Posts tagged #pain

5 Ways To Institute Self-Care If You Have Cancer

Article by Scott Sanders for The Pearl Day Spa

Cancer can lead to socioeconomic problems, depression and social isolation, but  a self-care program can help boost self-esteem and self-efficacy while increasing spiritual awareness. Incorporating a combination of techniques within your treatment plan is proven to be more effective than traditional treatment alone, so take time every day to put yourself first.  

1. Do Activities You Enjoy

Going through cancer treatment doesn’t mean you need to completely put your life on hold. Participating in regular activities and hobbies can give you a semblance of normalcy in your life while distracting you from the side effects of treatment. Consider trying a new activity to help boost self-esteem in the process. If you’re feeling up to it, try to maintain rituals like Sunday morning coffee with friends or date night with a spouse so you don’t become disconnected from your life before cancer. 

2. Stay Active To Some Degree

While you want to check with your doctor so you don’t overdo it, there are several benefits that stem from regular exerciseduring treatment. The type, stage and treatment program as well as your current stamina, strength, and fitness level will determine how often you can get physical activity, but positive side effects include:

●     Prevention of loss of muscle mass due to inactivity

●     Maintained or improved physical ability

●      Improved balance (lower risk of falls and broken bones)

●      A boost in mood and self-esteem

●      Lower risk of heart disease, osteoporosis

●      Stress reduction

●      Improved quality of life

●      Less fatigue and nausea

●      Less dependency on others

3. Eat Nutritious Foods

It can be difficult to eat through cancer treatment due to severe nausea, but it’s important to try to eat a nutritious dietwhenever you can. Experts suggest lean protein (think fish, chicken, eggs, beans, dairy), healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil and fruits and vegetables of all colors. If you’re feeling nauseous, opt for plain pasta, rice, or noodles; saltine crackers; oatmeal; and ginger and peppermint teas and chews. If you have no appetite, experiment with more frequent, smaller meals and/or high-protein shakes, soups, or smoothies. When food starts to smell good again, you know you’re on the road to recovery. 

4. Embrace Spiritual Awareness

Spiritual awareness is an important part of treatment as studies showthat it can improve cancer patients’ health. This type of soul-searching can be experienced through music, the arts, nature, or a specific experience that inspires gratitude. Practices such as mindfulness, meditation and prayer can also help one achieve a spiritual connection. 

Benefits of spiritual wellness include: 

●     Increased feelings of inner peace and optimism

●     A reduction in anger, depression, anxiety and stress

●     Enhanced quality of life

●     Coping techniques to help you handle the trauma of diagnosis and treatment

5. Use Opioids Wisely

Studies indicate that cancer patients are at a higher risk for opioid dependency — 1 in 10 individuals become chronic opioid users after treatment despite not having a need for the drug. It all comes down to education. Make sure your doctor is thoroughly explaining how to use opioids for pain managementto include how much and how often. The drug should only be taken as a last resort if medication like Tylenol and Motrin doesn’t work. 

Cancer can feel like an unpredictable roller-coaster ride. Feelings of fear, uncertainty, and stress are coupled with moments of happiness, joy, and gratitude. Self-care can be extremely helpful in managing stress and your overall constitution. When both are under control, you’ll feel better physically and mentally, which can help you cope with treatment — and life afterwards. 

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The Life-Changing Magic of Perspective

Life is a funny thing. It seems that all our lives we are told that pursuit of happiness should be our life’s purpose. That finding joy, elation, and contentment are the things that will bring us satisfaction in our lives, but as we look back over our own individual histories, I think we often find that the times that formed us the most…the times that caused us to grow most as people…the times that left the most lasting impressions on us weren’t the times of joy and happiness, but the times of difficulty and struggle. 

Difficulty works in an interesting way. While it is within our happiness that we may get to just sit back and enjoy, it is not within happiness that we forge ourselves. It isn’t within joy that the strength of our character rises up to meet the challenge. It often takes our adversities to get us to stand and say “No. This is who I am, and this is what I stand for.” And for that, I am truly thankful for all my difficulties. While ease makes almost no impression on us, struggle forces us to grow in ways that last well beyond our experiences of it. 

Though I am a white male and have had a relatively easy life, growing up as a gay man I have certainly been no stranger to discrimination. I have experienced what it’s like to be “other.” What it’s like to be called names—to be excluded. I’ve known what it’s like to feel that I would never be able to have a normal life. I’ve known what it’s like to be trapped by fear. Fear that my parents wouldn’t accept me. Fear that my friends would no longer be my friends. Fear that I would never be able to enjoy the life that I wanted. A life with a family. A life with a partner. A life with kids of my own….the most basic things that the majority of people so quickly take for granted.

Our challenges in life have the tendency to divide us. Someone is dealing with cancer. Someone is struggling with the death of their child. Someone is attempting to overcome the emotional abuse of a parent. Someone has just been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Or a thousand other circumstances that all make us feel like we are unique in our struggle. And while each of us does experience these things in our own way, there’s a time when we must realize that our struggle absolutely unifies us. No being on the face of this earth exists without difficulty. And here we can begin to find a sense of community. Of connectedness. Of comfort in knowing that whether we are brown, black, man, old, young, woman, white, christian, or buddhist… we all encounter pain and difficulty. The longer we keep our stories of struggle to ourselves, the longer we must carry their burden, and the longer we let them have power in our lives. In sharing our stories, we lighten our load, and when we refuse to feel shameful about them, we can allow them to positively affect us. As we come around to the idea of this sort of "community," we begin not just to discover our truth, but to forge it--to create it as we make meaning out of difficulty. With a deep opening of our hearts we courageously step toward vulnerability, and we can let that vulnerability empower us to take what is difficult, turn it around, and use it to create a sense of humanity. 

That isn't to say vulnerability is easy. To be vulnerable is to admit that we don’t have it all right. To be vulnerable is to admit that we have been hurt, and that we can still be hurt in the future—to admit that we have hurt others. It is to be unashamed of our emotions. To be vulnerable is to admit we’ve made mistakes. It is to open ourselves at the deepest level, stand there in front of someone in the full rawness of our life experience, and have no apologies about it. So while vulnerability is one of the scariest leaps one can take, it gives us the ability to look at another human being and know that they, too, have known pain. It allows us to look at one another and say “It’s ok. I’ve been there, too.” 

This experience can truly transform us as people. It transforms our relationships and our outlook on life. It lets us turn things upside down so we can stop saying “I am here DESPITE my struggles” and instead say “I am here BECAUSE of them.” With that, we take the first steps on a long journey toward the discovery of our identities, and we realize it isn't the ease of life but the misfortunes that create the power of our stories. It is within our story of struggle that we find community; from this sense of community we can look for the meaning in difficulty, and I, for one, am thankful for my difficulty. I hope you are, too. 

In health,


The Painful Plate-5 Dietary Tips for Chronic Pain

Did you know that chronic pain plagues more Americans than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined? If not, now you do. Not only is chronic pain common, it is an American epidemic, racking up as much as $635 billion dollars annually in healthcare costs. Break that down to a more manageable number, and that’s about $2,000 for EVERY inhabitant of the United States, whether or not they are experiencing chronic pain themselves.

Topping the list of most common complaints of chronic pain are low back pain at 27%, severe headaches or migraines at 15%, neck pain also at 15%, and facial pain at 4%.

According to the American Pain Foundation, over half of those suffering from chronic pain report that they feel as if they have little to no control over their pain, and nearly 2/3’s of them also report having pain which as severe enough to negatively affect their quality of life.

So what can we do to help ourselves? We see our doctors. We see our chiropractors. Our massage therapists, but what about starting somewhere more simple. What about starting with what we put into our mouths and bodies?

What we put into our bodies has a very real affect on what happens TO our bodies. We have all been there. No breakfast, too much coffee. The caffeine jitters ensue. But what if we look at our diets as something which can heal us? Here are a few tips to get you started down the path of discovering how your diet can positively affect your experience with chronic pain.

#1 If you only take away one thing from these bits of information, let it be this. Journal. journal, journal, journal. I don’t mean pour your heart out about how difficult your life is, I mean a pain journal. Here’s the thing. You are you. I am me. That guy over there is that guy over there. What may work for one person might not work for another, or anyone else for that matter! It only takes a few moments a day, and is extremely valuable to those involved in the management of your care. Date a daily entry and include: The weather, your food choices that day, your activities, the amount of sleep you received the night before, what medications you took, and any “feelings” you may have. Do your end of the month deadlines ALWAYS give you a splitting headache? It’s up to you and no one else to make notes. Make them count. Don’t make it more difficult than it has to be. If you do, you’ll never keep up with it. That being said, everything below is simply a guideline. It’s a collection of what has and has not worked for many people. You might not be many people.

#2 Know your Omegas. Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids may seem just a few digits different from each other, but our bodies process and use them very differently. Omega-6 fatty acids generally promote inflammation, while Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.  This may make it sound as if we should not be eating Omega-6’s in our diet, but that is not the case. Our body needs inflammation. It’s how we heal and repair. The key is in the ratio. Most health experts can agree that you should strike a balance of 2:1-4:1 of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s. The scary thing? The average American consumes something closer to 14-25:1. Yowsa. The main source of Omega-6’s in the American diet is vegetable oils (Evening Primrose Oil also contains Omega-6’s). Not surprising seeing as we love all things fried. Omega-3 rich foods are varied, but a few common ones are flax seeds, walnuts, and cold water fish and fish oils. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that patients with neck or back pain who took 1200 mg per day of omega-3 free fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and decosahexaenoic acid) found in fish oil supplements in addition to their non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) were satisfied (by an 80% margin) with the pain-relieving effects.  Talk to your nutritionist or dietician about advice on balancing the Omegas in your diet.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” 

― C.S. Lewis

#3 Get down with enzymes. Yep, you knew it was coming. Eat your fresh fruits and vegetables. You’re probably not surprised. Why does this recommendation always seem to arise when any sort of health related conversation comes up? Because science has only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the myriad of benefits that fresh, raw fruits and vegetables provide to us in the form of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, and other beneficial substances. One enzyme in particular, bromelain, a complex enzyme of pineapple, is commonly used in Europe as an anti-inflammatory compound for many forms of musculoskeletal injury, arthritis, cramps, post-surgery and post-traumatic swelling. It has been shown to be beneficial in reducing swelling, inflammation and pain by blocking the creation of proinflammatory compounds like prostaglandins, decreasing the production of kinins, and inhibiting fibrin production (Tasman, 1964). Although it is generally well tolerated, it can aggravate ulcers or esophagitis, and can interact with blood thinners (Meletis, 2000).

#4 Don’t ignore minerals in the pursuit of vitamins. Zinc and copper may help in wound healing and reduce pain and inflammation (Honkanen, 1991, Lansdown, 1996). Magnesium is analgesic for neuropathic pain in animal studies (Begon, 2002) and has shown clinical benefit in the treatment of migraine, cluster and tension headaches (Peikert, 1996; Mauskop, 1996; Demirkaya, 2001). It is unclear whether magnesium can reduce pain related to surgery (Hoinig, 1998; Ko, 2001). Magnesium’s mechanism of action in pain management may be partly due to NMDA blockade (Begon, 2002)

#5 Incorporate these pain-relieving super-foods into your diet.


Many people fail to incorporate plenty of Omega-3 into their diets (see above). Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fats.

When purchasing salmon, pick a wild-caught option. Commercially raised salmon are filled with toxins. Introducing salmon into your diet should be easy enough. For instance, if you like to eat burgers, replace the beef patty with a salmon burger instead. If you are making salad, top it off with pieces of smoked salmon.

Aside from salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel are rich in omega-3 as well.


Onions are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant known for fighting enzymes that cause inflammation. Aside from quercetin, onions also contain plenty of sulfur compounds that help improve your immune system. Use onions in your salad or as a spice to in any of your dishes. Other foods that are good sources of quercetin are red wine, broccoli, apples and grapes.


Blueberries are known for their high amounts of antioxidants, and some of the antioxidants that can be beneficial for your chronic pain are anthocyanins. Like all antioxidants, anthocyanins help battle free radicals. Free radicals can trigger inflammation which can make your chronic pain worse. To get plenty of blueberries into your diet, you can mix them with some rice milk and a banana to make a smoothie.

Sweet Potatoes-

Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of carotenoids, antioxidants that are very similar to anthocyanins. Carotenoids minimize inflammation and strengthen your immunity. A good recipe would be to bake sweet potatoes, mash them and add cinnamon and grated ginger. Papayas, carrots, mangoes and red peppers are also good sources of carotenoids.


Garlic is one of the most anti-inflammatory foods that you can eat to alleviate your chronic pain. Rich in sulfur compounds, garlic stimulates the production of T helper cells which can boost your immune system. Use raw garlic when mixing spicy blends.

Knowing what foods to avoid is just as important as knowing what foods to eat to lessen chronic pain. Generally, gluten-rich foods and animal products are known to be highly inflammatory.

As noted above in tip #1, be aware that not all foods and substances will control pain and inflammation for all people, and some may even aggravate it in certain individuals. This is simply a list of what works well for many people. The only way to know for sure is to keep a record of the foods you eat, and talk to your doctor or nutritionist about your specific concerns and dietary needs.

Photos courtesy of Pexels and Creative Commons and are licensed for commercial reuse

Posted on March 8, 2017 and filed under Recipes, Healthy Living, Self-care.