working with a practitioner to determine and address the cause of the pain.

As always, none of the statements made in this post or any others on this site were evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Please consult with your health practitioner before starting to take any supplement or before making major changes to lifestyle or diet. Please also note that pregnant women should never take any supplements unless recommended by a trained professional. Please always follow doses recommended on the bottle and do not take any supplement in a dosage higher than that recommended.

Following are my favorite choices for natural pain relievers. Some of these can be very easily found in any drugstore, while others may require a visit to a health food store. I’ve provided links to an example of each product so that you’ll know what to look for in stores. (I often find that Amazon has the lowest prices on supplements, including ones that can only be found in doctor offices.) Please work with a practitioner to determine which of these is the best option for you. I will provide examples of situations appropriate for each supplement, but each person is wonderfully unique and needs to find the supplement or combination of supplements that is best suited to their physiology, lifestyle and habits.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a muscle relaxer that is known to provide fast relief to many types of pain, including simple muscular pain, headache pain (stress headaches, especially), etc. This would be my first line of defense against many types of minor pain, especially since it is readily available, works fairly quickly, and because 80% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium. I recommend taking 200-400mg at the first sign of discomfort. Although higher doses can be taken, be aware that higher doses may cause diarrhea, especially if other supplements you take contain magnesium. When purchasing a magnesium supplement, please do not purchase one whose primary ingredient is magnesium oxide, as that form of magnesium cannot fully be absorbed by the human body. For more information on magnesium, including information about choosing an effective magnesium supplement, please read my post: Why You Need More Magnesium and How to Get It.

Arnica

Arnica is a homeopathic remedy or topical cream/gel/lotion that has been used for centuries to relieve inflammation. It is such a powerful anti-inflammatory that many mainstream surgeons now recommend their patients use homeopathic arnica orally before and after surgery. The nice thing about homeopathics is that they typically have no interaction with other medications or supplements. When using the oral form of arnica, tiny pellets are placed under the tongue 3-5 times per day at least 10 minutes before or after eating. (Homeopathics should also not be used within an hour of brushing your teeth, as mint can block their receptors.) Topically, arnica cream or gel can be amazingly helpful for muscle aches and injuries and bruises, but should not be used on open wounds. My favorites include Hyland’s Arnica Montana pellets or Boiron’s combination packet of Arnica Gel & Pellets. Please note that the Arnica Montana herb is highly toxic, but that it is perfectly safe to use in homeopathic form because the quantities used are so tiny. The tiny amounts are enough to stimulate healing but are not enough to cause problems.

Proteolytic Enzymes

Proteolytic enzymes are one of my favorite healers. They are powerful anti-inflammatories which also have the ability to help the body eliminate extra tissue growth and any undigested food molecules that wind up in the tissues due to leaky gut or other digestive disorder. Proteolytic enzymes are used in Germany to battle cancer along with other natural therapies, but this therapy is not yet recognized in the US. (Please don’t use this therapy for cancer treatment without the express consent of your medical professional.) I recently spoke with an osteopathic surgeon from an osteopathic center in Indianapolis that is known world-wide for its success in treating osteopathic issues. This MD shared that he is using proteolytic enzymes instead of cortisone injections to treat his own knee pain due to the damage caused by cortisone injections, but that he cannot legally recommend proteolytic enzymes to his patients. (That’s another issue for another blog post.) The bottom line is that proteolytic enzymes bring incredible relief to many because they are known to reduce inflammation and to help the body repair damaged tissues. They can also be helpful in reducing the size of some forms of fibroid tumors. I have a friend who suffered from debilitating bursitis pain for years and who tried every remedy – mainstream and alternative – under the sun, but who found relief in less than two days after trying proteolytic enzymes. The trick to using proteolytic enzymes is that they MUST be taken on an empty stomach. If they are taken while food is in the stomach, the enzymes will digest the food and will never reach the bloodstream. This means they must be taken at least half an hour before eating or at least two hours after eating. The nice thing is that they are effective when taken once per day, so splitting the dosage is not necessary. In my opinion, Wobenzyme is the best on the market. There are many others available, but Wobenzyme contains professional grade enzymes in the highest quantity and includes the highest combination of enzymes. I typically recommend that people start with three tablets per day. If three tablets don’t work to bring complete relief, I then recommend they take six per day, gradually working up to as many as 12 if needed.

Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient and most easily absorbed form of Turmeric, a spice that is commonly included in curry blends. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory but also has other health benefits. It is known to be a powerful liver cleanser and is also often used as a remedy for MRSA. (Again, please consult a professional if you have MRSA, as it can be deadly.) Because Curcumin is a spice, it can typically be used in conjunction with prescription medications, but should not be used by anyone taking Coumadin or Warfarin and should not be used in conjunction with large doses of aspirin or NSAID pain relievers. Curcumin has been shown to be a powerful anti-oxidant and to increase cellular levels of glutathione, a naturally produced anti-oxidant. In other countries, curcumin is used to treat tumors, but please see my comment above related to using it in conjunction with cancer therapies. People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chron’s disease often find curcumin to be beneficial. Curcumin is also showing promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer disease, although further studies are needed. I recommend using 400-600mg of curcumin one to three times daily for best results. Please note that taking curcumin in excessively high doses has sometimes been shown to cause liver damage. As with all things, moderation and following the dosage recommendations on the bottle is best. My favorite brands of curcumin include: Jarrow Curcumin 95 and Nature’s Bounty Curcumin.

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a natural form of sulfur that is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and which the body uses to repair connective tissues in joints. It is also a powerful cellular detoxifier which many people use when they’re doing a detoxification regimen. (On a side note, please note that people with sulfa allergies can take MSM without worry. The chemical form of sulfur used in sulfa drugs is very different and bears no resemblance to the chemical form of sulfur in MSM.) MSM is especially helpful for those battling arthritis or anyone suffering from tendon damage or muscular damage. I personally found MSM to be a lifesaver when I damaged tendons after I wrecked my motorcycle. MSM helped my body repair damage that doctors said couldn’t be repaired. I’m very thankful for that. I recommend starting with a dosage of 3000mg per day. Some people find they require higher doses. If you need a higher dose, work up very gradually to avoid a strong detoxification side effect and do not exceed 9000mg/day. As with any supplement, find the lowest dose that’s effective for you and don’t take more than is needed. My favorite OTC brands of MSM include: Doctor’s Best OptiMSM and Nature’s Way MSM. I find that taking MSM as a powder dissolved in water or in capsule form is best. MSM is also effective used in a cream applied topically.

Omega 3

Fish Oil, or an Omega 3 supplement, is a well-known anti-inflammatory with multiple health benefits. Anyone who does not eat fish at least three times per week probably needs an Omega 3 supplement. We are inundated with Omega 6 oils – which are known to be inflammatory – in our diet, so I tend to recommend people supplement with Omega 3s. Omega 3s can be obtained from seeds, nuts, fish and algae. If you wish to take an Omega 3 supplement, I recommend: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega or Carlson Labs Very Finest Fish Oil. Fish oil supplements are one supplement I strongly advise against purchasing in a drug store, as purity is very important. You don’t want to take one containing high mercury levels or which contains high levels of radiation. It’s worth it to spend a little bit of extra money on this particular supplement.

White Willow Bark

White Willow Bark is what aspirin was made out of in its earliest days. White Willow Bark is very high in salicylic acid, the pain reliever in aspirin. White Willow Bark is my personal go-to herb for occasional headaches and minor muscle aches that were not relieved by a glass or water or magnesium. Many women find it very helpful for menstrual cramps. It is also effective for relieving low-grade fevers, although I feel fevers below 102 degrees should not be treated, as they are the body’s defense against illness. However, White Willow Bark should not be used by anyone taking a prescription blood thinner (Coumadin, Warfarin), nor should it be given to children with a fever due to the danger of Reye’s Syndrome. Beyond that, it has few prescription drug interactions. Follow the dosage recommended on the bottle. Typically, the dosage can be repeated 3-4 times daily. Some people experience a bit of stomach upset with White Willow Bark. If you do, I recommend taking it with food, but that is not necessary if you don’t experience stomach upset when taking it. My favorites include: Nature’s Answer White Willow Extract (liquid) and Nature’s Way White Willow Bark Capsules.

What are your favorite all-natural pain relief supplements? Please share!