Saturday, October 17, 2009

Food and Water as Pain Reliever?

Apparently, for rats, food and water acts almost like a drug, and the act of eating or drinking can grant them a higher tolerance to pain (and it's supposed, other externals not yet tested for).

The implications of this are huge. The article touches on what this probably means for people, and goes a long way toward explaining the problems some people have with eating until whatever is in front of them is finished. Our compulsion to overeat. (You know, like that bag of chips you sat down with in front of the television, and now it's gone? Or that carton of ice cream you JUST opened, but somehow is already half gone?) But, if it's also true that just plain water accomplishes the same state of higher tolerance to pain+ (Yes, pain+, no that is not a typo) then it could also mean we can take extra unnecessary sugar out of our habits, replace it with water, and have the same result. The article talks about substituting lollipops at the doctor's office with a cup of water instead, for kids.

Of course, this all rides on the supposition that the same applies to humans. Just because a rat calms down and stops responding to uncomfortable heat stimuli when it's sipping some water down, does not necessarily mean that it will be the same for a person. For starters, we're going to notice that someone yanked our sugary treat in favor of bland water, and while I personally don't understand how it's possible, there are some people out there who don't like the way water tastes. And don't like to drink it. (Maybe someone should do a study about that, because last time I checked, water was necessary to our survival. It seems to me people who didn't like drinking water should have been weeded out a long time ago on the evolutionary tree.)

All that aside, it's kind of fascinating. I mean, it's a known fact that humans can and do reach for food-as-comfort. Could this explain some of that impulse? Are we, essentially, drugging ourselves? Food-as-prozac or water-as-placebo-aspirin? What if the only thing we really need to do to relieve minor pain and ailments is have a glass of water, rather than popping ibuprofen or Tylenol? Somehow I don't think the pharmaceuticals will ever get behind research that suggests it, but man, how awesome would it be if we didn't really need those artificial drugs? If water could serve the same purpose?

Possibly I'm taking things to an extreme which isn't at all supported by the article, but I think that it's certainly something worth taking into consideration. Maybe we should all do a home experiment, and the next time we feel a headache coming on, pour ourselves a tall glass of water, sit down with it in our favorite chair, and take some nice slow sips.

Feel free to report back with your results. I'll be waiting!


  1. According to the Mayo Clinic, headaches are a symptom of dehydration. This is especially common when diuretics are used on a regular basis, including caffeine and alcohol. In that case, simply drinking water or partaking of a restorative electrolyte beverage (I love Pedialyte and its various generics) can help a headache even more than OTC pain killers.

  2. I hadn't heard that, that's awesome information. I guess that means I should modify my experiment suggestion and go with, the next time we stub our big toe, or something?

  3. What many people don't realize is that our digestive system is a high and integral part of producing our body's serotonin. When the body digests, the intestines secrete serotonin. This, of course is one of the chemicals our body produces to level our mood. People who suffer from depression don't produce enough of this in the brain, so it sorta makes sense that people feel happier when they eat; their body is producing a mood lifting chemical.
    In the opposite, people, like myself, who suffer from IBS, develop too much serotonin in the digestive system. Because of this, many people with IBS can suffer from depression because there's too much serotonin in their system. Tied in with this, serotonin also works with the body's pain receptors. This is why a normal digestive process for someone without IBS can be absolutely excruciating for someone who has the disease; the serotonin level is so high that the movement of digested food and gas bubbles(don't laugh, we all get it! XD) through the intestines is felt and becomes quite painful.

    On the subject of people who don't like the taste of water, well, I'm one of those people. A lot of it stems from growing up where our tap water(bottled water was for rich people, you know) had a distinct metallic taste to it. I learned to hate water at that point. I've gotten better, as long as the water is ice cold and s filtered. Usually I really only drink Fiji water, or water with flavoring. I love Twist water,as most flavored waters these days are sugar-free and artificial sugars make me sick.
    On that subject, and sort of relating to our nation's issue with eating right; people need to realize that sugar substitutes are worse off for your body than sugar itself. Sucrose and all it's derivatives are simply chlorinated sugar(yes, this includes Splenda). By eating these, you are literally eating chlorine, which is a poison to our bodies, especially at the level that people ingest artificial sweeteners to make up for sugar cravings.
    For people who are sensitive to this(once again, myself included), finding things that are safe to ingest is a task of reading everything in the ingredients. The only gum I can have is BubbleYum, as all others have started using sugar substitutes. A single piece of gum makes me sick fort hours. Taco Bell uses sucrose i their cheese and sauces(we learned this the hard way), but do not clearly state this.
    The anti-sugar movement in this country is a bigger problem than the obesity issue, IMO, because no one is being told really what they are eating.
    When it comes to food; sweets, fried stuff, you name it, I always believe that you're fine as long as you stick to moderation and self-control. It's not about what we put in our food, it's our own ability to say when we've had enough.

  4. Ali-- thanks for your comment! Awesome points and information.

    I totally agree about the artificial sweeteners business. I believe in real sugar, and not just that, but things like butter rather than margarine, though I don't think it's quite the same kind of principle. But yeah--why are we adding extra weird chemicals to our diet instead of eating the natural stuff? It makes no sense to me. And real sugar, honestly, tastes SO much better. Give me the real thing any day of the week.


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