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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
 
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  Home  > Personal Wellness  > Food as a Pain Reliever

Food as a Pain Reliever

Many of us have learned to use food to alleviate physical pain. Recall for a moment a typical scene. Jenny is riding her tricycle on the sidewalk; the wheel hits a bump and she topples to the ground, crying. Dad rushes from the house and gathers her up in his arms, kissing her baby tears and consoling, There, there now, don't cry, you're all right. Come inside and I'll give you a piece of candy."

For a long time, big people have been trying to convince children that vaccinations, vitamins, spinach, and lots of other things will not hurt or taste bad, provided that they are quickly accompanied by a lollipop or chocolate bar. We have been programmed from our earliest years to use food to deal with pain.

While some adults who experience migraine headaches lose their appetites during an episode, Regina found that she actually ate more. "Eating may have been simply a good distraction," she explained, "but I really felt an alleviation of pain when I was eating." In fact, there seems to be a physiological basis to this. The addiction to food appears to be linked with the release of a brain substance called beta-endorphin, which is governed by the pituitary gland and serves as a natural opiate that may temporarily relieve pain and stress, creating a biologically comforting effect.




<< Previous Breastfeeding as Prevention | Back to Eating | Next >> Compulsive Eating
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