You’ve seen the headlines claiming that the foods you eat can worsen your pain, but are they correct? Science says that changing what you eat can absolutely impact your pain. You should avoid certain foods to relieve pain.
The secret is the link between inflammation and food.
Let me try to simplify this complicated topic for you.
When you eat, your food is broken down to its molecular components and then absorbed in the intestines. Once absorbed, the molecules circulate through your body and feed your tissues. However, not all molecules are good for you. Some are identified as foreign substances by your body.
Highly processed food containing sugar, preservatives, and other chemicals, can break down into molecules considered foreign substances to the body. It’s as if these foods are gently poisoning your body. When this happens, your body goes into defense mode to protect itself.
Your body’s immune system protects you from bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances through the inflammatory response. When you have a simple cut, a brilliant cascade of healing mechanisms occurs to prevent infection and repair tissues at the specific part of the body involved. White blood cells and other chemicals are sent to the area of acute injury and get the party started. The aching, swelling, and redness you experience are part of the normal healing process. This type of acute inflammatory response is a natural and positive thing.
Chronic inflammation, however, is a type of systemic inflammation that affects tissues all throughout the body and can have a negative effect. Chronic inflammation can cause intensify and prolong pain, stiffness, soreness, poor memory, and fatigue. It can even counteract the benefits of pain medication.
Some chronic pain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and polymyalgia rheumatica, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and IBS are extra sensitive to inflammation. That’s because the inflammatory response stays on even though there isn’t any reason for it.
Are you wondering what you can do to reduce your risk of chronic inflammation and therefore reduce chronic pain? What you can do is make a point to avoid certain things that are known to cause inflammation in your body – like certain foods.
Avoid these three types of foods to relieve pain.
1. Processed Sugars
Yes, sugar is tasty, but it causes blood sugar levels to spike rapidly and that causes your body’s systems to be out of balance. When that happens, the inflammation response get triggered.
Processed sugars are found in tons of modern foods like soda, desserts, and candy. Sugar can be hidden in many foods that you wouldn’t expect like salad dressings, marinades, and condiments, like ketchup.
Be on the lookout for processed sugars by reading labels. All of these are forms of processed sugar.
Barley Malt Syrup
Brown Rice Syrup
Cane Juice Crystals
Evaporated Cane Juice
High-fructose Corn Syrup
Removing processed sugars from your diet takes effort because sugar has an addictive quality. Try this sequence for the best success.
First, remove the obvious sources of sugar like sodas and fruit juices. Then take out candy and sweet treats. Lastly, remove the less obvious sources of processed sugars like store bought sauces and dressings. Opt to make things from scratch at home when possible. Always read the nutrition labels to avoid products with lots of sugar.
2. Wheat Flour
Flours are processed grains. The more finely the grain is processed the more rapidly it is absorbed by your body. White wheat flour is a simple carbohydrate that basically breaks down into sugar before it even gets to your stomach. And you know sugar is a problem!
Wheat flour has a very similar effect as sugar in causing inflammation. With minimal nutritional value and high sugar content, you are better off passing on flour containing foods like bread, pretzels, and bagels if you want to reduce your pain. If you love eating bread, I suggest looking for high-fiber whole sprouted grains or flourless breads. There are several gluten free options available. You may even be able to find brown rice tortillas at your local grocery store.
Because wheat flour turns quickly into sugar it is also has an addictive quality. It will probably take some effort to remove wheat flour from your diet. Go slow by reducing how much you eat and looking for creative ways to replace wheat products in your diet with healthier (and less inflammation inducing) options.
3. High Glycemic Starches
The glycemic index rates foods by how quickly they break down to sugar after you eat them. I bet you seen the pattern now. Sugar! Some starches are high in the glycemic index which means they contain a lot of sugar and therefore contribute to inflammation. The foods I want you to be most aware of are white foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, and chips. Also, add corn to this list of starchy, high sugar foods to steer clear of.
Avoid Certain Foods To Relieve Pain
Take baby steps to remove these foods from your daily diet and you will get a sense of how much your food has been contributing to your pain. Pick one of these three categories and try to remove it completely from your diet for one month.
I know that it is difficult to make these changes in your diet since you probably see these foods every day (on commercials, at the store, in restaurants, etc), but you can do it! Start by eliminating them at home and then move to skipping them when you are eating out or at social gatherings.
Another strategy is to remove sugar, flour, and starchy foods out of your diet for just one meal a day and gradually shift to all meals in one week. Once you’ve done a whole week, try for a whole month. If you go slow and ease into it I’m sure you can remove these foods from your diet!
Every choice counts. Avoid these foods for pain relief. If you have questions or challenges, just let me know. I’m here to support you and help you get relief from pain.
Here’s a quote I like to remember when I am making a change in my lifestyle.
“Start where you are.
Use what you have.
Do what you can.” ~Arthur Ashe
I know you can do it!
Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT