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South Texas Living

Healthy Living: Pain is man’s friend, foe

Healthy Living: Pain is man’s friend, foe
Gerald B. Phillips, M.D.

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March 12, 2014
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By Gerald B. Phillips, M.D.

This is the first in an occasional series about health issues by Gerald B. Phillips, M.D., a semi-retired family practice physician. A graduate of the Southwestern Medical School, he practiced from 1960-2008. The medical director for the Atascosa County Jail and several nursing homes, Dr. Phillips continues to study nutrition and alternative medicine.

Pain is both a friend and a foe to man. It helps us to know when and where we have a problem and it directs us to eliminate the source. Pain is one of the main protective devices in the human body. Without pain, we would probably not survive for a long period of time.

Uncontrolled pain is a major problem in our society. It has driven some to suicide and ruined the mental and physical health of others. To control pain, the mechanism must be understood. It comes from normal metabolism of arachidonic acid (AA). Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid that leads to other elements, such as prostaglandins and thromboxenes, which cause pain. The majority of the time these elements can be controlled.

Dietary AA comes from red meat, fowl, and seaweed. If AA is bound to tissue, it does not cause pain. Serotonin, encephalin, and endorphins -- all made in the brain -- either relieve pain or make pain more tolerable to us. Many enzymes enter the pain picture. Doctors have attempted to control pain with aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen or Tylenol, and elements that duplicate the brain chemicals, such as narcotics. These products will work at times, but do not eliminate the source of the problem.

Essential fatty acids, found in fish oil, flax seed oil, and evening primrose oil, are necessary to form our normal prostaglandins. Enzymes work on essential fatty acids to protect us. We must have all these essential fatty acids to stay healthy. We experience pain when we have excess enzymes. We must obtain a balance to stay healthy. Natural substances can block many pain pathways.

First, be sure you have plenty of the essential fatty acids. A combination of oils is best. Second, Vitamin E will block two enzymes that lead to AA formation and to pain in the same manner as cortisone. Panothenic acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Bioflavinoids, and magnesium help block inflammation and pain. DL-phenylalanine can also help with pain, but it must be taken with caution, due to its effect on blood pressure. The herb, turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. These substances either prevent the release of inflammatory substances or block their formation.

The lack of aspirin or narcotics has never been the cause of pain. Taking pain medication will never stop the source of the pain. Natural pain control may eliminate the problem. Using good nutrition and prevention of damage is the best route to better health and pain control.

Read more about pain and controlling it in a coming issue.

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