Jo Cameron’s Life Without Pain; A Story of Rare Genetic Mutations

Jo Cameron’s Life Without Pain; A Story of Rare Genetic Mutations

When Jo Cameron underwent a double hand surgery procedure, which would have left most people in excruciating pain, she left the hospital happy, vivacious, and in no pain whatsoever. At the time, Cameron was 65 years old and should have been even more susceptible to the surgery’s painful aftermath. Recognizing this anomalous behavior, doctors decided to investigate and found Cameron’s DNA contained two genetic mutations that made her unable to feel pain either physically or emotionally.

A Happy Genetic Mutation

Like anyone else, Cameron has been scraped, burned, and bruised throughout her life. But these physical injuries had little effect on her. After two surgeries, which left doctors baffled by her recovery — she needed only two aspirin the day after a hip-replacement surgery to deal with the pain — she was referred to a team of specialists at University College London’s Molecular Nociception Group (UCL).

Following a thorough DNA study, scientists at UCL published an unusual case report in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, revealing their findings of two genetic mutations:

Genetic Mutation #1:

This mutation affects the FAAH gene, which produces the enzyme responsible for breaking down anandamide — a neurotransmitter that’s been dubbed “the bliss molecule” (appropriately named after the Sanskrit word for bliss, "ananda") for its ability to bind to THC receptors, affecting mood, appetite, pain, and memory. When the FAAH genes break down anandamide, we experience physical and mental pain. But with a mutation like Cameron’s, the bliss molecule is allowed to preside, bringing out anandamide’s positive effects.

Surprisingly, this genetic mutation is not as uncommon as one may think, as about 20 percent of Americans are said to possess it. However, this percent of the populace doesn’t have Cameron’s second mutation, which compounds the effect and prevents her from experiencing any pain at all.

Genetic Mutation #2:

The discovery of this rare genetic mutation, named the FAAH-OUT gene, was said to be scientifically groundbreaking, as it was found to be a previously unidentified gene. As may be guessed from its name, the FAAH-OUT gene has a bearing on the FAAH gene, essentially turning down its activity. Working in concert, these two genetic mutations enabled Cameron to live her life unable to feel pain.

“I knew that I was happy-go-lucky, but it didn’t dawn on me that I was different. I thought it was just me. I didn’t know anything strange was going on until I was 65,” she told the The Guardian,

Psychosomatic Spiritual Healing

Development of New Pain-Relief Treatments

The search for reliable pain-relief treatments has been ongoing for millennia, with doctors and researchers historically relying on medications that target opioid receptors. But of course, this approach has led to an epidemic of addiction, abuse, and fatality, with more than 130 people now dying in the United States from opioid addiction daily.

Cameron’s genetic mutations bring the FAAH and FAAH-OUT genes into the spotlight, when it comes to pain-relief alternatives. While experimental drugs involving FAAH receptors previously failed, the FAAH-OUT discovery provides researchers more insight on how to target the endocannabinoid pathway involved in a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including pain sensation.

To many sufferers who have turned to medical marijuana for relief, it is no surprise that working with endocannabinoid receptors should be considered a safe and successful means of ameliorating chronic pain. For years, individuals reeling from a range of maladies — from cancer to Crohn’s Disease to paralytic anxiety to suicidal depression — have fought to legalize marijuana as a powerful treatment option.

Is Being Unable to Feel Pain Necessarily Good?

While the prospect of dulling or totally eradicating pain may be alluring, it is important to bear in mind why all living beings experience pain in the first place: as a survival mechanism.

Pain is the catalyst for both physical and emotional lessons.

Experiencing physical pain alerts us to something being physiologically wrong. Just because one doesn’t have pain doesn’t mean he or she is immune to illness or injury. For example, if one sustains a wound and isn’t aware of it, left untreated, that wound could become infected and lead to something more serious like illness or even death; pain can be a biological warning pointing to a larger problem.

The same holds true for emotional pain. Serving as another survival mechanism, emotional pain generally runs along the spectrum of fear and happiness. Being highly in-tune with emotional well-being often results in increased self-awareness and when the balance shifts toward pain one is instinctually alerted to danger. Juxtaposed against agony or discomfort, a feeling of well-being also tends to foster a sense of safety.  

The case of Cameron, who only realizes she’s burning herself on the oven when she smells singed flesh, but feels no pain to warn her, prompts a great philosophical question: What is life without pain?

Although pain can be regarded as a purely biological function, its absence seems to thwart the natural laws of the yin and yang. Can one truly know the height of happiness if he or she hasn’t known the depths of sorrow? While some may envy or dream of life without pain, it may be argued that everything in life is relative, which gives pain a rarely-appreciated purpose.

 

Check out Alan Watts’ explanation of the Zen Buddhist perspective of pain:

Alan Watts on Pain

7 Tips for Surviving a Juice Cleanse

7 Tips for Surviving a Juice Cleanse

So you’re ready to give your digestive system a break by trying a juice cleanse, but you’re intimidated by the whole, you know, no food thing. Don’t panic, friend. Here are eight tried and tested tips for surviving a juice cleanse.

  1. Pick a cleanse that works for you.

Do your research and choose a cleanse that seems reasonable for your life. If you’re new to detoxing and aren’t sure how long you will be able to go without food, then a weekend juicing program sounds about right. But who knows, maybe you’re up for challenge and are ready to tackle a full week of juicing. Whatever you choose, just remember this is supposed to be beneficial for you, so pick a time frame that is realistic for your lifestyle. Then get excited – the detox is about to begin!

  1. Clear your schedule.

Weekend of your best friend’s wedding? The week of Thanksgiving? These are not the times to plan your juice cleanse. Set yourself up for success by choosing a time when you don’t have too much going on at work, and you don’t have any food-centered social events. Mark it in your calendar and call it a day.

  1. Prep your body.

If you’ve been going heavy on the party scene lately, then it’s time to prep the body because juicing doesn’t work the same for everyone. Some people experience flu-like symptoms from bacterial die-off, and others don’t have any side effects. Some find themselves running to the bathroom multiple times a day, while others don’t notice a difference. To ease unpleasant side effects, prep your body before the cleanse by cleaning up your diet. Swap the sugary cereal for yogurt, and replace processed junk with light, easy-to-digest foods like well-cooked veggies. Spend a few days or a few weeks cleaning up your diet prior to your detox. The juicing will be less of a shock to your body if you clean up your diet beforehand.

  1. Know what to expect.

Let’s be real, juicing is obviously less labor intensive than throwing a dinner party, but it still requires a bit of effort on your part. Thoroughly washing the fruits and veggies, cleaning the juicer, and making your juices ahead of time due to scheduling conflicts can seem like a big pain, but acknowledging the work ahead of time and understanding the benefits you’ll reap will set the foundation for a successful cleanse. Scared you’ll feel irritable while cleansing? Relax, it’s normal. Eating can be really emotional for some people, so not eating may trigger emotional changes at various times throughout your cleanse. Create a game plan for what you’ll do if this happens. Keeping a journal is a great idea.

Worried about the physical side of it? Rest assured, cleanses affect people differently. That nightmare experience your friend told you about might not be in store for you. Yeah, your body may feel weak, but you never know, you may feel full of energy. Understanding that whatever you experience is simply part of your detox will make the physical changes you notice less of a surprise during your cleanse.

  1. Pamper yourself.

Sitting around the house doing nothing while you’re juicing is a recipe for a pity party for one. Please, get off your couch and set out on a self-care mission. You may not have the energy to hit up a heated power yoga class, but get outside for a leisurely stroll or bike ride. Do things you don’t normally take the time to do- take a bath with essential oils, start that book you’ve wanted to read, head out to a meditation class. These activities will not only serve as a distraction from your cravings, but they’re also beneficial to your physical and mental health.

  1. Don’t get hungry.

Juicing isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. Some people need more juice than others. The best tip for surviving a juice cleanse is this: If you’re hungry, drink more juice. You’ll probably never feel full while juicing, but that isn’t the point. Aim to feel nourished.

  1. Celebrate. (But go easy).

Woo! You’ve completed your juice cleanse! Friends want to celebrate at happy hour! Probably a bad idea. Remember, your digestive system has had a break for the last few days so let it ease back to work by feeding yourself light, easy-to-digest food and drink.

Relocate the celebration to a teahouse and give yourself a pat on the back for committing yourself to cleansing in the name of health.

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