The Link Between Diet and Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Whether or not you’re a habitual dieter, it’s gotten pretty hard to keep up with the latest food trends. From the latest so-called “superfoods” to new fad diets, it’s safe to say that the way we look at food is always evolving.
One growing focus in recent years has been on anti-inflammatory foods, from grapes to green tea. If you’ve missed all the buzz—or if you’re fresh from a chronic pain or inflammation diagnosis—you might be wondering if there’s any truth to this trend.
After all, can your diet really reduce your inflammation?
At our Utah chronic pain clinic, we aim to make sure you have everything you need to reduce your pain, both in our office and at home. If you’re hoping to supplement your pain relief therapy by changing what you put on your plate, here’s what you need to know.
Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Before we get into the link between your diet and your chronic pain, let’s cover the basics of your body’s inflammatory response.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is your immune system’s natural response to a perceived threat. This response helps defend your body against things like infections, injuries, and bacteria. Your body sends out cells to attack these harmful invaders and to start the healing process in the affected area.
Short-lived or “acute” inflammation tends to go away within a few hours or days. Common examples of this type of inflammation include swelling from a cut, sports injuries, or muscle sprains. You may be able to tell that your body has triggered its inflammatory response by the redness or swelling in an injured area.
However, if your inflammation doesn’t go away after a few days or weeks, you may be dealing with long-term or “chronic” inflammation. With some types of chronic inflammation, your body may continue its defensive response even after the danger has passed.
This type of inflammation is typical in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be the result of autoimmune disorders, which happen when your body attacks its own tissues.
Is Inflammation Causing Your Pain?
Unfortunately, ongoing inflammation sometimes means that the chronic pain associated with your body’s healing response will persist as well. If you’re not sure about the cause of your pain, talking to your doctor should be your first step. If you’ve been dealing with any of these common symptoms of inflammation, be sure to mention it to them:
- Redness and swelling
- Joint stiffness or pain
- Decreased range of motion or functionality
- Fever and/or chills
- Fatigue or decreased energy
- Frequent headaches
Your doctor may do a physical exam to examine the affected area, or they may use diagnostic scans to check your symptoms.
How Food Can Relieve Your Chronic Pain
As we’ve stated above, your first step when dealing with chronic pain should always be to speak with a medical professional, who can offer expert treatment.
However, if you’re hoping to have more of a hand in your own healthcare, you’ll be glad to know you can start relieving your symptoms on your own at home.
Research suggests that adjusting your diet can help support your immune function over time. It does this in three key ways:
- A healthy diet can boost your overall health, including the health of your immune system, nervous system, and endocrine system
- A healthy diet can help you reach a healthier weight, which can reduce the load on your muscles, bones, and joints and thus reduce your inflammation
- A healthy weight makes you less likely to struggle with chronic conditions that lead to inflammation, including heart disease and diabetes
As you might expect, you won’t see instant pain relief after making these dietary changes. Like most lifestyle changes, you’ll need to commit to it in the long term—but the results can often be worth it.
In the meantime, you may need to seek additional therapies for pain management. This may include additional lifestyle changes, like better stress management, exercise, and quitting smoking, as well as options like physical therapy or Acousana therapy. Work with your doctor as well as our Utah pain relief clinic for additional solutions.
What Foods to Eat to Reduce Inflammation
One of the best-known diets to follow for reduced inflammation is the Mediterranean diet, which researchers have linked with lower inflammation and healthier aging.
However, the truth is that you don’t have to follow a specific diet to reduce your inflammation. Instead, there are a few key principles you should follow when you put food onto your plate:
- Aim for more variety, including foods that appear in the full spectrum of the rainbow
- Eat non-starchy vegetables in a range of colors
- Eat more fish, which contain helpful omega-3 fatty acids
- Eat more plant-based proteins, including beans, edamame, tofu, and lentils
- Eat more healthy fats, including foods like avocados and olive oil
In addition, you’ll want to stay away from foods that are more likely to cause inflammation. Though you’ll find these in most American diets, keeping them out of your grocery cart is a healthier way to eat.
- Refined sugars, such as those found in sodas, cereals, and candy
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and refined pasta
- Saturated fats, such as those in cheese and red meat
- Too much alcohol, which can lead to intestinal inflammation
Again, you should approach your new diet as a lifestyle change, adjusting it into something you can live with for years to come. Finding the right foods to put on your plate is up to you!
Chronic Pain Relief for Utah Patients
Whether you’re struggling with an autoimmune diagnosis or you’re dealing with a lingering injury, it’s crucial to know that the right diet can help. Watching what you put on your plate is an easy way to get long-term pain relief from your inflammation.
As you work to implement this lifestyle change, our Orem pain clinic can help with more immediate pain management. Acousana therapy is a great way to get quick relief when you need it most. To talk to one of our Utah pain specialists, contact us today.