Scott Dehorty MSW, LCSW-C

Chronic Pain 360

How Diet Can Help Alleviate Chronic Pain

An anti-inflammatory diet can help alleviate chronic pain syndrome symptoms.

Posted Mar 16, 2015

Photo courtesy of The Pain Recovery Program at Father Martin's Ashley
Source: Photo courtesy of The Pain Recovery Program at Father Martin's Ashley

My colleague Carol Bowman, M.D., staff physician and director of The Pain Recovery Program at Father Martin’s Ashley, discusses the positive outcomes associated with an anti-inflammatory diet as part of an integrated treatment approach for patients suffering from chronic pain

We treat our chronic pain patients using a variety of proven methods as part of our multimodality approach. One area of focus is nutrition. My patients who suffer from chronic pain are often baffled that simple adjustments to their diet can help decrease their chronic pain.  

How does diet make a difference? First, we must remember that where there is pain, there is inflammation. While there are many ways to decrease inflammation, diet is the best tool. Food can be an extremely powerful “medicine” for treating chronic pain. Food is essentially biochemical information (fuel?) for our cells. Food provides the building blocks for cell repair. When we eat processed (chemically-altered) foods, our body negatively responds to the food as if it were a foreign invader. The body will mount an anti-inflammatory response to eliminate the offending invader.

An anti-inflammatory diet is simple. It should include a large amount of different colored vegetables and moderate amounts of fruits, whole grains, organic and free-roaming animal proteins, raw nuts, and seeds. White sugar, refined flours, artificial ingredients, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and other chemical ingredients found in most packaged and processed foods will cause inflammation and worsen chronic pain.

Not only will eating the wrong foods increase inflammation, but it will also cause weight gain and, in some cases, obesity. Our bodies are not designed to carry the extra weight. Too much weight puts mechanical stress on the body and can lead to pain. 

Food isn’t the only inflammatory culprit. Environmental elements we breathe or absorb into our skin can also cause inflammation. In addition to being mindful of food ingredients, it is important to avoid chemicals in our personal-care products, such as lotions and makeup, as well as in home and garden products like household cleaners and pesticides.

Many of my patients with mechanical medical issues such as back fusions, knee arthritis, or postsurgical adhesions have found relief from following an anti-inflammatory diet. They are pleased when a few basic changes in their diet can have a positive impact on their overall health.  

Changes in your diet can decrease the amount of pain you experience on a daily basis. If you suffer from chronic pain, try an anti-inflammatory diet. Most people notice a difference in three to six weeks.​

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