Chronic Pain Improves with a Healthy, Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Could the foods you’re eating be contributing to your chronic pain? Perhaps you’ve been eating what’s referred to as the Western diet, which tends to be much heavier in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat than in protein and vegetables. Studies have shown this to be a major contributor to chronic pain and other health problems.
The Western diet is sometimes referred to as the "SAD" (Standard American Diet). It tends to be beige, brown and white in color, which is the hallmark of nutrient poor foods. To eliminate or minimize chronic pain, it is always better to adopt a diet rich in a variety of colors from vegetables, deeply pigmented fruits and other whole foods.
In addition to the detrimental changes on a cellular level that occur with SAD, there is a clear structural correlation between excess weight from a poor diet and pain caused by stress on the spine and, especially, the knees. An enlarged abdomen pulls the spine out of alignment which can lead to arthritic changes. Every pound of excess weight places the equivalent of 4 pounds of stress upon the knees. So even 10 pounds of weight gain places an additional 40 pounds of stress on the knees. Obviously, excess weight also contributes to increased stress upon the hips, feet, and ankles - which is another contributor to arthritis, inflammation and pain.
In a study published last fall by University of Alabama at Birmingham in the journal Pain, mice that were fed a Western diet showed increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (cell signaling molecules that make you hurt), as well as higher levels of serum leptin (a hormone that controls appetite and energy expenditure). After 13 weeks on the SAD, the mice showed “a significant increase in fat mass with a concomitant decrease in lean mass.”
Inflammation typically increases over time with poor diet. Depending upon your genetics, this may manifest in ways other than chronic pain. Some may experience fibromyalgia, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, thyroid disease, Crohn's disease, aplastic anemia, or any of a number of other autoimmune diseases and disorders. Making a few dietary modifications is a small price to pay to mitigate these miseries.
A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet should eliminate:
- refined sugars and flours
- most omega-6 oils (such as corn, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils)
- saturated or trans fats, fried foods
- processed meats
- green leafy vegetables ( kale, collards, spinach, broccoli, bok choy)
- tree nuts (walnuts and almonds)
- wild caught fatty fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines)
- highly pigmented fruit (berries, pomegranate and cherries)
Interestingly, there’s also some research to indicate that the polyphenols in coffee (always organic, of course) are protective against inflammation. You should ideally drink your coffee black, as most of the products added to lighten it are inflammatory by nature. Or, for the more adventurous, try adding either ginger or cinnamon to your coffee, both of which work synergistically with coffee to increase its antioxidant potential. Other anti-inflammatory foods to consider adding to your pain-reducing diet should include organic, virgin coconut oil, and spices such as ginger, turmeric and rosemary.
The good news is that you can take charge, improve your chronic pain, and avoid other health issues simply by making a few changes to your diet.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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