Monday, August 16, 2010

To All Chronic Pain Sufferers

Are the peanut butter cookies to blame, or am I just a nut job?

I've been away for two weeks. Not away on vacation but rather away in some la-la land where time passes in a blur, where headaches are constant, a lifetime of sleep is never enough, sugar-filled cakes dance in my dreams, and family is a fuzzy presence anchoring me to this world. Ah, and Biochemistry is there as well, its own tethering presence quite different from that of my family. If this all sounds a bit convoluted, it's only because that's how my brain has been working these days. Everything has been a jumble in my head, and in the background is the thought, Seattle is only 34...33...32...31...30 days away. And as my brain signals are still somewhat criss-crossed, that number is not necessarily correct. Adding in my head takes a lot of effort, as does getting up to check the calendar. And before you point out that my computer must have a calendar on it, I considered that also. Too much work.

I'm exaggerating a bit, but not much. Although acupuncture and daily vegetable juices seem to be great for my mood, my headaches are ever present, some days better, some days worse, but always there. A few days ago, I made the mistake of baking two batches of cookies. Sunbutter cookies for me, and peanut butter cookies for everyone else. I've been staying away from all nuts (although my mom pointed out that peanuts are technically legumes), so I had no intention of eating the peanut butter cookies. But alas, I can tell you from personal experience that they were delicious and much better than the sunbutter cookies. I didn't mean to eat them. I just got confused about which batch it was and ate the wrong one. At which point, I proceeded to eat another because the damage had already been done. And since I'm never convinced of what exactly is causing my headaches, I always eat the offending food thinking that maybe I'll be fine.

I was not fine. I woke up yesterday with temples pounding, feeling as if I were slogging through muddy water. I slept a good ten hours, but felt no better than when I had gone to sleep the night before. So at 9:30 in the morning, I took a nap. I slept another three hours, during which time I either had an out of body experience or dreamed I had an out of body experience. Either way, it was quite fun, until I dropped back into my body and my temples began to throb again. That's the worst thing about these headaches; they're there even in my sleep. I wake up grumpy because my headache keeps interrupting my dreams. I could have slept all day, as it seemed to be the best way to avoid the pain, but I made myself get up, and then had a little hissy fit and cried so my mom would comfort me. Like a five year old, I wailed, "It's not fair!"

It wasn't the peanuts I was referring to. I will happily give up peanuts. It was more the fact that I've become convinced that the only way to get rid of these headaches is to eschew food altogether. All food. Since that doesn't quite seem realistic or logical, I am reduced to wailing until the headaches calm down, at which point I continue on about my business, taking a medicine cabinet worth of homeopathic pills, tinctures, and teas.

Did you know that cabbage juice is supposed to cure ulcers? I've been drinking a lot of cabbage juice, as I've decided that the pain in my stomach and chest is an ulcer. The gastroenterologist I saw months ago thought it was acid reflux and told me to take Prilosec. He also told me this would stop the headaches. Since I'm not very good at listening to doctors when they tell me to take pills, I ignored him. Recently, I gave in and bought Prilosec. This was quite a desperate move for me. As my mom said, only a desperate person would take a pill with that many possible side effects. She would know since she also has chronic headaches and the medicine she takes for them gave her an ulcer. So she takes Prilosec to cure the ulcer caused by the medicine to stop the headaches. And the cycle continues. The wonders of modern medicine. 

But I digress. The Prilosec has not done a thing. My stomach does not hurt any less. My chest pain has not gone away. And my headaches have certainly not gone away. I suppose I should feel vindicated for assuming that that doctor was an idiot and ignoring him for so long. Mostly I just feel annoyed. At this point, I would rather take Prilosec for the rest of my life and be done with it.

Perhaps I am just crazy. But no, I am not. I am simply one of millions who suffer from chronic pain of one kind or another. But I haven't given up. I have less of a headache today than I did yesterday, and at least I can think again. So I'm going to blame the peanuts for this particular fit and treat all nuts as if they were the devil. I'll post this because I know that while I sometimes feel like I am a nut job (and I get the feeling many of my friends and family think so too), some of you feel the same way and will appreciate knowing you are not alone. To all chronic pain sufferers, I salute you, and I sincerely hope to someday not be one of you.


evaline said...

Hey Iris! I feel you, girl... I don't know if you would like suggestions, but if you've been drinking ANYTHING carbonated cut it out right now. You might also try melatonin and B vitamins for the heartburn.

Headaches... I can't help you. I get migraines whenever I injure my back (go figure)... I do know that taking care of myself, avoiding dairy and sugar, help. But sometimes these things are all stress, and for our bodies that are already stressed... it's too much.

Here's hoping you feel better soon!!

Iris said...

@Evaline Thanks! Suggestions are always welcome! I've never heard about taking melatonin...will have to read up on that one.

Ariana Anderson said...


I totally know what you mean. I've been fact I've been there for years...sometimes it's worse than others and lately it's been that way---a lot.

Chronic pain is something that none of us like to deal's quite...well, painful. I find the best antidote that makes me feel the best is to try my best to be positive and not complain..although that takes a lot of strength in and of itself sometimes. Another thing I do is just keep pushing myself on...most times I feel better if I get going, if not, I can always go back to bed. But overall, be kind to yourself, and don't beat yourself up for messing up a bit...we all do it...even when we know it hurts us. And perhaps it's to help us, learn from our mistakes. ;)

I'm trying a new approach to healing...I'm starting to read and then will hopefully soon apply The 7 day detox...I'm hoping it will help me and maybe you too? .... you can find it here:

I also have gotten the suggestion to get VEGA testing from a nautropath---the best way to have allergy testing...I'm still looking but maybe this would help you too...

I can understand and relate with your prescription no rhyme intended...I'm feeling the same way about various meds for me...I'm slowly getting off mine. I was prescribed Prilosec too----because I must have acid reflex because they can't find anything else....I saw the side effects and only took it about once...not anymore...

Anyways, here's to wishing you health and healing...and that you'll find something that works for you soon...and feel better too.

Ariana Anderson
The Frugally Rich Life
GF, dairy-free, refined sugar-free recipes and frugality (+ traditional "non-allergy" recipe too)
thefrugallyrichlife AT gmail DOT com
Twitter: FrugallyRichAri

Ariana Anderson said...

Oh, and one other thing...

Two natural rememdies: you drink enough water? I know that can cause them...also anything artificial sweeteners...(I'm guessing you don't use them, but just in case)

Take a glass. Put about 1-2 T. of RAW apple cider vinegar in your glass. Fill with water. Add stevia to taste. Drink. Solves my heart burn better than any anti-acid or prilosec everytime---I did that for a while and my heartburn has gone! I hardly ever get heartburn anymore at all! :)

And never try baking soda in water or milk---those don't work. Especially baking soda---I ended up throwing up on top of having heartburn too....

Iris said...

@Ariana Anderson Thanks Ari! I know you've been dealing with similar issues for a long time now. Once I get to Bastyr, I plan on seeing a naturopathic doctor (I'll finally be able to afford one!) and hopefully he/she will be able to give me some new answers. Good luck to you too, and I'll keep you posted of course if I figure anything out.

Valerie at City|Life|Eats said...

Oh Iris, I am so sorry it's been such a rough couple of weeks. I had a headache for several days recently, and it had been over a year since I had had a bad headache, and those several days of headache were a really awful reminder of several years of my life. In my case,I think it was linked to an IBS-C flare-up and the fact I had overdone sugar (even though all the sugars I eat are natural, sugar is still easy to overdo) but it's hard to be sure - did I ingest gluten or dairy? Were my gallbladder problems starting back up? It's so frustrating. And days like that, I just wish I could stop eating, because clearly something is setting me off, you know?

Just Call Me Zippy said...

Oh,Iris! That's why I love you and your blog so much. You always put into words the way I feel. I get so tired..physically and mentally..always having to think about food. Sometimes it's easier to eat nothing than to risk being "glutened". Sometimes no matter how careful I am I feel bad anyway. Then I wonder if gluten is really my problem. Or is it my only problem. Maybe it's an allergy/intolerance to something else or a bacterial overgrowth, leaky gut, defective gall bladder, pancreas..or whatever Google has yielded at that time when I put in all my symptoms.

Just when I think that I figure out what I can and cannot eat, it seems like the rules change. First gluten..then dairy..then certain tree I'm suspecting corn. *sigh* And I'm tired of thinking about it. And I'm tired of not feeling "normal". And my family is tired of having to always consider what I can and can't eat because I seem to always be adding yet another suspect.

I hope your headaches get better, Iris. And you're right..Sunbutter tastes icky compared to peanut butter!

Iris said...

@Valerie I think that's the hardest part for me, not knowing what's causing the problem. Sorry you had a headache, but really glad that it was temporary and that it's been so long since you last had one! Hope it doesn't come back!

Iris said...

@Just Call Me Zippy: Dee, I have to admit, I thought of you when I wrote this. Although your comment made me laugh when you wrote about the problem being whatever Google tells you that day. My friend always makes fun of me for going to Dr. Internet to diagnose myself.

hunterslyonesse said...

Thank you for sharing your experience, Iris.

I know you're doing acupuncture (which I think is awesome), but have you seen a naturopath? Mine does acupuncture, so I see him for both. When I first started seeing him it was for chronic pain caused by idiopathic neuropathy and an injury - two different ares of my body. I was on pain medication (Lyrica) that had me loopy 24/7 and additional meds from a pain management doctor. It took a few months but I eventually got off ALL the medications.

I've also suffered from migraines my whole life and at one point I was having them daily and was on medication for them as a preventative measure. Once I started seeing a chiropractor again for back pain, my migraines improved and I went off the meds (much to my neurologist's dismay). I started getting different types of headaches before my doctor diagnosed me with hypothryoidism over a year ago. Since I was able to get off of those meds (they made me worse) and got my thyroid under control naturally, the only migraines I get are the ones triggered by TMJ if I don't keep my jaw massaged.

One of my favorite things to help with anything is aromatherapy. A drop of lavender oil massaged into the neck and/or temples can help with headaches.

I hope you find something that helps you soon!

Iris said...

@Hunterslyonesse Thanks for sharing your experiences. This is such a great community for sharing ideas. I definitely plan on seeing a naturopathic doctor once I get to Seattle. It's one of the first things I plan on doing!

Valerie at City|Life|Eats said...

Hey Iris - I am so glad you are going ot be seeing a naturopathic doctor.One thing I did not mention in my earlier comment is that I had really bad headaches for several years, and bad digestion problems, about about 16months ago started working with a naturopath, and that helped a lot. The headaches went away after about 4 months of experimenting with various protocols under naturopathic care and, except for this last bad bout of several days, have generally stayed away. My digestive stuff is on and off bad, but at least not all bad, you know? Though it is frustrating - I avoid gluten, dairy, refined sugars, corn and processed foods like it's my job, and basically avoid eggs and a whole other list of foods (like cabbage, which gives me the worst headaches) almost as strenuously, but I still have a lot of bad days. I keep reminding myself this is all a work in progress,but it is frustrating.

Micaela said...

Oh, Iris, I loved this post and that makes me sad because it means we both have chronic pains. I'm sorry to hear that your headaches have gotten so frequent and awful. Sometimes the only thing that helps me is Excedrin migraine because the caffeine in it constricts the blood vessels, and a lot of migraine headaches (and regular headaches) are caused by inflamed blood vessels. If you're not one who wants to take Excedrin, maybe try some black tea a few times a day...? I'm wishing you the best!! xoxoxo

Iris said...

@Micaela Thanks Mic! Of course I thought of you too when I wrote this. I promise one day when I'm an RD and have learned from all the NDs at Bastyr, I'm going to find a way to cure us both!

saxifrage said...

Oh Iris, I am, unfortunately, one of those who fully and intimately understands your struggle. I wish I had the answers, but it seems like just taking life one day at a time and relishing in the pain-free moments is the only solution at times. At least we'll have each other out in Seattle! 30 days and counting... Maybe we should each make one of those paper chains... you know--the kind you make to mark the days leading up to Christmas when you're a kid? Might add a little orderly (and delightfully tactile) excitement to the whole thing!

Iris said...

@Saxifrage Sounds like a great idea! I'm in.

briogusto said...


So sorry that this pain/discomfort has been plaguing you. I definitely am familiar with experiences in which no matter what you do, *nothing* seems to be working and that can be a very frustrating thing to deal with. I think that your naturopathic doctor will definitely have some insight into the issue.

Re: the headaches - do you know if you grind your teeth? James does during sleep, and when he does he gets chronic, piercing headaches. Supposedly using a warm compress on the jaw before bedtime can help.

Anyway, I hope very much that you start feeling better soon. Maybe the west coast air will help you, too.


Sarah @ Gluten-free tries Vegan said...

I'm so sorry to hear how unwell you've been. I don't have any advice but I just hope you feel better soon x

Carrie said...

I'm SO Sorry Iris... That's me when I ingest gluten or dairy... It completely SUCKS and the headaches are horrible. I really hope you will feel better soon.

Cindy said...

I feel your pain - literally. I've been struggling with headaches for the past few days too. If happens sometimes for several days at a time, and I wish I could figure out what's causing it. I hope you'll keep us posted on your progress.

I appreciate the suggestions that were posted as well. What a great group!


Iris said...

@briogusto Darryn, it's funny you mention teeth grinding. I don't think that's the cause since I've done it all my life, but I did just buy a mouth guard to wear at night and see if it helps.

@Sarah Thank you!

@Carrie Thanks Carrie. I know how horrible it is for you when you ingest gluten or dairy, and I feel your pain too!

@Cindy I'll keep you updated. Between all of us, we should be able to come up with something to help, right?

Heather said...

Oh I know what it is like :( I am so sorry. Hope that your journey proves fruitful and that you will one day be pain free.

Have you ever tried going to a chiropractor for relief? I know there are so many, many things that can cause migraines but I have heard that some people get relief from chiropractic work. Just passing it on. I feel for you and I wish you the best.

Juanita said...

Sorry to hear that, Iris. It sucks when food seems like the enemy because of the reactions it gives. Strongs!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I'm so sorry you're feeling so bad lately! I totally understand being reduced to tears - it's so frustrating and you become illogical, emotional, and just want it to GO AWAY. As for a peanut butter replacement, can you eat sesame? Cause tahini makes some pretty tasty cookies.

Farty Girl said...

Google sleep paralysis. That may explain your weird out of body sleeping problem. (I've had it since the age of 4). It hits you most when you are really really really stressed out.

Peanuts have been tested and proven - that's one good thing that came out of this. I'm so sorry to hear about your headaches and pain; it's amazing to me that you carry on in school and cooking and writing and working so hard, when you feel like crap. You are a strong lady, Iris! :)

Lauren said...

Oh Iris. I'm so sorry to hear about your pain. It is truly no fun when things go wrong and nothing seems to help! If I know anything about you though, it's that you won't stop until you've found your solution. Just keep going, and you'll find the person, the doctor, the drug, the food, whatever, to make it all work. Lots of love to you!

Ricki said...

So sorry to hear about this, Iris! I saw a couple of tweets about your post and just managed to get here now. Like so many other commenters, I, too, have "been there," though I can't imagine an ongoing headache for as long as you've had it. I think getting yourself to a naturopath will help a lot! I also wondered whether you're familiar with mindfulness meditation (the type popularized by Jon Kabat Zinn). I took a course years ago for chronic headaches and found it very useful. Apparently, the course was intended to help people deal with chronic pain through meditation, and a surprising result was that many of the participants reported having LESS pain as they went on, in addition to being better able to deal with it in the first place! Just a thought--and it couldn't hurt. Hope you are feeling better soon, soon! xo

Iris said...

@Heather I just started thinking about seeing a chiropractor. I think I need to try tackling this on a lot of different levels at once, so that might be a good idea.

@Juanita @Lauren @FartyGirl @Tasty Eats At Home Thank you! Lots of love to you all!

@Ricki I can't wait to get to Bastyr's clinic. I've dabbled in mindfulness meditation over the years, but never seriously. It's definitely something to consider. And as always, thanks for your advice and support!

Anonymous said...

Hello, THANK YOU sooooo much for this post. I just found your blog today and already know I LOVE it!!!

I have crohn's and fibromylagia...both which cause chronic pain. I was just at the dr today and left feeling, well like I"m still in pain. They did just recently put me on a gluten free diet and I've added to that dairy and sugar free...well I'm trying to stick to all this!!!

I'm excited to follow your blog and try out some of your the cabbage juice ones!!! Thanks for putting into words how I've felt for a long time!!!

Iris said...

@Rosa, thank you for your comment! I'm glad you found my blog too! As you can see from the comments, there are a bunch of us here who know how you feel and are right there with you! Stop by again... :)

Sophie said...

Thanks for this moving & lovely post. It is sad to hear that you suffer from chronic headaches. I suffer from chronic nervous pain in my right leg & both armes too. Because of that I don't work anymore for 4 years now. I also can deteriorate & the doctors can't do anything about it.

I have been on a diet & now I am living GF since june 2010. I am gluten sensitive. I have a lot more energy, am losing weight & I feel a lot better.

You must know that I will think of you,...Kisses from Brussels to you!

Natalie said...

I know I'm late to the party, but this is such a great post and I relate SO much! (TOO much!!) I often think it would just be easier to abandon food all together. I was super excited about green smoothies and was so hoping they would help my chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, but lo and behold, the goitrogenic properties of the spinach, kale, cabbage, etc. all had me feeling worse because of my Hashimoto's hypothyroiditis. Dang it.
I just found this: and got it in the mail yesterday. It is an enzyme many of us are low in that helps us deal with food intolerances. I am excited to see if it makes any kind of difference. Good luck to you!!

Rebecca Bochenek said...

If the acid reflux issues are symptomatically treated with yet more medications, there may be a risk for serious long-term health issues. Acid reflux is most often treated with acid-lowering drugs. However, the true source of most acid reflux problems is a Candida, or yeast overgrowth, in the stomach that is actually caused by low acid in the stomach itself! A yeast overgrowth slows down digestion and foods will ferment under these conditions. As Candida will also paralyze the esophageal sphincter, the gases from the fermentation push the food up through the weakened esophageal muscles. The Asthma Epidemic–The Acid Reflux connection

Iris said...

@Natalie, keep us all updated on what does and doesn't work for you. We've got to stick together, right?

@Rebecca, I agree that treating the issues with meds is not the way to go. My GI really wanted me to try that to see if it would solve the problem (which it didn't), but I dislike taking medications that just mask problems. I wrote a post recently, detailing what has been working for me:


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