It is my belief that anyone who suffers from CRPS also suffers from global inflammation in the body. Inflammation increases your risk of getting cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other diseases and conditions. It also ages you prematurely. If your body is already burdened on a daily basis by the horrific pain that is the benchmark of CRPS, as well as the toxic environment created by daily medications, it does not need to be burdened by unhealthy foods as well. You would do your body a tremendous favor by decreasing the daily toxic burden it is under, by simply making changes to your diet. A lot of CRPS patients have told me that they simply do not have the energy left at the end of the day to afford spending that energy on trying to eat a healthy diet. The thing is, you cannot afford not to.
That being said, I suggest that all changes are made very gradually. The reason for this is that if you dramatically change your diet overnight, you are at risk of undergoing a major detoxification reaction. What is a detoxification reaction, exactly? Цhen you eat toxic and unhealthy food for a long time (not to mention also taking toxic medications) your liver and other detoxification organs and pathways (such as the kidneys, lymphatic system, bowels, etc.) become overburdened. When this happens, the excess toxins are stored in your fat cells to get rid of later. When you start eating healthy, that day arrives, and your body starts processing massive amounts of backup toxins. However, this process is most often too much for the overburdened bodies of CRPS to handle, and can not only flare your pain into monstrous proportions, but can also make you very sick. Start by changing one meal at a time. I suggest breakfast, first. After your body is used to this, you can start working on lunch, and so on.
I believe that our body is a precious gift, and that we have to be a good steward of it. We have an opportunity to either add to our health or detract from it every time we open our mouths to put food or liquid into them. After we swallow this food, it is now up to our body to either maximize the healing potential of the food we just ate, or minimize the damage caused by it in the best way it can, until it gets too tired to do so. If you suffer from CRPS, you need the support that good nutritious food can give you even more than the average person and can afford damage from bad food even less.
The problem is, if you are like most people, you are probably as confused as a chameleon in a bag of Skittles about what exactly you should or should not eat. As you have so much on your plate, it is my sincere belief that a healthy diet should follow sound principles and be kept simple. Healthy eating should be so simple that you can follow it most days of the rest of your life. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
With that in mind, we will explain some broad principles, followed by some daily food suggestions and suggestions of things to avoid like a toxic friend.
WHAT IS YOUR PH? ACID VS. ALKALINE
If you ever took even the most basic chemistry class, you probably know that any liquid has either an alkaline or an acid pH. Our bodies were designed to be alkaline by nature (at a tightly controlled pH of 7.4), and acidic by function—meaning that the waste products our cells produce when they work are usually acidic. Your alkalinity is not only determined by your diet but also by the toxins you are exposed to, the air that you breathe, the liquids you drink, how much you exercise, and even your thoughts.
The stability of your blood pH is protected from swings, since even a tiny swing in pH may kill you. In fact, this is a major argument by those who oppose the acid/alkaline principle. According to them, your blood is protected from swings in pH and therefore should not be affected by an acidic diet. While that is true, when it comes to your urine (and the rest of your body), it is a different story. When your diet is very acidic, your urine chemistry is altered in profound ways, possibly resulting in kidney stones, which you may have heard aren’t much fun.
When your diet is mostly acidic, it takes a big toll on your body. It will cause cellular inflammation (the last thing you need) and aging, and besides the aforementioned kidney stones, may also cause gallstones and osteoporosis, the latter taking place because your body will basically “dissolve” bone in order to buffer the acid. Think of your bones as a bank. When your diet is too acidic, your body has to “borrow” calcium from your bones order to buffer it, with every intention of “paying back” this loan once you clean up your act. The problem is, most people never do.
An acidic diet will also decrease the body’s ability to repair damaged cells, as well as its ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients. This results in a decrease in the energy production of the cells, lowering their ability to detoxify heavy metals and other toxins. This may cause cancer cells to thrive, and make it more vulnerable to fatigue, general wear and tear, and illness.
On the other hand, your health will greatly improve if your diet is more alkaline. Your skin will look younger (remember, osteoporosis has been tied to the appearance of wrinkles), your bones will be stronger, and you will be less likely to be overweight.
It is fairly simple to test your saliva and urine pH at home armed with some pH paper, and I recommend that every person with CRPS do it. For a complete list of acid/alkaline foods, you can easily turn to Google.
For the most part, vegetables and fruits (and most nuts and seeds) are alkaline, and animal products such as meat and cheese, refined carbs, junk food, sugar, and pastas are acidic foods. As a general rule, if you are sick, you should aim for an 80/20 balance, where 80 percent of the food you eat has an alkaline pH or effect on the body (for instance, even though a lemon is acidic, it will have an alkalizing effect on your body). Please be advised that your body might be so excited because of this change that it may actually start “spring cleaning” and detoxifying old piled-up toxins.
This may not feel too pleasant and can often not be tolerated by those who suffer from CRPS. If this happens—in the form if diarrhea, headaches, or a general unpleasant feeling—back off from the alkaline food and go about it more slowly. You will have to find your own pace. In order to maintain health, a 70/30 (70 percent alkaline foods, 30 percent acid foods) daily balance is recommended. A great supplement to alkalize your body on a daily basis is green barley powder.
Remember, it’s OK to mess up some of the time, as long as you eat good, mostly alkaline food most of the time. No one is taking away your ice cream forever!
IT’S ALL ABOUT OMEGA-3/OMEGA-6S
There are two types of fats essential to your body, omega-3 and omega-6. However, the typical modern human being consumes far too many omega-6 fats in their diet while consuming very low levels of omega-3. The primary sources of omega-6 are soy, corn, grapeseed, canola, safflower and sunflower oils. These oils are used in tons of mass-produced food and fast food and are overabundant in the typical diet, which explains our excess omega-6 levels. Avoid or limit these oils. Omega-3, meanwhile, is typically found in flaxseed, virgin coconut, krill, and fish oils.
By far, the best type of omega-3 fats are those found in that last category, fish. That’s because the omega-3 in fish is high in two fatty acids crucial to human health, DHA and EPA. These two fatty acids are pivotal in preventing heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases. Unfortunately, the ocean has become a more contaminated environment, and care must be taken to avoid the intake of heavy metals together with your fish oil. Do not buy cheap fish oil supplements at large stores.
Remember, the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1, a ratio maintained by our ancestors for millions of years. Today, though, according to Dr. Mercola and other sources, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 averages anywhere from 20:1 to 50:1! This imbalance may contribute to autoimmune conditions, cancer, pain, Alzheimer’s disease, and cellular inflammation (of particular concern for those who suffer from CRPS), to name a few. In your case, it is crucial that you work toward a healthier omega-3/omega-6 balance, since this is one of the main tools in fighting inflammation.
YOUR CELLS ON FIRE: THE ROLE OF CELLULAR INFLAMMATION
Let’s do a quick recap on inflammation. Inflammation is the normal expected immune response of tissues due to any injury. Signs of acute inflammation include heat, pain, swelling, and redness at the site of the injury. Your body may also become stiff in one area (for example, a sprained ankle joint), thereby protecting the joint from excessive movements while it is healing (remember how smart your body is?). This type of acute inflammation is normally a localized, protective, logical response following infection or trauma.
However, if the agent causing the inflammation persists for a prolonged period of time, the inflammation becomes chronic, as in the case of CRPS. People who suffer from autoimmune conditions and allergies are particularly vulnerable to exaggerated inflammatory responses.
Inflammation may be fought through a healthy diet relatively low in protein, including good quality protein, healthy oils and fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, plenty of omega-3s (restoring the balance in the central nervous system), and supplementation. It is also crucial to rebuild the gut in order to decrease cellular inflammation (addressed later in this book).
Stay in the range of 40g (for women) to 55g (for men) of animal protein a day (unless you are an Olympic athlete).
(These numbers were obtained by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Children’s required protein intake may fall anywhere between 13 and 40 grams depending on their age). Note that pregnant women also require higher daily intakes of protein.
The more protein you eat, the more calcium you lose in your urine. Also, remember that a major goal for those who suffer from CRPS is to cut down on cellular inflammation (see above). Excess protein will cause cellular inflammation.
Good quality protein is far more important than quantity. We recommend healthy whey in smoothies as a great source of protein (go to mercola.com for whey recommendations), or a product called “Dream Protein,” available on Amazon.com
ANIMALS ARE WHAT THEY EAT: TRY TO KEEP YOUR ANIMAL PRODUCTS NATURAL
Study after study has shown that the omega-3/omega-6 balances in grain-fed animals such as bison, chicken, and beef are not healthy. When you eat beef, make sure that it is grass-fed beef. The longer cattle eat grain, the greater the fatty acid imbalance (omega-3/omega-6) in their meat. After even two hundred days (standard in the United States) it has been shown that omega-6/omega-3 ratios may exceed 20 to 1. Venison is generally better for you than beef, unless the deer was exposed to soy.
Also, make sure that when you eat eggs or chicken or turkey you only consume the eggs or meat of chickens and turkey that eat vegetables high in omega-3 fats, along with insects and grass, supplemented with fruit and very small amounts of corn. According to Dr. Mercola, range-fed eggs have an omega-6 /omega-3 ratio of 1.5 to 1, whereas the egg you typically buy at a supermarket has a ratio of 20 to 1. Please avoid “omega-3 enriched” eggs. While this sounds like a good idea in theory, these chickens are usually not fed in a healthy way.
Farm-raised fish such as tilapia and catfish have been found to be especially detrimental to your health, based on at least one study of its effect on your omega-3/omega-6 ratio.57 Some people even call tilapia the “bacon of the ocean” because of this. Make sure that, as a rule, the fish you eat is not farm-raised, as the emphasis in the industry is to get these fish produced in mass quantities and to breed them to be as large as possible.
WATCH THOSE CARBS
Few other areas in nutrition have been debated as hotly and passionately as carbohydrates. At least one major Japanese study found that the intelligence and actual anatomy of the brains of schoolchildren were altered based on the amount and type of carbs they consumed in the morning for breakfast.58 Another study found a direct link between refined carbs and an increased risk of stroke in women.59
How healthy or unhealthy a specific carb is usually depends upon its glycemic index (GI), or how fast that specific carb raises your blood sugar after eating it relative to pure glucose (which has a GI of one hundred). Generally, the higher the GI, the worse the food is for you, the faster it raises your insulin, and the more inflammation it causes. While I am not a big believer in completely cutting out an entire food group, I do believe that it will benefit CRPS patients especially to limit their carbohydrate consumption to about two servings of healthy carbohydrates a day.
Carbs are actually the one food group not essential for survival. However, as we said before, we prefer moderation instead of elimination. Your body much prefers getting its carbs from fruits and vegetables, as they have a low GI and release blood sugar slowly. Try to limit your intake of healthy grains (let’s call them moderate carbs) to no more than 20 percent of your daily diet. These include all those carbs that you were probably taught were essential for health, including brown and white rice, barley, potatoes, corn, millet, nuts, and whole-grain bread.
Try to eliminate unhealthy carbs (bad carbs) as much as you can, except as a special treat every now and then. Pretend that bad carps are like toxic exes. Contact should be limited. I am not telling you to bake a hemp cake decorated with nuts for your birthday, but just to be good most of the time. Unhealthy carbs include white bread, bagels, pretzels, and anything looking irresistible at your local bakery (doughnuts, cream puffs, and croissants, for instance), as well as processed cakes and treats like Twinkies (yes, they are coming back) and so on. This group also includes sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and fructose. Please use honey or stevia (a natural sweetener) instead.
As an added bonus, cutting down on your carbs will positively affect your health as well as your weight.
We have all heard that we need eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day. However, this information is outdated. The Institute of Medicine set its general guidelines for women to consume a total of ninety-one ounces (about two point seven liters) per day. For men, it’s about one hundred and twenty-five ounces a day (or three point seven liters). Keep in mind that those numbers include food from all the food and beverages you consume combined. Depending on your diet, about 25 percent of the water you consume comes from your food. The simplest way to tell whether you drink enough water is to look at your urine. It should be light yellow (unless you take vitamins or supplements affecting the color). It should also not have a strong odor.
Hate drinking water? You are not alone. We can actually dampen our desire for water (thirsting mechanism) over time if our bodies get accustomed to constant dehydration. Age can also have this affect. Don’t be fooled, however. Every cell in your body needs water.
When it comes to what kind of water to drink, always ask yourself, “What would nature do?” We do not recommend that you drink water straight out of a faucet due to additives and toxicity issues. Ionized water is alkalized by electricity splitting the water molecules, without added minerals. In nature, water flows over rocks and through soil, collecting naturally alkalizing minerals such as calcium and magnesium. If you drink this type of water, be sure to add trace minerals or lemon juice to your water (more about that in a bit). Also, never drink water that is too alkaline (pH above eight), as your body will counter this by acidifying itself.
Avoid bottled water in plastic bottles unless the bottle is BPA-free, as BPA (a harmful chemical found in plastics) often leaches into the water, especially if heated up (never leave bottled water in a hot car). Distilled and reverse osmosis water is “dead” water that will leach minerals from your body. Always add the juice of half a lemon to filtered water, as this will add minerals back into the water and is also naturally alkalizing. (Do rinse your mouth out after with plain water in order to protect your teeth). You may also add trace minerals in liquid form.
IT TAKES MORE THAN ONE APPLE A DAY
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard that fruits and veggies are good for you. As a general rule, you should try to eat five to seven cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Vegetables and fruits will lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, certain kinds of cancers, kidney and gallstones, and oxidative stress, and increase your mental clarity.60,61 They also contain enzymes that assist digestion, and are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help to boost your immune system.
Eating your fruits and veggies has also been shown to be very beneficial to those who suffer from chronic conditions (of particular interest to you). As a general rule, vegetables rebuild your cells, and fruits clean (detoxify) them. One study, reviewing two hundred other studies studying the relationship between fruits and vegetables and cancer, found overwhelming evidence that “Persons with low fruit and vegetable intake (at least the lower one‐fourth of the population) experience about twice the risk of cancer compared with those with high intake, even after control for potentially confounding factors”.62
Because most people with chronic diseases are also somewhat insulin resistant, it is best to keep your fruit/vegetable ratio at 30 percent fruit to 70 percent vegetables. A few additional things to remember: raw is always best (keeping the enzymes, nutrients, and alkalinity intact), and, for my readers from the South, where nothing is above frying, deep-frying it pretty much turns any vegetable into the equivalent of a doughnut. Also, potatoes aren’t vegetables, and, while buying all organic is certainly too expensive for most of us, I really do suggest that you avoid “dirty” fruits and vegetables, since eating them does more harm than good, unless you buy them organic. On the other hand, you may buy “clean” produce anywhere.
- Dirty fruit
Peaches, cherries, apples, nectarines, strawberries, grapes (imported), and pears.
- Clean fruit
Cantaloupes, grape fruit, kiwi fruit, mangoes, papayas, and pineapples.
- Dirty vegetables
Bell peppers, celery, kale, lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, potatoes (technically a starch), spinach, collard greens, and summer squash.
- Clean vegetables
Avocadoes, asparagus, cabbage, sweet peas, sweet corn, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, and sweet potatoes.
Everything not on these lists and not certified organic should be treated with suspicion and peeled or washed when possible. To make your own vegetable wash, combine equal amounts of white vinegar and clean water. Mix and spray onto hard-skinned produce, or soak soft-skinned produce for two minutes in solution in a bowl. Rinse under a faucet.
Tip: Get into a habit of making one or two smoothies every day. This way it is easier to consume larger amounts of produce in its raw form and to get the needed servings every day. For breakfast, I use a Vitamix® blender (worth its weight in gold, although any good blender will work), and add one or two fruits such as orange, lemon, lime, blueberries, pineapple, and apple, and four to five vegetables such as kale, spinach, beets, carrots, and even radishes with water, whey powder (grass-fed), coconut oil, flax seed oil, fish oil (undetected by taste if of superior quality) ice), cinnamon, and ginger root. Experiment with the tastes you like and start with more fruits to acclimate to the taste.
FATS DON’T MAKE YOU FAT. LET ME REPEAT THAT. Fats don’t make you fat.
One of the worse rumors that ever got started regarding food is that fat is bad for you and leads to heart attacks, strokes, and will cause you to have a body that is less than svelte. Eating a low-fat diet was believed to be the holy grail of healthful eating and low cholesterol for decades. Seeing a fantastic marketing opportunity, and also giving the public what it wanted, food companies reinvented and re-engineered thousands of foods to be lower in fat or fat-free, often increasing the salt, sugar, or chemicals in these foods to make up for lost flavor.
Fats provide essential fatty acids, which are not made by the body and must be obtained from food. The essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acid) are necessary for many biologic processes in the body, such as vitamin and mineral absorption (why it is good to take vitamin D together with healthy fat or oil), mineral absorption, revving up your metabolism (that’s right, weight loss!), brain function, fighting cellular inflammation, heart health, and many more.63
When it comes to being bad for you or fattening, it is not the amount of fats that count, but the quality and types. In addition to the 1:1 omega-3/omega-6 balance we already discussed, you also need some other fats. Let’s look at an overview of those to eat and those to avoid and the categories these fats are divided into.
Some good and some bad, such as butter (limit), ice cream (limit), cream (limit), fatty meats (fine if grass-fed), avocado (good for you), nuts (good for you, with the exception of peanut butter), coconut (good for you if of good quality and virgin, and great for cooking, as it is not very damaged by heat. Make sure that it smells like coconuts.) If you have heard that coconut oil is bad for you, that information is outdated and incorrect, as most old studies on coconut oil used hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated coconut oil.
Divided into monounsaturated fats (olive and canola oils) and polyunsaturated fats (sunflower, fish, safflower, corn, and soybean oils). Of the above list, we prefer using olive oil (best if not heated above 250˚F /121˚C) and fish oil.
Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Fats
Hydrogenation is the chemical process by which liquid saturated oils are turned into solid fat. In other words, these are hardened or partially hardened oils (such as hard butter). Foods containing hydrogenated oils should be avoided because they contain high levels of trans fatty acids, which are linked to heart disease, increased “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and decreased “good” cholesterol (HDL).
Trans Fatty Acids
These fats form when hydrogen atoms are added to an unsaturated fat such as vegetable oil (hydrogenation), and can raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and lower HDL levels (“good cholesterol”). Trans fatty acids are found in fried foods, commercial baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers, chips), processed foods, and margarines.
You get the general idea. Higher omega-3s and lower omega-6s are good, some saturated fats are good and even necessary (contrary to long-held popular belief), most unsaturated fats are good (but shouldn’t be heated as a general rule), and hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, and trans fats should be avoided as diligently as swimsuit models avoid cream puffs.
ALLERGIES AND OTHER IRRITATING FOODS
People who suffer from CRPS almost always suffer from food allergies, resulting from a “confused” immune system and a digestive system not working properly, leaking large particles into the bloodstream, where they are attacked by the immune system as foreign particles. While we are huge proponents of first restoring proper nervous system communication and then rebuilding the digestive systems of those who suffer from CRPS, it is crucial to stop pouring irritating foods into that system. This is especially true because foods that cause an allergic reaction in those who suffer from CRPS will also increase inflammation.
If there is a specific food that you crave, like sugar, there is a good chance that you are allergic to that food. Isn’t that a strange oxymoron? It is theorized that the reason this happens is that when a food allergy causes chemical and physical stress inside your body, your body produces endorphins, which comfort you and make you feel good, thus making you crave more of it. One of my vices is Starbucks coffee. I find myself especially craving it when my energy is low or I am emotionally in a bad spot, just as a treat or a pick-me-up.
Allergies to food will make the whole repair process rather ineffective, like a dog chasing its own tail. Also, it will increase cellular inflammation and therefore pain. First, get a proper blood test to determine which foods you are allergic to. I suggest that you get tested for food-specific reactions to three different antibodies: IgG, IgE, and IgA, which typically result from noticeable reactions to specific foods.
One of the ways your immune system defends against invaders like viruses, bacteria, or a foreign particle, is by producing cells called antibodies, also called immunoglobulins. There are five major immunoglobulins: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM.
Only IgE reactions are considered true food allergies, and will require a blood draw. IgE reactions typically occur within minutes of exposure to or ingestion of a specific food. Common IgE reactions include trouble breathing, wheezing, flushing, a feeling of getting hot, hives, itchy watery eyes, swelling, and anxiety. Testing for IgE food allergies requires a blood draw.
Food sensitivity is a term that usually refers to delayed immune reactions to foods, or non-immune reactions to food. The symptoms of food sensitivities and allergies are quite different. While a food allergy normally causes an immediate reaction, the symptoms of food sensitivities may not be as obvious as those of food allergies. The reasons for this are that often food sensitivities are delayed, and the reactions are not as clearly identifiable.
The following are just a few examples of symptoms of food sensitivities: fatigue, lethargy, anger, exhaustion (especially after eating), headaches, migraines, mood swings, depression, restlessness, water retention, joint pain, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. IgG and IgA react to foods and can be detected from a dry strip sample of blood.
Eight foods cause 90 percent of all allergies in the USA. These are peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts), milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
In addition, people who suffer from chronic pain have been shown to be sensitive to nightshade vegetables. Nightshade fruits and vegetables are said to grow “in the shade of the night” (rather creepy, if you ask me), and contain chemicals such as alkaloids that can increase arthritic pain and symptoms. The most common nightshades are potatoes, tomatoes, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant, tomatillos, pimentos (usually used to stuff olives), cherries, paprika, and cayenne.
Golden rule: Try to eat well 80 percent of the time, and allow yourself to mess up 20 percent of the time. Striving for excellence is more sustainable than striving for perfection.
THE EXCEPTION TO THE 80/20 RULE: THE NO-NO LIST.
Trust me, the following foods are not worth the harm they cause you. They are toxic, nasty, cancer-causing, pain-elevating, hormone-disrupting, and generally wreak havoc upon your body. To make this list, these chemicals and additives had to be particularly offensive to your health and well-being.
The culprits are:
- Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N’ Low, SugarTwin), and sucralose (Splenda)
- Diet sodas and chewing gum containing these sweeteners
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial coloring agents (usually a color followed by a number, such as FD&C Blue No. 1), that has been shown by at least one study to interfere with your body’s energy (ATP) production,64 already a problem area in those with CRPS
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Major hormone-disrupting butylatedhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylatedhydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate (potentially linked to diabetes and colon cancer)
- Potassium bromate (potentially carcinogenic and illegal in Canada, Europe, China, and Brazil)
- Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH)
- Sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate (benzene is a known carcinogen that is also linked with serious thyroid damage, especially if, for example, soda bottles in plastic containing benzene are exposed to heat in transport)
So remember, don’t try to be perfect, be excellent. Stop eating mindlessly and conveniently. Educate yourself so that you can learn how to make healthy choices on your own, and you can be like a strong oak tree, not swayed this way or that by the media every time a new wind of change or nutritional fad blows through. You must arm yourself with basic nutritional knowledge and daily habits that will withstand the test of time, and that will allow you to feed and honor your body with the best kind of medicine there is: healthy, nutritious food.
Contact The Spero Clinic
Dr. Katinka and the staff at The Spero Clinic have helped hundreds of CRPS patients. Our technique and holistic approach have proven to help people go into remission and lead normal lives again. Contact us now.