Searching for a Natural, Drug-Free Way to Relieve Your Pain?
Did you know that there is a direct link between your diet and the level of chronic pain and inflammation you experience?
According to Healthline, the food you eat can “play a role in aggravating or reducing inflammation.” If your chronic pain and inflammation has been preventing you from doing the things you love for too long, keep reading to discover at-home dietary changes you can make right now to improve your health.
If you think your inflammation and pain may be too serious to tackle with dietary changes alone, consider consulting a physical therapist to optimize the incredible health benefits of proper nutrition.
How are inflammation and pain connected?
As of now, you may have a negative association with the word “inflammation.” This is understandable, as experiencing painful symptoms and movement limitations would be frustrating and irritating for anyone.
However, at its core, inflammation is a part of the body’s natural immune response. Without it, conditions such as wounds, infections, and tissue damage would not be able to heal properly.
In the short term, an inflammatory response is normal, healthy, and beneficial. Its when inflammation lasts for a long time, that it can begin to wear down the immune system, damage tissues, damage organs, accelerate cellular aging, and increase the risk of chronic health conditions.
Heart disease, cancer, obesity, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune conditions (in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and tissues) are all associated with chronic inflammation. You may have already guessed that chronic pain is another condition associated with inflammation.
So, how does nutrition factor in?
When your body experiences excessive inflammation, your pain can get worse. On the other hand, reducing or controlling inflammation has been proven to help patients significantly in combatting chronic pain. A growing body of research shows that certain foods and beverages can increase inflammation in the body, while other foods reduce inflammation and therefore lead to reductions in a patient’s pain level.
Foods that cause inflammation can do so in a variety of ways:
- Cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels
- Increase the number of free radicals in the body, which are unstable chemicals linked to oxidative stress
- The artificial ingredients, fillers, and preservatives food in certain unhealthy foods promote inflammatory responses and can irritate friendly gut bacteria in the digestive system. This negatively affects your metabolism, nutrient absorption, and even your mood
- They lack the micronutrients necessary for building healthy tissues and supporting key physiological processes in the body
Research also demonstrates that excess fat cells in the body release inflammatory compounds at a higher than average rate. This is a major reason why obesity is a leading risk factor for chronic pain.
Foods that reduce inflammation in the body have the opposite impact. These food groups tend to be minimally processed and made with whole ingredients. Their high levels of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation.
Certain nutritious foods also provide the raw material needed by the body to make healthy tissues and cells. They also tend to be relatively lower in calories but higher in fiber, which helps prevent obesity.
How should I change my diet to improve my chronic pain and inflammation?
Following a few basic nutritional principles can help you manage your chronic pain.
The first step to take is to avoid foods that promote inflammation. This can include highly processed foods, soda beverages, alcohol, and some processed meats. Some of the top inflammatory foods to avoid, according to the Arthritis Foundation, are:
- Refined sugar, seen most commonly in table sugar and food containing high fructose corn syrup
- Trans fat, commonly found in buttered food, fast food, and sweets. Out of all types of fat, trans fat is the worst for your health. Too much of this in your diet increases your risk for heart disease and other health problems.
- Refined carbohydrates, found in most types of bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, and chips. Many refined carbs also contain gluten, a protein that triggers an inflammatory response in some people, including those with celiac disease.
- Omega-6 fatty acids. The standard American diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids (found in corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and sesame oils) relative to omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish and olive oil). This imbalance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids causes inflammation.
- Dairy. For some people, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are harmful due to their high concentration of lactose and casein. Dairy products are also often high in saturated fat and dense in calories, which may further promote inflammation through weight gain.
- Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG): this additive is often found in fast foods and other prepared meals.
- Aspartame is a non-nutritive sweetener found in items such as diet sodas. Although there is conflicting evidence about aspartame’s impact on the human body, it’s been suggested that our immune systems can view these artificial sweeteners as “foreign substances,” which leads to an inflammatory response.
Second, make sure that the majority of your diet consists of anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, whole, natural, and minimally processed foods, such as:
- Complex carbohydrates like legumes and whole grains
- Fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits (canned is okay, too—just watch for additives)
- Olive oil and fatty acids from fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Quality protein sources including chicken, fish, shellfish, lean meats, eggs, and beans
- Fermented foods like kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut (these contain gut-healthy probiotics)
Alongside making these dietary changes, be sure to stay well-hydrated and practice other healthy lifestyle habits. If you haven’t already, incorporate exercise, stretching, stress reduction, and injury prevention strategies into your daily routine.
Find an even greater degree of relief with physical therapy.
If you want to finally take control of your chronic pain and inflammation, contact Synergy Manual Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled physical therapists.
Our team is happy to discuss lifestyle and diet interventions as a way to optimize your physical therapy outcomes. Your therapist may also prescribe you an individualized exercise regime, connect you with a dietician or nutritionist, and relieve your pain naturally with various therapeutic modalities.
You don’t have to accept chronic pain and inflammation as a constant part of your life. Contact our clinic today to find relief.