Aches and Pains
Knee replacement surgeries have become so common in today’s world that, the entire hospital industry thrives on it. The many types of arthritis can make the victims truly suffer – Osteoarthritis can wear down the knees, Rheumatoid Arthritis can twist and deform the fingers and Gout can make the simple act of walking an agony.
The pain is called inflammation and is a part of the body’s defence mechanism, which refers to the body’s response to injury, including injury to the blood vessels. Brief details of inflammation, which may involve pain, redness, warmth, swelling and loss of function in the affected tissues are as follows:
Inflammation is the process by which our immune system kills disease-causing bacteria or removes toxins from the body. Therefore, intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at infection and injury are essential to keep us healthy. But sometimes, our immune system becomes overactive and creates inflammation to destroy our own cells. That is when inflammation can become our enemy. Many major diseases that plague us – including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s – have been linked to chronic inflammation.
Role of PUFAs in Inflammation:
Thanks to the media hype regarding the heart healthy benefits of some cooking oils, the word PUFA (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) has become a household term. PUFAs are of two types: N-6 and N-3. They work as on/off switches for inflammation where N-6 switches the inflammation ‘on’ and N-3 switches the inflammation ‘off’. So, the proper balance between these two PUFAs is necessary to keep us free from aches and pains.
But sometimes this balance gets upset and causes inflammation, which is totally unnecessary. Restoring the balance between these two PUFAs by reducing the consumption of N-6 PUFAs, which in India is mainly from cooking oils like Sunflower oil and by increasing the consumption of N-3 PUFAs through the consumption of greens, flaxseed and fish oil can help us reduce aches and pains.
Inflammation and Electric Bulb:
The on/off switch concept can be better explained by comparing inflammation to an electric bulb.
When the body is in a pain free state, inflammation is switched on whenever it is required to fight infection & injury and switched off when normalcy returns, like the electric bulb that lights in the night and goes off in the day.
A body in perpetual pain is like an electric bulb that is switched on all day due to a faulty switch.
One way to relieve that pain is to neutralize the inflammatory enzymes. Since the same enzymes are required to produce both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals, the entire inflammation regulatory system stops, which is equivalent to cutting off the power supply to the bulb that burns all day long. Painkillers do exactly the same thing – Aspirin and its related products stop the production of one class of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals, while steroid drugs stop the production of all classes.
In this way, painkillers mask the pain without treating its cause, whereas nutrition reduces the pain by simulating the body’s mechanism of decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals while increasing anti inflammatory chemicals, which is equivalent to repairing the faulty switch instead of cutting off of its power supply. The medication used in Rheumatoid Arthritis illustrates the difference in masking the pain and treating the cause.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and its medication:
Goals of the RA treatments are:
- To reduce joint inflammation and pain
- Maximize joint function
- To prevent joint destruction and deformity
Following medications are used to achieve the above goals:
- Painkillers like Aspirin and steroids
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs such as Methotrexate and Hydroxychloroquine
The following side effects associated with RA medication are the result of painkillers and are not due to anti-rheumatic drugs:
- Weight gain
- Facial puffiness
- Thinning of the skin and bone
- Easy bruising
- Risk of infection
- Muscle wasting
- Destruction of large joints, such as the hips
So RA patients and others who use painkillers in large quantities and/or over long periods can use an anti-inflammatory diet to compliment their medication to save themselves from the agonizing side effects. That’s why an increasing number of doctors are asking their patients to look into the refrigerator instead of medicine cabinet for ways to their reduce aches and pains.
Regular exercise, a balanced diet and healthy weight are necessary to prevent aches and pains.
For more information on Insulin Resistance, refer to Insulin Resistance
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