How Diet Can Affect Chronic Pain
You’ve probably heard of the phrase “you are what you eat”, meaning that what you choose to put into your body directly affects how you feel both in the short-term and long-term. But have you ever thought that what you’re eating and drinking may actually be making your chronic aches and pains worse? Yep, you read that right! Our diet plays such a huge part in the way we feel both physically and mentally which means our food choices can either help or hurt our chronic pain symptoms.
The connection between diet and chronic pain
To understand the link between your diet and chronic pain, you have to first understand what inflammation does to your body. Typically, inflammation occurs when your immune system has a reaction to something like a virus or bacteria. This inflammation can cause direct pain on your joints and muscles because there is suddenly more pressure on those parts of the body. If you have conditions like arthritis, cancer or even asthma, your body is prone to chronic inflammation. And this is where your diet comes in.
To work as they should, your cells need proper nutrition. When you’re not fueling your body with the nutrients it needs, your immune system reacts negatively and the chance of inflammation can occur. If your body is constantly in an inflamed state, not only will you be uncomfortable, but you also increase your risk for serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. So, how do you combat that? With the right diet of course! While the food you eat won’t be a cure-all for your chronic pain, it can significantly impact your body to keep your inflammation levels down and have you feeling energized.
✘ Foods to avoid
First things first, it’s important to understand what foods you should cut down on to help lower the risk of inflammation (thus lowering the chance of increased pain levels.) While these foods are okay to eat from time to time or in moderation, they should not make up a high percentage of your diet.
● Sugar/high fructose corn syrup: If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to read this before diving into your next candy bar! Processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup promotes the production of fatty acids in the liver and when your body processes these fatty acids, it can lead to inflammation. Scientists have also found that high levels of fructose causes inflammation of the cells that line your blood vessels which puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.
● Alcohol: A high intake in alcohol is one of the biggest causes of inflammation and it can be seriously damaging to the body. Alcohol can cause inflammation in a few ways with the first being the effect it has on the gut. When we excessively drink, there is an increase in harmful bacteria and endotoxins in the gut which directly results in inflammation. Alcohol then weakens the lining on our gut which allows this bad bacteria to spread to other parts of our body. And because our immune system is suppressed by the alcohol, it has a harder time fighting off this bacteria. If you do plan on drinking, just make sure to drink a lot of water and get your electrolytes in beforehand as dehydration worsen inflammation.
● Vegetable and seed oils: From potato chips to frozen TV dinners, if you take a look at the ingredient list, chances are a lot of foods at the supermarket will include some type of vegetable or seed oil. Seed oils are also common to use while cooking food at home. The reason they can cause inflammation is because of their high omega-6 fatty acid levels. While we need omega-6 in our diet, the constant consumption of it can be harmful to our bodies.
● Processed meat: We all love a good hot dog on a summer's day or a piece of bacon with our eggs in the morning, but unfortunately processed meat can also cause inflammation. This is because processed meat contains a high level of something called advanced glycation end products (or AGEs.) AGEs are compounds that can be found in certain foods that are known to lead to serious health issues such as liver disease, Alzeheimers, and more. The reason for this is because AGEs cause inflammation in the cells of your body as they try to get rid of them from your system. While processed meat is okay to eat in moderation, try not to make them a part of your regular diet.
✓ Foods to eat
If you deal with chronic pain of any kind, try incorporating these foods (and more!) into your diet as they are known to cut down on inflammation.
● Fatty fish: Fish are some of the best foods to eat to help combat inflammation. Fish like salmon, sardines, and herring all contain omega-3s that your body turns into anti-inflammatory compounds.
● Berries: Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are packed with antioxidants that are known to reduce inflammation in the body. They’re also delicious!
● Green tea: There is a reason that green tea has been consumed for thousands and thousands of years! Green tea has a ton of amazing health benefits with one of them being decreased inflammation. This is because it contains something called epigallocatechin-3-gallate which reduces the production of fatty acids that cause inflammation.
● Dark chocolate: Just because you’re cutting down on added sugars, doesn’t mean you have to give up your sweets! Dark chocolate contains something called flavanols which are the antioxidants that give it anti-inflammatory properties. Just make sure you’re eating at least 70% (or more) cocoa bars!
At-home pain relief
While your diet plays a large part in your chronic pains levels, it won’t be able to fully reduce your pain. If you suffer from joint or muscle pain, try using at-home remedies like the SINSINPAS AREX Instant Pain Relief Patch. One patch provides both cold and hot effects for long lasting relief. It’s made with a durable yet flexible material so you’re able to apply it to the affected area and go about your day! The AREX pain relief patches also come in different sizes for your needs and even are available in a gel patch form for sensitive skin!