Jenny’s Story: Popcorn

I am used to our medical system, to getting a diagnosis and then receiving whatever prescription or procedure matches the diagnosis. I have had mostly good experiences, and my doctors and therapists would generally say that I am compliant. Well, I’m compliant until nothing works, and that is the point I reached with foot pain.

Plantar fasciitis was the diagnosis. All I know is that I was in a lot of pain. As someone who loves to walk and to hike, I knew I had to find a solution; the pain had persisted for almost nine months. During that time, I tried exercises, orthotics and a night-time splint. I tried massage. I tried reflexology. I tried acupuncture. I bought little balls to roll around to soften and stretch the soft tissues in my feet. I bought several pairs of new shoes. I didn’t want to pop pain pills; might I do more damage if I couldn’t feel the pain?

One day I asked a therapeutic friend what she would do if she had received this diagnosis. She said simply: “I’d examine my diet. Pretend food is causing the inflammation in your foot, which food would you suspect?”

“Popcorn,” I said, almost immediately. I recalled the meeting in which we talked about how our inflammatory foods tend to be the ones we adore. I remembered the rationale: it relates mostly to the cascade of endorphins and pleasure chemicals we experience when we eat a food stressor. But of course, it was hard to identify with the concept because, well, it’s just popcorn.

At the time I ate a lot of popcorn. A LOT OF POPCORN. Popcorn had become a universal solution for me. It was an easy snack food, and I found that the crunch and the repetitive action of stuffing my face with it calmed my fear and anxiety. If I couldn’t find a solution to a problem, at least I could eat popcorn. I could even convince myself that it was a healthy option as long as I didn’t add much oil and salt.

Once asked the right question, however, I could not remain naïve. I had to test popcorn. To my shock, the longstanding foot pain vaporized when I stopped eating all corn products. It took just a few days for the pain to subside, and after about 10 days I was pain free. It’s now nine months later and the pain has not returned.

I don’t want to end this story leaving the impression that popcorn is the villain. I do want to champion experiments and especially the food elimination diets we try out at Suppers to identify the extent to which our favorite foods drive our inflammatory processes individually. Since having my own compelling experience with popcorn, I have engaged in many experiments, including food elimination diets and testing new foods and assessing their potential to energize and satiate me.

I have three questions for my readers:

Do you experience pain or inflammation anywhere?

Is there any food you habitually eat that does more than satisfy normal hunger, like provide comfort, sedate you or change your mood?

Is it worth it to you to eliminate the comfort food for a few weeks to see if it’s really acting more like a pain killer than a food?

Maybe my popcorn is your bell peppers, pizza or ice cream. All I know is that half a dozen interventions that worked for me for other problems couldn’t touch the pain in my feet. The match between my problem and my solution was giving up popcorn.

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