Food Choices Can Make a Difference for People with Chronic Pain

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Dad suffers from chronic pain thanks to arthritis and stenosis in his back. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), chronic pain is defined as “pain that lasts longer than six months and affects how a person lives their daily life.”

    The APA offers several tips for coping with chronic pain, including eating well, getting plenty of sleep and engaging in physical activity that’s been approved by medical professionals in order to manage the pain and the inherent stress that it causes.

    That got me thinking – are there foods that are linked to chronic pain, whether through easing the pain or making it worse? I decided to do a little research, which led to some really interesting information. For instance, reported that diet and lifestyle changes can provide relief to fibromyalgia.  In fact, the site points to a survey that found that 42 percent of people who had this condition who were surveyed reported that specific foods caused their stiffness and pain to worsen. The site recommends the following steps:

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    • Consume more fresh foods that do not have preservatives and additives. These foods can ease irritable bowel syndrome, which many people with fibromyalgia report having. Furthermore, opting for organic food may be better for people with this condition so they can avoid pesticides and chemicals.
    • Limit caffeine. While fibromyalgia may cause fatigue, doctors caution using a lot of caffeine to perk up.
    • Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants, may have neurotoxins that make arthritis and chronic pain worse.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish may help reduce inflammation. The article points to a 2006 survey that found that taking a daily fish oil supplement actually reduced symptoms of pain in 60 percent of the arthritis patients who were taking part in the research.
    • Eating foods that have lots of yeast and gluten may lead to increased pain. Researchers believe that yeast can help yeast fungus grow in the body, which increases pain. Furthermore, people with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to gluten.
    • Dairy products also can be problematic. The website pointed to research on 40 people who had fibromyalgia that found that 25 percent of the participants had an immune response in their blood to cow dairy products.
    • Carbohydrates also can be an issue for people with fibromyalgia because many have low adrenal function. Because of this, some physicians recommend a low-carbohydrate, low-sugar diet or eating carbohydrates with protein and fat in order to keep blood sugar levels at an even rate.
    • Chemicals such as aspartame, sorbitol and xylitol should be avoided. The former activates neurons that can make the body more sensitive to pain while the latter may also cause irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Monosodium glutamate can trigger headaches and contribute to pain sensitivity. This flavor enhancer can be found in many fast foods, Chinese food and prepackaged foods that have been processed.
    • Junk food can irritate muscles, throw off the immune system, and mess up the sleep cycle. Therefore, you should consider avoiding foods that have refined sugar or caffeine, as well as fried foods and those that have been highly processed. also recommends the following:

    • A Mediterranean diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthful unsaturated fats) aid in keeping strong bones and muscles and may help fight pain.
    • Whole grains such as whole wheat bread, quinoa and bulgur help curb the appetite and thus will aid in weight management. These foods also provide magnesium, which has been found to ease muscle pain in some animal studies.
    • Olive oil has a lot of antioxidant polyphenols that aide in stopping a mechanism that causes pain.
    • Ginger and turmeric can help relieve pain. Ginger has multiple substances that are similar to aspirin and ibuprofen while turmeric has curcumin that helps fight pain.
    • Strawberries have properties that ease pain, including a lot of vitamin C.
    • Spinach and arugula have a lot of vitamin K, which can help ease pain and maintain bone and joint health.
    • Foods with vitamin D can help reduce chronic pain. These range from yogurt to fortified orange juice and soymilk.

    Fortunately, we do regularly eat a lot of the foods that are found in the Mediterranean diet, especially produce and whole grains. But since I do the grocery shopping, I plan to be even more vigilant about making good choices so that the foods Dad eats can help alleviate his pain. I hope you'll do the same.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    American Psychological Association. (2012). Coping with chronic pain.

    Betsch, M. (nd). 10 food rules for pain patients. (2012). Best foods for pain relief.

Published On: October 30, 2012