A naturopathic approach to pain

There are thousands of scientific studies that demonstrate how certain inflammatory foods can cause pain and how the state of your gut can effect the level of pain you experience too.

The good news is there is a lot you can do to reduce any type of pain quickly (many experience great improvement in as little time as a week). The key lies in eliminating the inflammation that may be causing it. And for the most part, the biggest source of that inflammation starts with a Leaky Gut.

Leaky Gut and inflammation

The semi-permeable lining of your gut performs one of the most important functions in the body, acting like a finely woven kitchen sieve that allows nutrients of a certain size are allowed to pass through. These nutrients then travel onto the liver (via hepatic blood vessels) for an additional clean.

Sometimes though, thanks to diet and lifestyle factors, this gut lining can become “leaky”. Whilst beneficial nutrients are still absorbed (e.g. sugars and fatty acids), the selective permeability process of nutrients breaks down allowing toxins and larger food particles into your system (e.g. longer chain proteins, carbohydrates and fats). It is here that inflammation begins to occur. These larger molecules enter the bloodstream, placing extra burden on the liver, and lodge themselves in sensitive tissues such as the synovial membrane linings of joints, causing irritation. This in turn can trigger an increased inflammatory reaction that causes heat, pain and swelling of the joints (as seen with rheumatoid arthritis), as well as other issues.

What is the end result? An overly stimulated immune system and an increasingly burdened liver. The combination of these two things creates an environment in which myriad chronic, painful health conditions can develop, including allergies, autoimmune disease and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. So a Leaky gut creates inflammation, inflammation weakens the immune system, overburdens the liver and allows for disease to develop which causes more inflammation (and more pain). It’s a chicken and egg scenario that can only be resolved in addressing the root cause of the problem itself.

The key is to reduce gut inflammation and the load on the liver, and this has to start with restoring the lining of the gut, where the problem started in the first place.

Step 1 – Eliminate irritants that cause inflammation

Avoid foods that create inflammation in your body

Food intolerances are unique to individuals. There are however some foods that are more likely to contribute to inflammation and pain more than most. These include:

o   Dairy products, especially cow’s milk, cream, cheese, yogurt and ice-cream

o   Gluten containing foods, especially wheat-based breads, pastas, cereals and baked goods

o   Corn protein

o   Soy products

o   Nightshade vegetables including eggplants, capsicums, tomatoes and potatoes

o   Chicken protein including chicken flesh and eggs (especially non-organic produce)

o   Beef and processed meats (a little lamb and turkey is ok as they are less inflammatory).

o   Amines – Amines are created by the breakdown of protein in foods or fermentation. Whilst they provide great flavour to certain foods, they may cause health problems if you are sensitive to them. One of the most common complaints from those sensitive to amines is increased pain. They are also infamous for causing migraines in those vulnerable to them. Amine rich foods include fermented foods, aged cheeses, wine, beer, canned fish, soy foods, peanuts, pistachios, coconut, vinegars, dried fruit, anything pickled, brocolli, spinach, eggplant, mushroom, avocado, kale, citrus fruits, melons, grapes, banana and all dried fruits. Leftovers in the fridge are often also rich in amines. Browning/grilling foods increases amine content as well. Soft and overripe fruit is also higher in amines than fresh fruit. 

Chew your food

When you don’t chew your food properly, larger than normal food molecules are able to potentially enter the bloodstream and create inflammation in the body.

Avoid stress

When you get stressed, your body releases a family of peptides called Corticotrophin Releasing Factors (CRF). These chemicals cause gut inflammation, and increased pain perception.

Avoid or limit certain medications

Specific medications are known to destroy the lining on the gut thus causing gut leakiness and inflammation. Some of these include NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and Celebrex).

Check yourself for Heavy Metals

The ingestion of toxic heavy metals can irritate and destroy the gut lining. Top sources include mercury (amalgam) fillings, cigarettes, aluminium drink cans and cookware, tap water and drugs (recreational and pharmaceutical).


Parasites can be a major cause of pain and inflammation. You are more likely to carry them if you have been travelling, own animals or love to garden. Make sure to always wash your hands before and after meals, scrubbing underneath your fingernails with an old toothbrush.

Step 2 – Reduce gut inflammation with natural medicines

Natural medicines are required to restore the gut lining and reducing overall inflammation in the body. The most effective way to do this is with a course of natural medicines that are taken in conjunction with the elimination diet described above. Some of these nutrients include:

  • L-Glutamine
  • A broad-spectrum probiotic
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
  • Slippery Elm powder
  • Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice
  • Marshmellow root
  • Berberine
  • Caprylic Acid, which is naturally found in Coconut oil
  • Alkalising mineral salts

Step 3 – Take pain-relieving natural remedies


Turmeric is my number one pain-relieving supplement. If you suffer from pain, take a teaspoon of ground turmeric (available from most supermarkets and grocers) in a half of a warm glass of water daily.


Ginger increases blood circulation thus may be particularly helpful in relieving joint pain and cramping. I like to grate a little of the root and add it to the turmeric in warm water. This drink is also a really great remedy to take if you feel a cold or flu coming on.


Capsaicin derives from chilli. It works by interfering with substance P, the chemical responsible for transmitted pain messages to the brain. It is particularly useful in relieving joint, nerve and muscle pain as well as conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic neuropathy.


Bromelain is a natural enzyme that assists digestion, as well as reducing inflammation, pain and swelling.


Magnesium is particularly effective in reducing nerve and muscular pain as well as that associated with cancer. Interestingly, a magnesium deficiency state may intensify pain itself. The best forms to take are magnesium citrate (which is alkalising to the body) or magnesium diglycinate (the most easily absorbed form of magnesium).    

B Vitamins

Many people that experience neuropathic (nerve) pain are deficient in Vitamins B6 and B12. Taking an active form of these supplements can reduce nerve pain and help heal the nerves themselves.

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