Reflections on Walnuts & What They Can Tell Us About Pain
Walnuts Are Healthy!
Walnuts are delicious, they also make an extremely worthwhile nutritional contribution to many recipes and dishes the world over.
To say that walnuts are nutritious is a whopping understatement.
Walnuts contain healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals — and that’s just for starters. There’s so much professional interest in walnuts within the nutrition research community that for the past 50 years, scientists have an annual walnut gathering at the University of California.
Walnuts are an excellent source of antioxidants that help fight oxidative damage in our cells, this basically means diseases prevention across the board.
The nutrients in walnuts have been shown to decrease inflammation, which is a key factor in many chronic diseases.
The polyphenols in walnuts may reduce your risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. However, more human studies are needed to confirm this.
The polyphenols in walnuts are thought to potentially decrease the risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.
The list of proven and potential benefits (indicated by clues in simple studies) is a long one… and its always getting longer.
Walnuts Are Scary!!
Knowing the walnut through my own eyes (and only knowing a small amount about nutrition as I do) it is hard to imagine how there could be any downside. Going solely by the research and by my own experience with them I would recommend walnuts to anyone, why wouldn’t I? Well.. anaphylaxis is why I wouldn’t !!!
Even though they go particularly well for me; within moments of consuming a walnut, a percentage of humans feel a terrifyingly intense prickling heat pass through their body as the precursor of a very quick and uncomfortable death by asphyxiation (in the absence of emergency care of course). This somewhat inconvenient side effect to walnut consumption is caused by a dramatic immune response to their nuttiness – which shuts down the respiratory system blocking up and shutting down. For a few unfortunate souls, the walnut can kill as quickly as western brown snake venom.
So despite all their well-documented virtues walnuts can kill… quickly. Now I don’t know the first thing about severe allergies and how they come to be. I do know that there is a powerful truth held in this walnut fact that teaches me a great deal about what it is to be human. And also about navigating pain, and when I say pain I mean all the classic musculoskeletal issues like sciatic pain, back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, neck pain, foot pain, headaches.
Humans – Same Same But Different!
As members of the 8 billion strong, 1 million-year-old human genome project we share a great deal, we all have heaps in common. There are many degrees of ‘universality’ however, and there is also much that we don’t have in common.
Some things in life are like the straight-up 50/50 cats vs dogs debate. In another part of the grey spectrum, you could say that we all have 2 eyes which seems like a pretty reasonable statement, but some do not have 2 eyes. You could also say ‘we all’ love chocolate or puppies but then again obviously there would be quite a few exceptions. From these perspectives it can seem like all of life is ‘horses for courses’ – yet there are undeniable exceptions to the ‘horses for courses’ rule.
There is not a single one of us who can live for 6 months without water. None of us can live without a heart that’s pumping. We all breathe air. There’s a critical dose of brown snake venom that would kill every single one of us. None of us can bench press an orca.
I know what you are thinking… but strictly speaking Chuck Norris is not human, so he can’t be counted as the exception to the latter rules.
Gluten Is Yum… But Scary For Some!
I remember when I first realised that I was moderately gluten intolerant. I had struggled with my energy levels and gut health for the longest time and thought I would give up gluten for a while to see if it helped.
I felt pretty much the same for a week or 2 of no gluten, but on week 3 I noticed a shift in my wellbeing. I noticed that my workouts were going a little better and my long-standing reliance on afternoon naps had reduced. By week 4 I started to feel like a completely different person. It was like someone had lit a fire that had been merely smoldering for as long as I could remember.
This experience turned me into a gluten evangelists overnight, I wanted everyone to try it, and I honestly believed that most if not all would find it transformative on some level. The truth is though I was wrong, many people who give up gluten don’t find the kind of noticeable positive changes that I did.
I have noticed with myself and others over the years, that sometimes we discover what works for us and mistakenly assume that it is the right thing for everyone else too.. maybe it’s just a human trait. Once I had tasted how sweet life was without gluten for me I wanted to spread the good word. It’s a well-intentioned thing but also often a misguided thing based on whopping presuppositions about the ‘sameness’ of our bodies and what they need. And let us not forget the walnut thing!!
What Does This Have To Do With Pain?
I rarely hear anyone (even the professionals) talk about this, but there are actually many different kinds of pain. You and I can have seemingly identical lower back pain, and yet be suffering from wildly different underlying disorders. The scientific literature refers to back pain in a catch-all way “non-specific lower back pain” as if its a single entity. We as individual people also tend to assume our back pain journey will inform others of what will work for them – not always of course but it is quite common.
More often than not our friends and family recommendations about pain treatments are based on a tiny amount of first-person experience and data. This kind of word of mouth’ can still be useful when it is shared gently and with an open mind. It’s great to share with friends and family what worked for us, but we should remember how complex a topic pain is. Something that works brilliantly for my back pain could make yours 10x worse, and that difference is very much between you and your clinicians!
Walnuts and gluten are an excellent reminder of how cautious we should be about assuming that other peoples physical journey will be the same as our own. They are also an excellent reminder that we should keep an open mind about what treatments we ourselves pursue. We are all the same but in some physical areas, we differ greatly on the same topic.
You might be really struggling to find a back pain or sciatic pain solution that works for you – you might have tried heaps of stuff and found it didn’t work. But just because the pain management that seems to work for many others works for them and not you, it doesn’t imply that you are unfixable – it implies that you are simply different! If you have a stubborn pain complaint that you are struggling with keep an open mind, and keep faith that while all our bodies do heal in different ways – they do generally still heal when they are given what it is there need.
Stubborn cases of sciatic pain, back pain, headaches, migraines, shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, neck pain, ankle pain and knee pain are all signs that we need to heal something – realign something – stop doing something – strengthen something – move something … they are seldom a sign that we are ‘broken’!! And the journey towards healing is seldom 1 size fits all. So go nuts and be willing to try out a wide spectrum of approaches!
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Pain is a symptom. Symptoms are the feedback that the body generates when it faces problems with its delicate internal balance (homeostasis). Without symptoms like pain, thirst, nausea and fevers, it would be very difficult for us to maintain a healthy body in the same way that it would be hard to drive a car safely with no dashboard display.
John is one of those rare gentlemen who has continued to play competitive soccer well into his late 50s. He is in really good shape, which you need to be to play football at that age—good shape except for his left leg. His left leg is not in good condition at all. In fact, once you get to know his left leg a bit better, it becomes apparent that it’s miraculous that he’s able to run at all, Let alone the type of running required to play competitive soccer against younger men.