Chronic Pain is one of the most complicated healthcare issues in existence and it is also one of the least well understood.
In my 20 years of studying chronic pain, I would say that there are 3 key issues at play:
1. Bio-Mechanical Structure and Function:
3. Your thoughts and emotions
I beat you over the head with bio-mechanics (I am a chiropractor after all). Today I want to talk about the Bio-Chemistry aspect of chronic pain.
Nothing effects your bio-chemistry like what you eat and drink.
Generally, when people have chronic pain, they also have chronic inflammation.
But first: What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a chemical response to fight off illness or injury in your body.
The Cardinal signs of inflammation are: Redness, Heat, Swelling, Pain and Loss of Function. Of course you can't see redness if the inflammation is internal but you can sure see swelling and loss of function and you can FEEL the PAIN.
Since we are talking about chronic PAIN, I will assume that you can see the connection.
Acute inflammation is good, it indicates that your body is responding to an acute injury or illness and repairing your body. The pain that you feel is generally self limiting but can be very severe. Think about a cut on your finger. It hurts like a "you-know-what" for a day or so and then the pain goes away. That is normal.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is bad, it indicates that your body is either in a constant state of injury or insult or your "inflammatory system" has gone haywire. Neither scenario is good.
First, let me say that all 3 of the key issues listed above have an effect on inflammation in the body.
But today we are going to talk chemistry. DIET!
I am not going to bore you with the biochemistry involved with all of this but you need to know that there are foods that push your body into an inflammatory state and there are foods that decrease inflammation.
Keep in mind that inflammation is a "bio-chemical" process. If you get a cut, that cut is healed by a chemical process. The reason that I am hammering this on you is that, chemicals get into our bodies by eating and drinking.
So . . . Change what you eat . . . Change the chemistry that goes on inside your body.
For the purpose of this discussion, I will refer to foods that push you towards an inflammatory state as "Pro-Inflammatory" and foods that decrease your inflammation as "Anti-Inflammatory."
I am just going to list the foods that are Pro-Inflammatory and those that are Anti-Inflammatory.
Eat from the Anti-Inflammatory list and avoid the Pro-Inflammatory foods. It's kinda simple. If you would like a more complicated dissertation on this subject . . . Take me to lunch. :)
Pro-Inflammatory Foods (AVOID THESE)
Processed meats (like lunch meats)
Sugary drinks (soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, etc.)
Trans Fats (Generally found in fried food)
Gluten (which is found in most grains)
Soybean oil and vegetable oil
Processed snacks (chips, crackers, cookies, etc.)
Desserts like cookies, candy, ice cream
Excessive amounts of alcohol (One drink every day or two of beer or wine is probably okay)
In some people foods in the nightshade category such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes
Also, an over-all diet that is high in carbohydrates is likely to lead to inflammation because "carbohydrates" break down into "sugar" in your body and sugar in inflammatory.
ANTI-Inflammatory Foods (EAT THESE BABY)
Coconut Oil (Great for cooking or put some MCT oil in your coffee or shakes)
Avocados (eat one of these suckers every day)
Dark Leafy greens like kale and spinach
Blueberries, Blackberries, cherries
Dark Red Grapes
Cruciferous Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
Beans and lentils (in moderation as these are high in carbohydrates)
Extra virgin Olive Oil
Cold water Fish like salmon and sardines (make sure they are not farm raised)
Beef and Chicken (Make sure that your meat and chicken comes from a source that is Free-Range, Non GMO, No Steroids and not a bunch of antibiotic use. In other words, avoid commercially raised beef and chicken but eat the heck out of naturally raised beef and chicken.
A little Red Wine (Remember no more than 1 glass per day)
Himalayan Sea Salt
Apple Cider Vinegar
Well that's kinda it. I can tell you from experience that when I eat foods on the Pro-Inflammatory list, my body aches, I can't hardly move and I feel 80. When I eat from the Anti-Inflammatory list and avoid the PRO list, I have no aches or pains, I can move better than most 25 year olds and I feel better than when I was 20. . . and it's almost an immediate change. A couple days at the most.
I will be honest, it's not always easy to eat an anti-inflammatory diet but it sure is worth it. At least to me and I have found that understanding which foods are going to make me ache helps me to "RESET" my eating when I get off the rails.
You are going to have to eat for the rest of your life. It seems like a good idea to me to understand what effect my food choices will have on my health and in this article I really am talking about pain.
Inflammation is a much deeper "rabbit hole" than just pain, of that I can assure you and of that I plan to write future articles about.
Let me know what you think about this article.