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Plant Power: Using Food as Medicine to Ease Chronic Pain

Thursday, February 27, 2020 10:28 AM

Always active and mindful of her health, Lynessa Moore has dealt with her share of health challenges over the years—from various illnesses to surgeries. But this 50-year-old grandmother from Des Plaines said nothing could have prepared her for the excruciating, nonstop pain that seemed to take over her entire body in the last few years. “It was something I never experienced before,” recalled Moore. “It even hurt to be hugged.”

Lynessa Moore

Desperate for Answers
Determined to find a way out from her debilitating condition, Moore sought the expertise of NorthShore Family Medicine Physician Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, who also is board-certified in integrative medicine. “It’s an approach to care that addresses the full range of influences that affect someone’s health,” explained Dr. Maker-Clark. “We look at physical, emotional, mental, social and environmental factors. Then, based on that evaluation, I partner with patients like Lynessa to create a highly personalized care plan.

Dr. Maker-Clark diagnosed Moore with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread pain in the musculoskeletal system. “It affects the way that the brain processes pain, making it more severe than it might be otherwise,” noted Dr. Maker-Clark, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “We started by taking a deep dive into Lynessa’s lifestyle and patterns she had fallen into as a result of her pain.”

You Are What You Eat
Rather than seeking a pharmaceutical treatment, Dr. Maker-Clark recommended Moore adopt an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet. It minimizes eating processed foods, meats, dairy and refined sugar while maximizing plant-based menu choices such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, along with fish and eggs. This “food as medicine” philosophy has roots in ancient China some 2,000 years ago but is backed by scientific evidence that validates how dietary changes can aid in the prevention and reduction of chronic disease.

Moore incorporated these dietary changes into her life, plus exercise and meditation. “I’ve been more health-conscious than ever over the last three years,” she said. “I’m more in tune with my body and take time to relax with yoga, breathing exercises, or sometimes just go for a walk.” While not entirely pain-free, Moore is off all medications and lost more than 45 pounds.

“My life was hell before,” Moore added, “But Dr. Maker-Clark changed everything. She listens to me, not just as a doctor but as a person. She lifts me up and I see life in a brighter light now.”