Treat pain by being hungry? New study suggests that hunger shuts off our perception of pain

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Image: Treat pain by being hungry? New study suggests that hunger shuts off our perception of pain

(Natural News) Believe it or not but pain can actually be a friend. It tells us something is wrong and that we should avoid it, like getting too close to the bonfire and hurting ourselves. It tells us to be careful when slicing vegetables, because we can hurt our fingers if we don’t watch out.

Neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania concluded in a new research that animals suppress chronic pain when they are hungry, in an attempt to look for food and survive. The study zeroed in on 300 brain cells that prioritize the need for food to quell hunger, than the need to get over chronic pain.

Amber L. Alhadeff, one of the researchers admitted that his team did not expect that hunger could influence the feeling of pain. But he realized it made sense. Animals must get nutrients from food first before they can even think of overcoming pain from injury.

Curious about how hunger may interact with the sensation of pain, the researchers observed how mice that hadn’t eaten for 24 hours still responded to acute pain. But unlike their well-fed counterparts, hungry mice ignored pain caused by inflammation. Long-term pain from inflammation is thought to involve neural circuits in the brain. The researchers also discovered that hungry mice did not steer away from the place that brought them inflammatory pain.

This made researchers wonder what part of the brain was behind the hunger-pain connection. They experimented on gouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons, which are believed to trigger hunger. They found out that mice responded less to chronic pain while retaining their reactions to severe pain. The researchers dug deeper and discovered that stimulating only a few hundred AgRP neurons markedly suppressed inflammatory pain.


J. Nicholas Betley, assistant biology professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences finds it interesting that only about 300 neurons out of the brains billions of neurons can suppress inflammatory pain.

Further research showed that blocking the neurotransmitter NPY, which hinders a response to inflammatory pain, reversed the effects of hunger. The mice began feeling pain.

The researchers say that if applied in humans, the findings can offer ways to alleviate chronic pain after injuries. Right now, treatment for this kind of pain is done through opioid medications.

You don’t have to resort to drugs all the time to beat chronic pain. Here are natural ways to deal with it.

  • Exercise — Dr. Charles Kim, M.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine and anesthesiology and a medical acupuncturist at the the New York University Langone Medical Center says that working out produces natural painkillers like endorphins. They raise our threshold of pain and work with brain receptors to change how we perceive pain.
  • Fish oil — A study showed that after 75 days, more than half of the patients with neck or back pain who took 1,200 milligrams of fish oil a day with eicosapentaenoic and decosahexanoic acid stopped taking painkillers.
  • Turmeric — Researchers who combined turmeric with Devil’s claw and bromelain on patients found that that the mixture relieved pain from osteoarthritis. The patients took two 650-milligram capsules twice or thrice a day.
  • Resveratrol in red wine, grapes and berries — Researchers reported that the substance regulates pain on the cellular level.

Science is discovering new ways to manage pain without taking drugs. Hopefully, it could be the best way to beat something mankind has been dealing with for centuries.

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