Naturopathic Approach To Treating Pain

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In the naturopathic tradition, in some instances, pain and disease may be the result of such factors as inadequate diet, improper care of the body (sedentary lifestyle), and other lifestyle overindulgences and excesses. This is based on the concept that an organism is more likely to be healthier than one that is deprived in some fashion. A healthier organism also will be able to resist disease and pain better even if both come from external causes. In addition, the early naturopathic doctors prescribed fresh air, sunshine, proper diet, exercise, "scientific relaxation,'' (i.e., an early form of Western meditation designed to relax the mind), constructive thinking, and a positive mental attitude, with prayer and meditation to create a sound mind in a sound body. These extremely simplistic recommendations provide the basic framework for health; but striving for health when one has poor lifestyle habits is self-defeating at best. Thus, people need additional treatment using botanical medicines, nutraceuticals, or pharmaceuticals until a better state of health can be achieved. The technique of pain control with natural medicines involves identifying, treating, and, if possible, removing the source of the discomfort. In addition, when treatment is focused this way, ideally, a patient can avoid the addictive perils of pharmaceutical pain medicines as well as their sometimes strong and toxic side effects.

Most importantly, from the perspective of removing the cause, physicians perhaps do their greatest service by altering the course of a person's health away from a protracted period of pain and concomitant disability. The first intervention involves setting a course for healing the tissues that are the source of the pain. Removing dietary perils that prevent the body from being in its optimum state of health includes limiting refined carbohydrates and optimizing protein, micronutrient, and fatty-acid intakes. Excess carbohydrate intake exerts a negative effect on insulin metabolism, provoking weight gain and the inflammatory cascade. Insufficient protein intake, at levels less than 30% of the recommended daily allowance (0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day), may limit repair and regeneration. An excess of foods that contain arachidonic acid, a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid, is a known promoter of inflammation, cancer, autoimmune conditions, and circulatory compromise.1 Protein synthesis is compromised by a number of conditions, and protein-energy malnutrition is associated with impaired muscle function, immune dysfunction, decreased bone mass, impaired cognitive function, delayed wound healing (even wounds caused by surgical interventions), and increased morbidity.2 Medical conditions, including gastrointestinal (GI) disease, malabsorption syndromes, and chronic and acute infections, can lead to micronutrient deficiencies as well as increased protein and energy requirements. Patients with chronic pain often use prescription medicines heavily, which can, in turn, compound nutrient malabsorption, GI conditions, and loss of appetite.

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