Managing chronic pain doesn’t stop with medication and regular medical appointments. Dietary manipulation is a lifestyle change that is both affordable and impactful. Certain foods can promote inflammation in the body, which can lead to increased regularity and severity of pain. When metabolized, some fats and fatty acids can intensify the inflammation response, and certain foods act as triggers for pain conditions like migraines.
Some foods that are known to trigger pain conditions include:
Caffeine, alcohol, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and aspartame (NutraSweet®).
Vegetarianism as Dietary Manipulation
Animal fats in excess can also cause inflammation. A vegetarian diet has been advocated for fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. A low-fat vegetarian diet can be useful in treating pain, morning stiffness, and tender and swollen joints, as well as reducing the duration and intensity of PMS and pain during menstruation.
Simple vitamin supplements can also assist the body’s natural processes. There is strong evidence that fish oil is beneficial for a variety of conditions, including easing inflammation and pain caused by chronic conditions. Studies have shown a link between low levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of chronic pain -- those pain patients with a deficiency of vitamin D need almost twice as much medication to control their symptoms. Magnesium supplements are another natural supplement that can greatly help those who suffer from headaches and migraines.
Foods to Help Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is controlled by several chemicals in the body, the most important of which are called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are made from the fats we eat. In regards to pain, there are "bad" prostaglandins that promote inflammation and "good" prostaglandins that turn off inflammation in the body. Therefore, eating the right types of fat can help control inflammation and pain.
Cold water fish, like salmon, tuna, and herring, contain these “good” fats, and eating two to five servings of fish per week can help with any pain control regimen. Other types of fats, like alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid, can be found in vegetables, beans, and fruits.
For chronic pain specifically, the immune-boosting onion and antioxidant-rich blueberry can enrich a patient’s diet. Onions contain antioxidants known as quercetin, known for fighting inflammation. Quercetin is also found in broccoli, apples, and grapes. Other foods rich in antioxidants are sweet potatoes, papayas, and carrots.
Garlic is one of the most anti-inflammatory foods that can be used to alleviate chronic pain. Rich in sulfur compounds, garlic boosts the immune system by stimulating production of T helper cells.
Before beginning any significant change to your diet or health plan, be sure to speak with a licensed physician to find a treatment plan right for you. For more information about pain treatment and pain doctors in the Seattle, Bellevue, and Edmonds area, contact the Washington Center for Pain Management.