Archives for October 2016

Natural Pain Management

I am one of those people who loves a good wallow. When I feel low, I am the type to hide out and binge watch Netflix (and usually binge eat things I shouldn’t). This is particularly true when I am in physical pain. While I used to pop advil like they were candy at the first sign of any pain, this isn’t my style so much these days. However, I do often reach for one when I am really having a hard time even though they cause total chaos in my stomach. In my quest to lead a more natural and holistic life, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Dr. Jason Marr, a naturopath and expert health and wellness speaker. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of hip and other joint pain as I was still trying to push through my marathon training. One of the supplements that Dr. Marr mentions, Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief, has really done wonders for my hip pain and I can’t recommend it enough. While I did receive a sample, this is by no means a sponsored post and I genuinely stand behind the product or I wouldn’t mention it here.

I think there are so many natural products and supplements out there that can help us with pain management and prevention, but the information can get overwhelming. I think that is why it’s often so much easier to reach for something conventional over the self, even when we know there are potential scary side effects involved. I was very excited about this interview as it provided me with so much helpful information that helped make sense of it all. I also learned the word nutraceutical which I just think is a really great word. Can’t wait to drop that one in a conversation. But seriously, did anyone else know about this word? How did I never know it before? So, without further ado, read on if you’d also appreciate some information about natural pain relief:

 

  1. We are so quick to reach for pain killers when we are sore from a workout or have a headache. What are some more natural options to dealing with this? How can we prevent pain before it happens or mitigate it through our diet and supplementation?

Over 4.5 million Canadians suffer from the pain of arthritis, and millions are diagnosed with other pain syndromes.  Everyone experiences some level of pain on a regular basis, whether acute or chronic. With questionable efficacy of natural health products for pain, and negative side-effects of pharmaceutical drugs, the need for safe, natural, effective treatments that work quickly, with sustained results, is glaring.

Glucosamine is a standard that sufferers of arthritis and other pain syndromes often self-medicate with. Natural eggshell membrane is a naturally occurring source of glucosamine, with the added advantage of also being a source of hyaluronic acid and other substances associated with joint health.  This more natural nutraceutical supplement is taking the world by storm for the management of pain syndromes, and in particular, for arthritis, when it comes to reasonably evidence-informed natural medicines.

Physical medicines, such as hydrotherapy – The application of hot and cold therapy to the body using water as the vehicle, and cold laser (low intensity laser therapy) are mainstays of my practice for the management of pain.

Other nutraceutical supplements that may have a role to play in pain management and anti-inflammation include those from herbs, such as curcumin, white willow bark and boswellia, nutrients like the specific omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oils, and vitamins and minerals that may be deficient in the body, such as magnesium, calcium, antioxidants and the B-vitamins.

  1. Why do you think that FAST products are a better choice over a conventional pain killer?

Natural eggshell membrane products are currently the most effective natural health products for chronic joint pain by far.  They produce results quickly and sustainably, are well-supported by scientific literature, are easy to use and safe, and are inexpensive.  This is an essential component to a natural health approach to joint pain in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory diet, essential fatty acids from fish oils and other anti-inflammatory means.

  1. How do natural remedies for joint pain fare over time and can they prevent further pain?

Most pharmaceutical pain management tools come with high risk of side-effects and dangers when used regularly for extended periods of time. NSAID drugs (such as Aspirin, ibuprofen) come with an increased risk of bleeding and peptic ulcer disease, for example, and acetaminophen depletes the body of antioxidants, stressing the liver’s ability to perform adequately.

Natural remedies can be as effective as pharmaceutical medications for the management of pain when used appropriately and in the proper doses.  While natural remedies are not always safe for everyone, and you should consult your experienced healthcare practitioner prior to using them, they often exhibit fewer side-effects and less serious interactions, particularly for long-term use.

  1. What is the single most powerful food when it comes to natural healing and prevention for pain?

Water.  Without proper hydration, every cell, tissue and organ in your body suffers, and struggles to produce or use energy appropriately.  Especially for runners, adequate hydration, proper rest and recovery, and optimal fuelling with an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet (ie. More vegetables than everything else) must come before anything else.

  1. As a runner, what small diet change can I make to make sure my joints as muscles suffer as little as possible?

Drink more water.  Eat more vegetables to obtain a more anti-inflammatory diet.  One way to achieve this is by adding a scoop of a superfoods greens powder like any of Genuine Health’s Greens+ powders to your daily morning regimen, in a smoothie or just with water.

If you want to add supplements to your plan, at the top of your list of options should be products like natural eggshell membrane (ie. Genuine Health’s FAST Pain Relief product line), and pharmaceutical-grade fish oils.  To get the most out of fish oils, ensure you’re delivering a minimum of 2000mg of combined EPA and DHA each day to your body.

From a lifestyle perspective, get adequate rest and ensure at least 1 day of complete rest per week.


Dr. Jason Marr is a Naturopathic Doctor, an Expert Health & Wellness Speaker, and Director of Evoke Integrative Medicine Ltd. (www.evokemedicine.com) in downtown Vancouver, BC.  He arms urban professionals with evidence-based, integrative, real-world tools to maximize productivity, creativity and learning agility, while overcoming fatigue, stress, anxiety and burnout.

 

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Right now I am supposed to be sitting in my cramped Kia Rio driving from Chicago to Toronto after having run the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Instead, I am sitting at the kitchen island in my Toronto condo after shoving my face with a Thanksgiving feast writing this.

This is now the second year in a row that I haven’t reached my goal of running a full marathon and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Social media is currently agonizing, taunting me and reminding me where I should have been this weekend, but here I am sitting Toronto, having run a total of zero kms this weekend. While last year I didn’t make it to the marathon because I admittedly wasn’t training enough, this year my decision not to run was based off of agonizing hip pain that made even walking feel impossible after any long run. Despite the slow start to my training, I was SO determined to run this year and once the hip problems really set in I tried to ignore it and really really thought I could push through it and find that inner grit and mental strength that every marathoner talks about. I just wanted to get there and finish, even if it meant crossing the line in over 5 hours. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that my hip was so sore I couldn’t sleep after a long run, and then it started happening after shorter runs too, and then it was starting to hurt just from walking down the street. I was stretching, rolling, doing yoga and trying anything to self-rehabilitate.  Eventually, I decided to suck up my pride, look after myself and defer my entry until next year.

While the pain this year was certainly out of my hands, I do keep asking myself if trying harder earlier on would have got me there. While the pain was there all summer long, I also started noticing something else in those early summer days. My head was not in the game. I don’t know if this was from the pain or from something else. I just didn’t want to run. This wasn’t normal exercise procrastination this was a straight up I-hate-running-and-don’t-want-to-run feeling. Training was becoming a chore, and something I absolutely dreaded. If I missed a run, I ended up stressed, angry at myself, and totally let-down. I don’t know if these thoughts were a result of the pain or if the thoughts were making the pain feel worse than it actually was. While all of this was going on work was getting crazy and I still hadn’t settled into my commute and my new routine at my still-new job. A true perfectionist, it took me a long time to admit that my pain and my negative thought loops would keep me from running a decent race, or even finish the race, not the way I wanted to make my debut at this distance. After much reflection and a run where every single step hurt, I decided to defer to next year. I cried and cried and cried when I hit the defer button online. I couldn’t believe I had let myself down again. But then something happened- I felt relief. I suddenly didn’t feel as stressed.

I quickly came to the realization that the very same thing that inspired me to START running was now the cause of one of the main reasons I had to completely stop running for a bit; stress, and the perfectionism in my head I constantly try so hard to quiet. At first, I felt shameful about this. It was hard for me to tell people that I was having hip problems and that I also honestly just didn’t want to run. Being a runner, after all, had become such a large part of my identity and social life. But slowly, after a few weeks of coming home from work and literally doing nothing, I came to terms with it. My body and my mind had been trying to tell me something important, I just needed to stop and listen. I really tried to focus on myself and not on what everyone else would think of me dropping out of the marathon. I normally wouldn’t advocate for this kind of lifestyle but honesty, I was very lazy for a few weeks, I ate what I wanted and drank what I wanted and it felt great. I’m not saying that this is the best way to take care of your mental health, but I think in this situation I just felt so relieved and relaxed and let go of the impossible standards I so often set for myself. Learning that this is okay was a huge lesson for me. Of course, being the active person that I am, my body started telling me it was time to move again. Instead of lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement, I listened to my still sore body and focused on walking more, getting off the subway a stop early, taking breaks in the day to do some stairs, carving time in my schedule to get to a yoga class. Mainly, I didn’t stress about fitting tons of activity it. I did it when I felt like it and if I skipped a day, that was okay too. I tried some new fun recipes, I enjoyed lazy Saturday morning coffee walks with my husband and my dog, I made social plans after work with my non-running friends. I like to think this was just as healing for my mind as it was for my hip. I truly believe that we can’t be well physically if we aren’t taking care of our mental health first.

As I prowled social media this weekend and watched my favourite blogger cross the finish line in Chicago, I started finding what I had been missing again. My hip is feeling a lot better, I’ve achieved a bit more (of that impossible thing called) balance in my life, but most importantly my mind is ready. My motivation is there again, and it’s REALLY there.

Getting back into it last week with my fav running pals

 

Am I going to jump back into running 5 days/week? Absolutely not. But I am going to slowly get back into it, keeping up with my yoga and other strength classes, doing some proper physio with a professional and taking care of my head again. Hopefully I will start to rev-up the training again mid-December in preparation for some Spring races, but if my head isn’t there, I won’t force it. So much about being healthy is about finding what works and keeping it as enjoyable as possible. Of course, I want that to be running. But I want it to be running for me, for my goals, for my mental health, for my well-being, not for my perfectionism, my worries about what others will think or because I think I have to run a marathon to call myself a runner.

Thanks to all who have listened to me agonize over this and still loved me anyway, marathon finisher or not. You know who you are!