I test almost every new female patient with chocolate. Why? Because when eaten in excess, chocolate becomes one of the most hormonally disruptive chemicals around. Here are some examples of complaints from patients that are often directly related to the ingestion of chocolate:
Chronic non-traumatic hip pain in women (usually the right hip) – Chocolate has a profound influence on the hormonal system. One common effect is sluggish estrogen metabolism. The muscles of the hormonal system, such as the piriformis, are strong stabilizers of the hip joint. Therefore, with too much negative influence from the presence of chocolate, the hip muscles become turned off (inhibited), which ironically, feels like a tightness, and the joint itself becomes unstable. A constant dull ache usually follows, which often feels worse in bed when no longer moving. Why? Pain receptors (nociceptors) have a lower priority than movement receptors (mechanoreceptors), which, when we are active, can override the pain response to a degree. This is why we immediately rub our elbow after bumping it into the countertop.
Sudden onset severe neck pain (Chocolate Neck Syndrome) – I have seen this dozens of times. Usually the scenario goes like this: “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t do anything crazy, I just woke up like this.” Then I ask, if they had chocolate last evening? Around 70% of the time the answer is, “yes.” In many cases these folks are also going through a season of very high stress at the same time, which makes the event more acute and painful.
The mechanism for the neck pain has to do with a calcium/magnesium imbalance where calcium is low (or poorly processed) and magnesium suddenly swings high. Chocolate is full of magnesium. If eaten in a high enough quantity when this imbalance is present, the parathyroid glands will kick into high gear to regulate the calcium deficiency by secreting parathyroid hormone in order to draw calcium out of the bones. This emergency measure causes the muscles related to the parathyroid gland to react much like the muscles of the hip, by either becoming inhibited or facilitated, resulting in a strong pain response with a decreased range of motion. And which muscle group is related to the parathyroid glands? The levator scapula muscles, which are located on the back of neck.
Migraine headaches – Chocolate is a strong booster of serotonin. Migraine headaches are the body’s emergency measure to reduce elevated serotonin levels in the brain. The acupuncture points, K27, are directly related to high serotonin levels as I discuss in my book. I test patients with these points when they are exposed to chocolate. Often, a strong muscle will likely weaken, indicating that chocolate is creating some negative influence. Migraines also are more common near the initiation of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are their highest. To alleviate migraines, it is often necessary to reduce serotonin and estrogen at the same time. Proper detox supplements and mineral balancing is often necessary.
Poor estrogen metabolism – Chocolate has a profound disruptive effect on the female hormonal cycle because of its influence on estrogen metabolism. Heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, irritability, and painful cramping are common. Dairy products do the same thing because of the same calcium/magnesium mechanism, but coming from the calcium, rather than the magnesium side.
Sleep disruptions – All of the hormonal and mineral imbalances created by chocolate can initiate or contribute to an adrenaline-based, blood sugar-swinging physiology, which has many, many symptoms. Not the least of which, is insomnia in its variety of forms.
Chronic muscle and/or joint pain – Anything that forces the liver to work hard can lead to muscle or joint pain. The adrenaline-based physiology mentioned above creates metabolic by-products that slow down detoxification in the liver. Pain can come from the soft tissues as these agents build up in muscle tissue. Pain can also originate in the joints because sulfur is hoarded by the liver as a necessary agent of sulfation, which is the Phase II, essential part of liver detoxification. This means that the joints do not receive adequate amounts of sulfur for soft tissue repair (soft tissues, like ligaments and tendons, are made from glucose and sulfur). Chocolate itself interferes with liver detoxification through poor estrogen metabolism and can thus lead to body pain via toxic build-up in the tissues and/or by activating the immune system with all of its pain-associated chemicals (think about how sore and achy your body is when you are sick).
If you are experiencing any of these six issues above, avoiding chocolate and dairy products will likely help (yes, even the "small" square or two you have every night can create these problems). They also indicate that your liver detoxification and blood sugar systems should be looked at – by me of course 😊.
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