Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dr. Oz, Pain, Hot/Cold Receptors

The production of endorphins in tissues in response to nerve stimulation relieves inflammation and pain. Dr. Oz and the medical community seem to forget that hot and cold receptors in the skin can be readily triggered by natural products in foods, to stimulate the release of endorphins and treat inflammation in nearby tissues.

Hot and Cold Don't Easily Penetrate the Skin
Athletic trainers commonly apply hot and cold packs to avoid swelling and inflammation from injuries, and they are always discussing the virtues of various hot/cold regimens. They ignore the extraordinary efficiency of the circulatory system in regulating tissue temperatures and avoiding temperature changes. They also ignore the fact that chemical "hot and cold" salves and ointments are effective without actually changing the temperature of the skin. The essential observation is that triggering hot and cold sensing nerves is more important than changing the temperature of the damaged tissues.

Common Food Molecules Activate Hot/Cold Nerve Receptors
Peppers are hot, because they contain capsaicin that binds to protein receptors on nerves in the skin, which results in the brain sensation of heat. Camphor and castor oil bind to the same receptors. Menthol binds to corresponding cold receptors. Vicks Vaporub has both menthol and camphor, and therefore stimulates both hot and cold sensors. Vicks is also an effective treatment for tissue inflammation.

Vicks and Castor Oil are Effective Treatments for Pain and Inflammation
A bee sting or a burn on a finger will produce reddening, swelling and pain, that can be quickly alleviated by applying Vicks to the wrist. The hot and cold sensors of the wrist would be stimulated and the returning nerve signals would be generally detected in the whole hand and produce endorphins that would calm the inflammation and sooth the injured finger. In a similar way, an inflamed joint can be treated by topical menthol and castor oil, and lower abdominal discomfort can be alleviated by castor oil applied to the belly.

Tendonitis can be Treated with Peppermint Soap
I have treated a persistent tendonitis in my shoulder by applying Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap liberally to my shoulder and waiting a few minutes before continuing my shower. This gentle, persistent treatment produced relief within a week. This was a cure for this persistent inflammation and pain. It also works on joints.

What Dr. Oz needs to communicate is that there are simple ways to stimulate hot/cold receptors that have nothing to do with changing the temperature of deeper tissues, but these treatments are very effective in stimulating general endorphin production that reduces troublesome inflammation and pain. As an addendum, vagal stimulation, i.e. through yoga postures such as shavasana or the Valsalva maneuver, can produce a reduction in general inflammation.


Jennifer Reyna said...

Can you explain how the castor oil pack works? An ND and I were discussing this and we couldn't reach a satisfying conclusion.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

I think that the castor oil pack works the same way as Vicks applied to a wrist for finger inflammation. The castor oil stimulated the hot sensors in the skin of the belly and the nerve signals move to the spine and brain. The return nerve impulses fan out with only the rough spatial geometry of the skin signal and lead to both the skin and the underlying organs. Inflammation in the organs is calmed by the endorphins secreted in response to the returning nerve responses. I think this is also how acupuncture works.

Mrs. Ed said...

For stuffy noses we put vicks on the soles of our feet and one dap on the top of the foot right between the big toe and the other toe. I heard about this a few years ago. I don't know why this works so well for nasal inflammation, but it works like a charm.

Jennifer Reyna said...

I somehow skipped over the "Common Food Molecules..." paragraph. Thanks for the explanation. Oh, and I'm actually studying classical Chinese medicine.

dr j said...

Dear Art,
Wonderful post. I am interested in improving hGH secretion in the aging adult (!) and found this paper- The vagus nerve as a regulator of growth hormone secretion-

Could you elaborate a little and speculate on the yoga stimulation of the vagus nerve ? very much appreciated.

John Cormas said...

Read "vaginal stimulation" in last line. Was intrigued.

Stone Glasgow said...

How does the corpse pose stimulate vagal nerves?

Jacquie said...

Dr. Ayers,

I was diagnosed with adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) of my left shoulder two days ago and will begin physical therapy next week.

I'm intrigued by your experience with Dr. Bonner's Peppermint Soap, which I have in the house and will begin experimenting with before my next shower.

If you wouldn't mind answering this question . . . Did you experience a decreased range of motion with your tendonitis and did it improve when the inflammation/pain was relieved with the peppermint soap?

Any other suggestions that might occur to you regarding this condition would certainly be welcome.

(I'm a 49 year old woman, 5'8" tall and weigh 122 lbs. trying to forestall developing the diabetes that runs through the family. I already eat a low inflammatory, lowish (<100 gms/day) carb diet and exercise daily.)

I greatly appreciate the wealth of information contained in your postings. Thank you.

Asim said...


For your issue, I actually recommend you check out and I'm speaking from personal experience here.

Your shoulder issues may be a result of poor habits that an anti-inflammatory would only mask. Of course this doesn't mean one could apply them along with the fixes provided by Dr. Bookspan.

Amanda said...

Finally! Thank Goodness I found your blog. You have confirmed my suspicions all along. Have always had somewhat stomach troubles but after this last round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. Things really hit the fan. Afterwards severe diarrhea with most foods especially vegetables,always weak tired and constant headaches as well as brain fog and now developed a lactose, egg and possibly gluten intolerance. I have taken probiotics thinking Im doing so great but in all reality I guess I am not. Blood tests came back with severe inflammation also negative to any food allergies. Have been trying to eat anti-flammatory and taking a leaky gut supplement. But after this I really am at a loss. Have just picked up a kefir smoothie that I am going to slowly add in but any other recommendations? Its been over 6 months and I'm still not back to normal. Could really use your expert advise!!!!

Look forward to hearing from you soon, and thanks for all your great work!

Anonymous said...

I hope you weren't prescribed those antibiotics after this news was published

I'd be surprised if most physicians are even up-to-date with science news aimed at the layman though.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I had the stomach flu last winter, and after I stopped puking I still had bad stomach cramps. I instinctually put a large bag of ice (with a little water for even cold distribution) directly on the skin of my stomach. After that, I slept like a baby.

Between the exhaustion and the relief of it finally being over, it was literally the best sleep of my life. As I think back to it, it was the skin stimulation that worked best, moving the bag from one patch of skin to the next just long enough to shock it but not make it numbingly cold.

Anonymous said...

I've learned that the application of hot and cold in turn, can remove excess fluids from around and injury once the beneficial protaglandins have done thier work. By actually increasing the temperature of the skin/body part and flooding the area with heat and then applying cold to make the blood quickly recede is also stimulating to the lymphatic system drainage. I think there is certainly a place for both types of anti-inflammitory therapies!

Anonymous said...

For insect bites and small cuts and burns try orajel or one of the other topical pain killers containing anything "caine". It has worked wonderfully for me. My niece, who gets nasty swellings from mosquito bites now carries it everywhere, they disappear overnight.
Last week I burned my finger while cooking. I applied orajel on a bandaid and held onto an ice cube for a few minutes. No blister, no pain.

Anonymous said...

...Richard said...

I will add my two cents on "stuff to apply to fix what ails you".

Art, have you ever tried DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide). It is amazing. It could be used on your tendonitis. It can also be used on minor burns, stings, and arthritis pains to name a few.

A few weeks back my wife grabbed a hot pan and burned her palm and a few spots on three fingers. I grabbed the DMSO and applied it. She was in pain for maybe 30 minutes...then completely gone despite the blistered burns.

I stepped on a scorpion barefooted in my bathroom one night and got stung on the soft flesh between toes...OUCH. I applied the DMSO and within about 5 to 10 minutes it was gone.

And I also use it on a tennis elbow with great relief. It isn't a cure but it offers quick relief.

It is said to be effective in part because it is an anti-inflammatory solvent.

I have used liquid DMSO and also a gel-form. The gel is pretty convenient and is what I would recommend.

Best Regards...

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Susan said...

just wondering about aloe vera - does it also work via the hot/cold pain receptors?

I know it works wonders for burned skin.

Anonymous said...

Castor oil doesn't provide the slightest relief when I get a sore back.

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