Chronic pain is debilitating and affects every aspect of daily life. Advances have been made in the search for effective pain relief in the drug industry, but unfortunately, many of the pain relieving drugs cause problematic side effects.
Whilst our diet is not first on our list of considerations when suffering from pain, there are many surprising properties of certain foods that can help to reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, it is fair to say that there are foods that harm and foods that heal.
Although painkillers are useful for masking pain, they don’t actually treat the cause. A lot of pain is untreatable and is only manageable at best, but certain foods have healing properties that work from within the body. For example, certain foods help to reduce joint inflammation, which will ultimately reduce joint pain.
When suffering from illnesses that cause chronic pain we seem to make many frequent rips between GP surgeries and Chemists. The internet has opened up the provision of a simple online pharmacy which will soon have the option of processing NHS prescriptions.
This article aims to highlight how food has an effect on our body in the management of pain.
Maintain a healthy weight
This is easier said than done when chronic pain is preventing you from exercising regularly. However, it is important to try and remain within a healthy weight range, so that less strain is put on your body’s musculoskeletal system.
Try to eat a healthy well-balanced diet that contains sufficient nutrients from all the food groups ie proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals and vitamins. Try to view your food as fuel and learn to match your intake with your activity levels. Whole Grains and protein are helpful in keeping you fuller for longer, therefore reducing the urge to overeat.
Nutrition for pain
A well-balanced diet is important for all, however, there are certain foods that will help with your battle in reducing the amount of pain your body experiences. Diet for people with pain mainly involves avoiding certain foods and including others. Some foods trigger inflammatory responses and increase a person’s sensitivity to pain, whereas other foods can help fight pain.
It would be useful for pain sufferers to study how their diet can help to reduce pain. Be aware that individual responses differ and foods that trigger pain in some people may not in others.
Maybe it would be a good idea to keep a food diary and monitor your pain levels according to what you eat.
Foods to avoid
Certain foods are proven to increase a person’s sensitivity to pain and they are best reduced or avoided altogether. Many chronic pain stems from digestive issues and certain foods aggravate digestion.
Overly processed foods such as take away “junk” foods and ready meals often contain preservatives that can trigger an inflammatory response in the digestive system causing pain. If you are sensitive to gluten and yeast it is best to avoid baked goods containing wheat and raising agents, your whole body can be affected.
Caffeine is a stimulant which may be a tempting option if you feel that you need something to get you up in a morning, however, too much caffeine can have a counterproductive effect, causing irritation of the digestive system.
Try to avoid sugars and artificial sweeteners. They affect energy levels and cause “sugar rushes” followed by “sugar dips” which can make you feel exhausted and light headed.
Foods to include
This popular spicy root is known for its anti sickness properties. Pregnant women are often advised to include ginger in their diets in order to ward off morning sickness. Ginger is a fantastic stomach soother it also acts in a similar way to aspirin on the body, meaning that it has pain killing properties. Migraine sufferers often report success with including ginger in their diet. It is also effective for people who suffer from arthritis pain.
Ginger can be used in many ways, both savoury or sweet dishes can be spiced up with a little ginger. Try to use ginger from the root for the best effect. It can be grated into just about any food and is a lovely warming drink when mixed with honey.
Oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel are packed with omega 3. Omega 3 can be helpful in reducing back and neck pain, it helps blood flow to the spinal area which is crucial to preventing degenerative spinal conditions affecting the discs. For omega 3 to be truly effective you may need to consider taking a supplement to ensure you get a high enough dose. Omega 3 is also fantastic for maintaining healthy brain function and also lifts the mood.
Turmeric has featured in many news articles recently regarding health as people are starting to realise the health benefits of including turmeric in your diet. Turmeric has anti inflammatory properties and protects the body from tissue and joint degeneration. Turmeric can be added to the diet by sprinkling it into most foods. Research has shown that combining turmeric with black pepper enhances the health properties of turmeric even more. I am a massive advocate of tumeric and have written posts on how fantastic this is for anti-inflammatory help.
Cherries contain anthocyanins which are compounds with excellent antioxidant properties. They reduce inflammation, which lowers pain and they also act in a similar way to painkillers such as aspirin as they actually block the enzymes within the body that cause pain. Many athletes recognise the pain lowering properties of cherries and eat them in large amounts prior to racing. Athletes who eat cherries have been found to suffer less muscle pain following a race than those who don’t.
Mint is such a humble and freely available herb, it is easy to overlook the health properties it has. Mint is wonderful for soothing stomach pain and digestive spasms. It is also an excellent headache soother. Mint can be added to food, made into a tea or infused into oils that can be directly applied to the skin.
These are just a small selection of foods with healing properties when used to reduce pain, there are many more. Try to incorporate these foods into your diet on a daily basis and hopefully they will help lessen pain.