#207 Choose your dance partner with care

Rounding up the great advice from Dr. Jill I'd like to stay in the dance hall for a bit... because obviously, we can't do an amazing tango with just anyone... As a chronic pain patient, chances are you'll be seeing the inside of the doctor's office quite regularly, and you want to make sure that you have the right dance partner!

Just because their clinic is conveniently close, or it's the doctor your family always has gone to, doesn't mean it's the right doctor for you. Choose your dance partner with care, don't settle for mediocre communication. If you consistently feel that your doctor misunderstands or does not take your problem seriously, that may be a good enough reason to see if you can find someone that you can work better with. By talking to other patients who have a similar condition as yours you may be able to get names of doctors with expertise and understanding. Last time I had to change doctors I talked to several people, and found out which of them had a doctor that was both understanding, professional and updated, then I contacted that doctor and met him in person before deciding if he was someone I wanted to work with. He was, and I really feel we work well together as a team. I trust him and follow his advice, he listens to me and always takes me seriously.

We could probably do a pretty good tango if we had to :)

#206 Step 5: Practice your moves at home

Learn the Doctor's office dance steps:

Step 5. Don’t Forget to Practice Your Moves at Home: If you have diabetes, bring your blood sugar log with you. If you have high blood pressure, bring your blood pressure log with you. This information is very important. Although your doctor may check your blood sugar level or blood pressure while you are in the office, this is just one number for one day. What your numbers look like over time are so much more important, and are significant chunks of information for the doctor. No one wins the competition without practicing the moves at home!

Now that you have learned the 5 basic dancing steps to make the most of your visit with your doctor, go ahead and show off your dance moves! Go on, shake it!

By Dr. Jill - Jillofalltrades

#205 Step 4: Bring your "dancing shoes"

Learn the Doctor's office dance steps:

Step 4. Don’t Forget Your Dancing Shoes: As important as those dancing shoes are to learn how to dance, so are your medication bottles when you visit your doctor. A simple “list” is not sufficient. Why? First of all, the amount of information you get from looking at the bottle is invaluable. When I look at the bottle, I can tell when the patient filled it, how many refills they have, when it expires, and how many pills are left in the bottle. Just because a medication is on the patient’s electronic pharmacy records doesn’t mean that they are actually taking it. Also, I occasionally catch mistakes that the pharmacy has made on patient prescriptions in this way. Whatever you do, don’t tell your doctor that you don’t know the name of your medication, only that it’s a “little white pill.” Almost every pill is a “little white pill”!

By Dr. Jill - Jillofalltrades

#204 Step 3: Sign up for the right class

Learn the Doctor's office dance steps:

Step 3. Make Sure You Sign Up for the Correct Dance Class: Tell the nurse who takes your vital signs and places you in the exam room exactly what you are there for. If you have 1 or 2 problems, make sure you tell the nurse BOTH problems. If you need refills on your medications, make sure to tell the nurse that, too. Why is this? Several reasons. First, the room will need to be set up a certain way depending on your symptoms. For instance, if you are there for a pap smear, the nurse will need to give you a gown to have you change into it and set up the proper supplies. If you are there for chest pain, they may need an electrocardiogram (EKG) before they see you. If you do this after you are already with the doctor, the doctor will need to leave the room (which may cause you to wait while the next patient is seen), ask the nurse return to set up the room, and then return again. This is very inefficient, and it causes a big delay in the patient schedule. Second, the doctor really needs to know why you are there so that they can plan your 15 minute slot appropriately from the get-go. If you are there for headaches and a diabetes follow-up, and you also need your medications refilled, the doctor needs to know all of this before they see you so that they can come up with a timeline of how your short visit time will flow. Whatever you do, do not bring up a new problem after the visit has already begun. So when you sign up to dance, make sure your instructor knows which class you signed up for beforehand – you don’t want to show up for a tap class when you signed up for the tango!

By Dr. Jill - Jillofalltrades

#203 Step 2: Learn one dance at a time

Learn the Doctor's office dance steps:
Step 2. Don’t Try to Learn More Than One Dance at a Time: This is perhaps the most important lesson of all to learn. It will become much too confusing to learn the Samba, the Salsa, and the Merengue at the same time, wouldn’t it? The doctor will have 15 minutes to spend with you at the most (some doctors even less). Therefore, your expectations need to be realistic. The doctor will not be able to address every single issue you may have on your list. Select 1, or at the very most 2 problems per visit. Why? Because each problem requires the proper line of questioning (called the history), the physical exam, and a possible work-up of tests. If you come in with a longer list, your visit will not allow the greatest focus and proper attention that each problem deserves, and something’s got to give. I would assume you would want your doctor to be very thorough, no? You don’t want the doctor to gloss over something important in this very detailed and meticulous process by becoming distracted, and your health is too important for that. Don’t risk it. If you need to be seen once a week every week until all your problems have been addressed, then so be it. Then, you will have learned each dance thoroughly well, ready to earn a perfect score in the end.

By Dr. Jill - Jillofalltrades

#202 Step 1: Arrive on Time to Dance Class

Learn the Doctor's office dance steps:

Step 1. Arrive on Time to Dance Class: In fact, try to arrive 10 minutes earlier than your appointment slot. This will give you enough time to park, check in at the front desk, and compensate for the unpredictable. Like a domino effect, one late patient causes everyone else for that day to run late, including the doctor. And that may just cause the judges to deduct points during a poor dance performance – and we want that trophy now, don’t we?

By Dr. Jill - Jillofalltrades

#201 Learn the doctor's office dance steps

While we are on the topic of Dancing... Dr. Jill who writes the excellent "Jill of all trades" blog has some great advice about how to optimize the communication between doctor and patient to make each meeting as productive and helpful as possible. In the following days I will be posting her advice as part of the Doctor & Patient series here at 365 pain-free days!

#200 Don't fight your pain, Dance with it!

After a head on car collision in 1997 writer and activist Loolwa Kahzzooms life was turned upside down. After going from bad to worse in the medical system she was debilitated by chronic pain, until she discovered that through intuitively dancing the parts of her body that didn't hurt, she could reduce her pain to such an extent that she could go from limping to leaping in a matter of only half an hour.

Now she has developed the Dancing with Pain method and teaches is to other pain patients. So far it has a 96% success rate in reducing pain.

So next time you are hurting: Don't fight your pain, dance with it!

I was part of this dancing with pain workshop in Los Angeles last week that was featured on ABC News:

#199 Be good to your doctor

When is the last time you showed some appreciation for your doc? After realizing that doctors are people too, and overcoming my fear of people in white coats... I have come to see them as colleagues and partners on my path to healing. The docs I work with today are amazing people who sacrifice a lot of their family time and personal well being to help people like me. Their work is a constant barrage of calamity and tragedy, but they always smile and listen when I come in the door, no matter what else is going on. That deserves respect and appreciation!

Scott Haig, MD, writes in his Times article about "The Good Patient": "Few patients realize how deeply they can affect their doctors. That is a big secret in medicine--one doctors hate to admit. We think about, talk about, dream about our patients. We went into clinical medicine because we like dealing on a personal, even intimate level with people who have chosen to put their bodies in our hands. Our patients make or break our days."

How about sending a postcard when you're doing well, bringing a flower or simply saying how much you appreciate what she is doing for you?

#198 Overcoming fear of doctors

Overcoming the irrational fear of people in white coats has taken me a while. I used to be completely terrified of doctors, and that didn't really help my healing process. The fear was rational in a way, because the doctor's assessment of my condition - and the words he or she used to describe it, would inevitably lead to very real and potentially hazardous effects in my life. Which diagnosis I got could mean the difference between financial ruin, or an enormous support system (I have had both). One surgeon's decision led to seven years (from age 21-29) with intense daily pain - leaving me mostly horizontal, so I guess my fear was well founded.

It's taken me many years to realize that Doctors are people too... and that insight was the first step towards overcoming the irrational fear of people in white coats.

Also on the pilgrimage to Santiago (a life changing adventure that I promise to blog about someday) I had the opportunity to walk with a sweet lady who was a doctor working with terminal cancer patients. To see the grief in her eyes when she talked about what it was like trying to relieve the relentless suffering of her patients and see them dying one by one changed my perception of doctors forever.

Wow, they are amazingly brave people!

Today I am very selective about which doctors I work with. I see myself as a customer (Even if Norwegian health care is 90% free, I have rights!) and a partner. I choose to work actively with my doctors today, rather than blindly placing myself in their care and judging them as either good or bad based on what they do. My journey to health can be a lonely struggle, or it can be a two way street. If I work with doctors who support me on my quest to wellness, and put up with my quirks and one-woman shows, I'm building a healing team that will help me heal.

#197 Doctors are people too...

In my career as a professional patient, I have met a lot of doctors. Some of these meetings have been horrendous  (like the family doctor who told me to stay at home and do nothing when he couldn't diagnose my joint symptoms - which turned out to be RA, and the neurosurgeon who said "Don't take it so personally, think of it like it's your jacket that's been broken", when I was partly paralyzed after failed surgery) and some of them have been amazing (like the rheumatologist who took me in on short notice and stopped my first RA flare in it's tracks, the neurosurgeon who validated, explained and cured my back pain when everyone else had given up).

When I went on the pilgrimage to Santiago, serendipity would have it that I met a German pain specialist who was doing the pilgrimage at a turning point in his career. The two of us meeting and sharing part of our pilgrimage together turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both of us. Him seeing life through the eyes of a chronic pain patient for a few days, being able to observe what all his patients had explained to him in real life, gave him new meaning in his practice. For me it was a true eye opener to be given an understanding of a doctor's professional thoughts and struggles, and it really helped me to see that doctors are people too! Walking together through the hills of Valencia, we shared our stories and thoughts on chronic pain. I learned more about pain from him than any of my doctors at home in Norway, and the meeting changed my attitude completely.

I realized that my Doctors were really just people who had chosen a challenging profession and were doing the very best they could. When a computer engineer has a bad day and makes a slip up at work, no-one dies because of that. But oh my God, what about the neurosurgeons? Just because someone has completed a medical degree doesn't mean that person stops being human! Today, I trust and respect the doctors I meet. If one of them acts really weird or says something I feel is wrong, I put it down to a bad day, and get a second opinion. I don't take it personally. I don't have to like all the doctors I meet, I can take their advice or leave it. But I can do my best to be a good patient to ensure that we're both doing the best we can.

#196 Treat your pain

Recent research in pain medicine proves what many of us have experienced in our careers as pain patients: Pain spreads.

This is why it's vital to get sufficient treatment of acute pain as soon as possible, and also why getting the right combination of treatment and pain medication is very important for chronic pain patients. 

By stimulating or causing pain in one part of the body scientists at the Laboratory for Musculoskeletal Pain and Motor Control at Aalborg University in Denmark have been doing studies that proved that pain from injured muscles spread to nearby muscles if left untreated. I read a Norwegian article about one of the studies. Several doctors had commented on the article saying "This is what we have know for ages, but great that you are proving it with research".

Many people can be critical of chronic pain patients use of pain medication, but the truth is that untreated pain will often increase in intensity and spread. So don't feel guilty about using your medication, as long as you're using it as your doctors prescribes. There are many things you can do in addition to taking medication, and that's what this blog is all about, but in my personal experience I'd say it's way better to start doing stuff besides your medication than cut your medication abruptly and try treating it with other methods.

#195 Explore the Mind-Body approach

Mind-Body medicine works with the interaction of the brain, mind, body and behavioral patterns, and focuses on the powerful ways in which emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health.

Generally speaking, the field of mind-body medicine is built around the belief that how you think, how you feel and what you do is constantly affecting the condition of your body, so by working with how you think, feel and what you do, you can improve your physical health.

Many kinds of mind-body medicine believe that the body has a natural inclination towards health and will be able to heal many conditions if it is helped, and is often focused at giving the patient tools to help heal herself. Relaxation, hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, tai chi, qi gong cognitive-behavioral therapies, group support, autogenic training are often cited as being within the "mind body approach" although there are no definite categories.

Personally, I have found that it feels very empowering to incorporate a mind-body approach in my own healing journey and I have really good effect from it. From communicating with many people with health problems, my tentative conclusion is that people are really different when it comes to mind-body susceptibility. If you are susceptible to one method, chances are many of them will work well for you, and that you have great chances at increasing your own health through the mind-body approach. If you are less susceptible then it may not be for you. Maybe it's not the right time, maybe your brain & body just aren't wired that way.

Do you have experiences that strengthen your perception of your own mind-body connection? Does your physical state follow your mental and emotional state very strongly? Do you have way more pain when you are sad and tired than when you are happy? (this is a natural result of chemical reaction in the brain btw) Those things could be good pointers that a mind-body approach may really help you.

One place to start is by practicing guided imagery for healing. This method has been used all over the world, and one of it's leading experts is Dr. Marty Rossman who leads "The Healing Mind" and has really good books and audioclasses on the subject.

#194 Come DANCE with other pain patients!

Special Event

A Discussion and Dance Workshop
Sunday July 18

Join Anna Tostrup Worsley, visiting from Sweden, and DANCEformation™ and Dancing with Pain® methods founder Loolwa Khazzoom, for an hour-long conversation about overcoming chronic pain and the healing powers of dance, followed by an hour-long guided freestyle dance session that is safe for people with all levels of ability/disability.
Facilitated Discussion 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Guided Freestyle Dance 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm 

$15 per person, limit 15 attendees.
Pre-registeration is recommended by clicking here!

MuDo Integrated Martial Arts Center
1624 Ocean Park Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 980-5790

#193 Go to health fairs and expos

Today I visited the Santa Monica Health and Fitness Festival, a local one day event hosted here in Santa Monica. It was a modest but very nice fair on the third street promenade, with all stands from local businesses and organizations who work with health in any kind of way represented.

I walked around talking to all people who had anything to do with pain and pain management, which apart from UCLA Department of Medicine turned out to be people coming from very different schools. There were several chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists, but also clinicians working with techniques like egoscue and biofeedback, plus a few yoga studios, nutritionists and energy healers.

Going from table to table I realized - once again - that the field dealing with chronic pain is vast and constantly developing. It was great to get some inspiration and see presentations of different methods, but also very interesting to hear what different doctors and therapists had to say about chronic pain and how to treat it. After 15 years as a professional patient it was very interesting to go to this kind of event just to mingle, listen, network and get inspiration.

When you suffer from chronic disease, chances are that you become isolated. Getting out and meeting people who are interested in health and healing may not be top of your priority list, but it could turn out to give you some important pointers for your healing journey and provide new pieces to fill in blank spots in your pain-puzzle.

#192 Take a leap of faith

I believe we are in the process of complete paradigm shift in our understanding of the human body, and that this is changing modern medicine in a way that will dramatically improve health care all over the world.

I'm talking about our understanding of the mind-body connection and how we can use this for healing and preventing disease.

When I was first diagnosed with RA I had some new agey friends who introduced me to the concept of self healing. My first meeting with this system was very double. Though I was taken aback by the radical ideas of some people I met and also of things I read, the core message really made sense to me intuitively: The human body has the power to heal - I mean, we see this all the time with cuts, burns and fractures, why couldn't this also affect my arthritis?

My doctors told me this was not true, that my RA was chronic, would never go away, and that the best I could hope for was a temporary remission. They wanted me to take methotrexate (also used as cancer treatment - aka cell posion) for the rest of my life. And I was only 20!

I know now that the doctors were doing the best they could at the time, and they were trying to save me from needless suffering while also taking caution to protect their practice. But this difference of opinion meant that I had to follow a paralell healing path alongside my treatment in the medical system. I accepted the doctor's treatment, while also pursuing my own answers.

Because the next link in my reasoning was that if my body has the power to heal, there are probably things I could do and choices I could make to help it heal... I just didn't know what they were. 

This became my introduction into Mind-Body medicine. Entering the realm of Mind-Body medicine
was a big step for me, it meant opening myself to a whole new system of thought, where my rational and analytical mind really didn't take me very far. Things weren't connected by the same logic as they were in the rest of the world.

But.. what did I have to lose by questioning my current paradigm? It was saying that I could never get well!

What would it mean, if we as patients took a leap of faith and accepted that there are things we don't understand when it comes to our bodies and our healing processes... What could it lead to if we stepped into the unknown and opened our minds for completely new ways of healing?

Today's tip is to take a leap of faith into the unknown, and open ourselves to the possibility for miraculous, unexplainable healing.

"To dare is to lose your footing just for a moment. Not to dare is to lose yourself." - Søren Kirekegaard


This is the first in a series of posts featuring mind-body medicine. If you have thoughts to share on this topic, please feel free to comment or contact me on facebook or twitter!

#192 Cut medical costs

By being an empowered patient you can dramatically cut your medical costs. Did you know that defensive medicine costs 60 Billion annually? According to a study in the June 28 Archives of Internal Medicine 9 in 10 physicians said doctors order more tests and procedures than patients need so they can protect themselves against lawsuits... but what about your time and money... as a patient??

According to Mind-Body Medicine specialists, high tech medicine is not even close to giving us good value for our money. In The Wrong Diagnosis -in Huffington Post Dr. Andrew Weill writes that Americans spent $8.4 billion on medicine in 1950, vs. an astonishing 2.3 trillion in 2007 - effectively using $30,000 annually for a family of four. And still the U.S. ranked near the very bottom of the top 40 nations - below Columbia, Chile, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic - in a rating of health systems by the World Health Organization in 2000.

Learning about your condition and different treatment options, not trusting every doctor just because he or she has a white coat, and working on your own mind-body connection to create the best possible foundation for your own healing situation, will enable you to recognize and say no to unnecessary treatment and lower your own medical costs substantially.

#191 Question your diagnosis

Categorizing and naming medical conditions is essential to get treated, but when it comes to your personal healing journey, being pinned down by a chronic diagnosis may be very limiting. Giving something a name has a very stigmatizing effect, and if a doctor says that "This is incurable" it can be almost impossible to maintain hope and activate your own healing system.

That's why it is essential to question your diagnosis, and get a second, third or fourth opinion if you feel that your doctor is not correctly identifying your symptoms.

"As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician." says Mind-Body Medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weill.

Many people are misdiagnosed, and because of that are treated for the wrong condition. If your symptoms don't get better with treatment, that may be reason to question your diagnosis - according to CNN Health.  Unfortunately, even when we are sick we need to be strong and stand up for our rights. "A diagnosis is a process of give and take, and no matter how skilled or committed your practitioner, no one else has the same commitment, drive, and persistence as you can have in assuring that your course of treatment is the best possible option for you." - Jake Mayer - aka The Unruly Patient

#190 Play with back-massage

There are many back massagers out there, but this is the simplest and best one I have ever tried. Really works for getting to those sore spots, releasing tight muscles and increasing circulation. Works best in conjunction with exercise though, so doing some cardio first and stretching afterwards really helps. It's called the backnobber and you can get it here.

#189 Don't take my word for it!

Okay, I'm snapping out of this nutritionist-spree now. Really, honestly, I am looking at my own blog and going, hmmm....  is this turning into one of those "Here's what you should do to fix yourself!" blogs??

Oh nooooo!

When I was newly diagnosed everyone was throwing advice at me... "Here's what you should do!!" "This fixed my aunt's cancer!" "This fixed my neighbour's heartburn!" "This fixed my dog's bald spot!" etc etc... it drove me crazy, and after a while I couldn't take in anyone's advice and just got very isolated.

Needless to say, that didn't help either.

I'm a strong believer in the healing power of the mind, and I believe that each person has the tools within him or her to find her own way to healing. By healing I don´t mean that you will be miraculously cured, but that you can live a happy and mostly pain-free life. So anything that is listed here is meant to be ideas and inspiration for your own healing process - not advice that I think you have to follow to get well!

#188 Love your food


Can't help myself, just one more teeny tiny blog post about food... Am rounding off this nutrionista-spree / food-hysteria by saying just...  Love your food ...

I truly believe that our emotional connection to our food is almost as important as what's actually in it... If you enjoy what you eat and think of each meal as a blessing for your body and a gift to help it heal, your attitude will go a long way in making it so!

#187 Review your eating habits

Okay, so I've been on quite a nutrionista-spree lately...  seems like the more research I do on pain and nutrition, the more stuff I find, and I just want to share it with you!

There are so many diet plans and fads and systems, books and movies out there about this, it is really easy to get lost in the maze. In the end, only you know what's right for you! If you really listen to your body, you'll be able to find out more about how you can eat right to help it heal as much as possible.

I still eat lots of stuff that I know isn't good for me, like sugar. I guess it's a matter of choice. I feel pretty healthy now, and I feel I have a good life. Making difficult lifestyle changes means complicating my life, and I'm already taking so many precautions because of my pain conditions! But just making a slight review of what I eat and how it's affecting me actually feels really good, it feels like I have considerable influence over my own health, and thinking that way decreases the stress and uncertainty that comes with living with chronic illness.

If you know that something affects your health in a positive or negative way, that's great!! Whether you choose to follow it now or not, at least you know that you can if you want to. That's an important piece of the puzzle that is showing your road map to healing.

#186 Add some superfoods

If you have wondered about the concept of "superfoods", let me make it really easy by just saying that the nutritional content of different foods vary greatly, and that some foods are better for us than others.
As opposed to nutritional supplements, superfoods aren't pills you take, they are actual food products that naturally have specific health beneficial effects. Yesterday's post about ginger shots is one example of how to use a superfood, cacao beans and blueberries are superfood because of very high antioxidant properties, salmon and flax seeds are called superfoods because of high content of naturally anti-inflammatory omega 3 acids.

Other superfoods that may be especially beneficial if you suffer from chronic pain are:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil -  Contains oleocanthal which has the same chemical and biological properties as ibuprofen with none of the vicious side effects.

Tart Cherries - Contain anthocyanin which works the same way as aspirin and ibuprofen in reducing inflammation and pain. Many other berries with strong colors, like cranberries, blueberries and black currants also contain anthocyanin.

Brazil nuts - contain selenium which helps reduce inflammation

Apart from Magnesium, Vitamin D, Chili and Omega 3 which I've already blogged about, Potassium is important for a healthy nervous system and therefore important for chronic pain patients. Foods that contain a lot of potassium include apricots, avocados, bananas, lima beans, garlic, squash, sweet potatoes.

#185 Have a ginger shot

This drink should come with a strong warning, it sends you through the roof faster than a triple espresso... and it has great pain relieving effect!

It's one of those ancient herbal cures that are backed with significant scientific research. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) apparently inhibits production of prostaglandins and leuktrines which are involved in pain and inflammation. A recent study published in the Journal of Pain showed significant pain-relieving benefits from taking either dried or raw ginger.

In an earlier Danish study, 56 patients who had either RA, OA or muscular aches took powdered ginger. All of those with musculoskeletal pain and three-fourths of those with OA or RA reported varying degrees of pain relief and no side effects, even those who took the ginger for more than two years.

Apart from its anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effect, ginger also is good against motion sickness and nausea, so if any of your current drugs are giving you nausea, this could be a good antidote.

You can make tasty ginger tea by steeping cubes of fresh ginger in boiling water for 5 minutes, then adding a spoon of honey and the juice of a half lemon. But if you dare to try the amaZING boost of a pure ginger shot, check out if they have it at your local juice bar, or make one at home by putting 3 oz of pure ginger root through the juicer. Add a little lemon juice and swallow.

But you've been warned, this is powerful stuff!

#184 Eat real feel-good foods

"What and when we eat directly affects mood. And our mood not only affects what we choose to eat, but how our body responds to that food," writes Dr Susan Kleiner in her book, "The Good Mood Diet" which explains the chemical reactions that happen in our body as response to different kinds of foods.

Living with chronic pain has a way of dampening our spirits, so while I'm on the topic of nutrition and pain, I will include some mood enhancing dietary tips from different experts:

Sweet potatoes: Eating complex carbohydrates sets off a process that results in boosting your levels of serotonin. This brain chemical packs a wallop when it comes to mood enhancement. Carbs trigger the production of insulin, which clears glucose and amino acids from the bloodstream. This process paves the way for another amino acid, tryptophan, to cross the blood-brain barrier and get to work on boosting serotonin levels.
Complex carbs offer far more nutritional value than cookies, candy and soda, and they're more slowly absorbed in your bloodstream, which contributes to keeping blood-sugar levels — and your mood — stabilized.

Turkey: You need tryptophan to boost your serotonin. Tryptophan comes from meat sources, and turkey is a very lean food containing the highest levels of this amino acid. Tryptophan can also make you feel calm. Now you know why you feel sleepy after a huge turkey dinner. Other sources are lean pork, chicken and beef.

Brazil nuts: One brazil nut will give you all the selenium you need to elevate your mood. Studies conducted on this trace mineral found study participants' moods brightened considerably when they got enough selenium. Don't feast on brazil nuts with the idea that more is better, because selenium can be toxic. Additional sources of selenium are tuna, whole-grain cereals and swordfish.

#183 Go organic

If you have a chronic condition and really care about your health, eating organic food is the way to go. Here are 7 good reasons to start buying organic produce:

1. It tastes better 
Produce that has grown naturally, ripening in it's own time in nutritious soil tastes better.

2. No Chemical Toxins
Conventionally grown crops are sprayed with significant amounts of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, and chemical fertilizers. These chemicals are designed to kill other forms of life and you may very well be eating them. When your body can’t properly process a toxin, it’s often stored in body fat to keep it out of circulation. If needed, your body will produce additional body fat to do so.

3. It has more nutrients
There is plenty of scientific evidence showing organic food to have far greater nutrient levels than conventionally farmed food.

4. Organic farming is good for the Planet
The chemicals used in conventional farming kill many of the microorganisms in the soil that keep it healthy, and too intensive farming depletes the soil of it’s nutrients. Crops that are grown in low nutrient soil are obviously less healthy. As a result, they’re more susceptible to weed overgrowth, insects, and other predators. This calls for the use of even more chemicals and fertilizers. Although putting these chemicals into the earth is bad enough, the soil becomes more and more depleted until it is so devoid of life and nutrients that it can no longer be farmed on at all. Chemicals and pesticides used in conventional farming contaminate our waterways.

5. It’s Not Genetically Modified
Scientifically, the thought of genetically altering plants to grow faster, taste better, and be more resistant to disease sounds like an absolutely amazing breakthrough. It is indeed, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Many well respected scientists are strongly opposed to genetically modified foods because there simply isn’t enough scientific proof that it’s safe. There is also plenty of research surfacing that shows genetically engineered foods to be quite dangerous.

6. Healthier Livestock
Buying certified organic animal products ensures that the animals they came from were raised humanely and were not fed any chemicals, drugs, or hormones. Conventionally farmed meat is produced with hundreds or thousands of animals crammed into indoor warehouses, unable to move, and never seeing natural sunlight. Many animals are also fed synthetic hormones and antibiotics to make them grow faster or to increase their production. By eating non organic animal products, you are consuming the same chemicals, drugs, and hormones that they did.

7. No Irradiation
Most conventional produce is treated with irradiation. Food irradiation zaps food with 150 million times as much radiation as an X-ray machine. The purpose of irradiation is to kill pathogens, but the ironic part is that it doesn’t kill all pathogens and can destroy most of the food’s good qualities. Irradiation also changes the chemical structure of the molecules within the food and can transform them into mutagenic and carcinogenic compounds that promote cancer.

#182 Reduce processed foods

So you may have noticed that my blogging on the "pain and diet" topic has taken off a bit lately... I blame that on my sisters, both of whom are health nuts;) One is a vegetarian and part raw foodist, one is a natural scientist who is extremely well informed about what's in our food (and she shares all this information with me).

One thing they have often talked about is that we should avoid processed foods. Both because the nutritional value of processed foods are much lower than natural foods, because the ingredients in processed foods in many cases are very cheap and low quality and because they contain lots of chemicals.

Now you may wonder: What Exactly Are Processed Foods Anyway? And the simplest answer is: If it's boxed, bagged, canned or jarred and has a list of ingredients on the label, it's processed. Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for "safety" and convenience reasons - to make them last longer, be cheaper, have different texture, color and taste.

Highly processed foods are thought to be especially bad for provoking inflammation in the body and thus intensifying many chronic pain conditions. So avoid them, start buying more fresh produce and learn how to cook without highly processed ingredients. Maybe you can't go all natural, but at least you can avoid the worst... check out these 13 food labels that may be fooling you.

#181 Herbal pain remedies

Include some natural pain relieving herbs in your diet! Here is a list of the top natural pain relievers, written by the pro herbalists on the Native Remedies Blog:

Boswella: Contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties
Devils claw. Known to ease tension and muscle tightness is the neck, shoulders and back. Also know to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Capsaicin. Known to hinder pain perception and can be taken internally for digestive discomfort. Naturally found in chili peppers.
Gamma-linolenic acid. One of the good fats known to reduce inflammation and stiffness, help migraines and mild diabetic nerve damage.
Arnica. Available in creams and tablets, and know to relieve pain and inflammation.
Clove oil. A popular home remedy for toothache.
Fennel. Seeds have 16 analgesic and 27 antispasmodic chemicals.
Feverfew. Popular for headaches and migraines.
Gingerroot. Has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties known to help with digestive cramps and mild fibromyalgia pain.
Green tea. Great for muscle stiffness.
Licorice root. Recommended for sore throats. Not for those with high blood pressure, heart issues and other conditions. Research before using.
Oregano, rosemary, thyme. All used regularly in cooking and hve analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Lavender, peppermint, chamomile and damask rose oil. Essential oils commonly used in aromatherapy for pain relief and relaxation.
White willow bark. One of the oldest home remedies for pain. Known to help back, osteoarthritic and nerve pain.
Peppermint. A famous antispasmodic for digestive cramping and more.

Some of these you can use in tea, some you will find in ointments and dietary supplements. You can put them in your favorite smoothie or add to salads....but this list doesn't include my very favorite natural pain reliever though... that is dark chocolate! If you want the health effect of cocoa without having sugar and fat you can sprinkle organic raw cocoa nibs on your fruit salad.

See more herbal remedies for chronic pain here.

#180 Check your allergies

To celebrate the first 6 months of the 365 pain-free days blog, I would like to share the story of how I overcame my Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Known to be chronic and incurable, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an auto-immune disease that destroys your joints one by one. It is an excruciating and intractable chronic illness. I was diagnosed with RA at age 20, as it runs in my family on both sides it was no surprise to the doctors, but a huge shock for me.

My interests at the time were dancing ballet, horseback riding, rock climbing, sailing, painting and blacksmithing. I had an active life, and had no interest in spending time in hospitals and doctors offices, but after six months of RA pain the disease had taken over my entire life. I was hobbling on crutches to and from the rheumatology ward three times a week for examinations, tests, cortisone injections and physiotherapy. The physiotherapists were happy to inform me that I could have a wheelchair with a titanium frame, and that they were soooo much better than the old aluminum models. The doctors had me on cortisone and cell poisoning (methotrexate) - which were known as the best drugs for RA back then (early nineties).

Feeling certain that there was something I could do to get better, I tried every kind of self-help option, diet plan and alternative treatment available in search of my "magic healing key" with little effect. Vegan, macrobiotic, stoneage diets and blood type diets...no sugar, no coffee, no processed foods... I tried it all. Blood samples taken by my doctors had shown that I was on the borderline for gluten-allergy, but it wasn't till a year later that this information clicked into place.

Arthritis is an auto-immune disease. Anything that affects my immune system negatively is bound to provoke my RA.

When I broke my back in a bus accident I had to learn to walk again while suffering a violent RA flare, and the situation was desperate. My father came across an article by Ashton Embry linking auto-immune disease and food intolerance. I decided to try his advice (this research has now been expanded and is called the "Best Bet Diet") and went on a strict gluten free & dairy-free diet. I noticed results quickly, and after two weeks my RA symptoms halted - the disease stopped right in the middle of an active flare. It has never returned.

The rheumatologists told me it would come back, that this was just a freak occurrence or a fortunate but temporary remission. That was 15 years ago.

Sure, I still have muscle pain, tendinitis, occasional stiffness, swelling, muscle inflammation, fatigue and various other symptoms of RA, but the active inflammation is gone. My joints are not being destroyed, and as you can see from my "Try something new" post, it is really not holding me back from adventurous acrobatic pursuits. I stick to my gluten-free diet. I do the things I write about in this blog, and I am grateful every day for the fact that I dared to challenge the doctor's "incurability sentence".

I'm not saying that food allergy was the key to healing my RA, but it was definitely a big part of it. Dairy and wheat were a large part of my daily diet, and the mild allergic reaction was constantly provoking my RA. Removing that trigger calmed the disease. Maybe there are many of us who have allergies we don't know about that are provoking our health problems.

Wishing you all the best in finding your magical key...


#179 Power-up with a green smoothie!

So if I was to choose a Revolution to join, I´d join the Boutenko Family's Green Smoothie Revolution...

The Boutenko Family, also known as the "Raw Family" are completely amazing. Faced with rapidly declining health in the mid nineties, they were suffering from arthritis, diabetes, asthma, obesity, arrythmia, hyper thyroid, chronic fatigue and allergies.  When the family's Doctor told her that both she and her husband were likely to die within a short time, and that their young children faced a lifetime of chronic disease - without parents, Victoria Boutenko was willing to try anything. She read all she could on health and had her family try all different kinds of diets. She even started asking strangers in the street who looked radiantly healthy what their secret was, and this was how she first heard about Raw Food.

Going on a 100% Raw Food diet healed all the family's health problems! Having followed this diet with great success for 15 years, Victoria now champions the super-energizing health effects of Green Smoothies.

After gradual experimentation and three days on a 100% Raw Diet, I've found that I'm just not up to being that hardcore. But I've found that starting my day with a green smoothie made of two large handfuls of spinach, the juice of one lemon and a glass of apple juice really kickstarts my day and gives me energy enough to keep going at super speed until lunch. I just chuck it all in the blender and it's ready in 30 seconds. Even quicker than cereal.

Here is Victoria singing the song "Ode to a Green Smoothie":