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Inflammatory Foods and Chronic Pain, Part II

Copy of Copy of ser-en-dip-it-y (n)

Sorry for my lengthy absence; it’s been another one of those flares. Back to business as usual!

I have discussed before how food can have a direct effect on what happens in the body. Use any cliched vehicle for this idea that you like — our bodies are temples, our bodies have engines that need pure fuel, our bodies don’t like toxins that gunk up the system. Basically, we are what we eat.


We eat junk and become the physical personification of the Hindenburg in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Those suffering from chronic pain and illness already got the short stick, but 99 times out of 100, we are also told by doctors that we should follow some form of an “anti-inflammatory diet.” Now, I was tested for inflammation by a rheumatologist, and while it was higher than normal, it wasn’t stratospheric. That was how he ruled out arthritis (well, duh). So while my joints aren’t inflamed in a rheumatoid arthritis sort of way, I can definitely tell the days when my body as a whole is just… blegh.


I’m sure this guy would be thrilled to know he’s being used to illustrate the concept of “blegh.”

Like this morning, for instance! I spent last night pigging out. I’d had a bad day, and I wanted to bury my face in sugary food. I knew at the time I would regret it later. I knew that I would hurt worse. That the temporary satiation would result in my joints hurting, my limbs aching, and my face breaking out. It’s like all the normal tiny zits converge to form a monstrous Boss Battle that turns my chin into an active war zone. I knew all of this. I just didn’t realize how bad the flare would be.

My body bitch-slapped awake me at around 2 a.m. I was hurting all over. Every movement took a supreme amount of effort. I think I slept at some point after that, but it sure didn’t feel like it. All I could think was, “How could I have possibly been so stupid?” I directly contributed to my own pain. I knew it was a bad choice, and yet I did it anyway. I know that sugar is one of my pain triggers. And yet, I ate it anyway. Just like I do every night.


Why you gotta hurt me so bad, baby?

Why do I do this? Why do I stay in this abusive relationship?

Because sugar makes me feel good when I eat it. I don’t care about what happens in the future until I arrive there; then I’m all about regrets. It starts with one cookie, which quickly becomes three, which then turns into Cinnamon Chex, which then turns into apple cinnamon rice cakes with sun butter and raisins. The sugar, for a brief moment, makes me feel better.

The World Health Organization recently stated that the daily limit for sugar should be 5 percent of an individual’s caloric intake as opposed to the previous recommendation of 10 percent. Do you even know what that looks like? It’s a tiny box of Raisins. It’s a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter. It’s sadness on a plate.


Cue the sad trombone.

So what about alternative sugars? HA! Even those aren’t a cure-all. Fake sugars like Splenda and Equal have been shown to increase appetite and make you gain weight. And excess weight on a chronic pain sufferer? No, sir. Bad idea. I can barely carry myself around, thank you very much.

I like extremes. Yes or no. Gray areas make me anxious. That’s why I am in favor of sugar detoxes. Of course, it’s impossible to get rid of sugar completely. Naturally-occurring sugars in fruit and other foods have to be taken into account. Because of my autoimmune disease (eosinophilic esophagitis), I have already cut out many inflammatory foods. I have to avoid gluten, dairy, fish, and peanuts. The list was originally much longer, but I was able to reintroduce much of my diet over the past few years. Even though alcohol doesn’t sit well with me most of the time (another inflammatory source), I can mostly tolerate it.

Side note: My friends are planning a get-together. One of them, Nick, said something along the lines of, “Let’s make something with fish in it.”

My friend Aimee responded, “We can’t, Julie’s a vegetarian and Jen is allergic.”

Nick: “Okay, well what about this?” 

Aimee: “That has wheat in it, Jen can’t eat that.”

Nick: “We need new friends.”

When I cut those foods out originally, though, I didn’t pussy-foot around. I went cold turkey because my health was at stake. Why am I not making the same association here? Because sugar is delicious.

Second side note: My family seems to have a predisposition for food problems. Both of my parents were alleged “celiac babies,” which I personally think is code for “We ate enough bread that our bodies gave in and adapted.” My sister has food allergies. My grandmother was just diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. I told my brother that if we’d been born in Spartan times, our entire family would’ve been thrown off the cliff where they tossed defective children. He replied, “Well, you wouldn’t have been in a car accident back then… but you probably would’ve still gotten hit by a chariot.” 


Then again, “death by chariot” does sound pretty rad.

Anyway, back to the point. Foods are sneaky! They go by so many names that it’s almost impossible to keep up with them. Sugar alone has approximately 57 names. That’s 57 different things that can be put on a nutrition label. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I have to cut down on the sugar, I know that much. I need to break the nightly routine. I have to drink more water, try switching to tea, chew gum, whatever it takes, just so I don’t spiral down into sugar hell. Naturally, I will keep you apprised of my efforts.





1 Comment

  1. @infiniteknot says

    it’s so hard when we have chronic illness and pain and sugar is a relief. there are so few things when we are tired and trampled, etc. i too, struggle with overeating and not eating well when in pain/fatigued etc


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