In 2016, 20% of Americans suffered from chronic pain.
Nagging aches in the body are debilitating. They can impact daily life in ways one could never imagine.
But, standard pain-relievers are popping up with some serious side effects. So, it only makes sense that consumers are searching for natural approaches to pain management.
One of these effective approaches is the anti-inflammatory diet for chronic pain.
To learn the science behind how an anti-inflammatory diet can manage pain, just keep reading.
Chronic Pain and Inflammation
Did you know that the pain isn’t a damaged tissue in itself but the inflammation? Inflammation looks and feels like increased blood flow, redness, and swelling. By reducing the inflammatory response in the body, it’s possible that pain can be reduced.
But, before anyone starts an anti-inflammatory diet, it’s best to consult a doctor. Inflammation is essential for fighting infections. As a result, too little inflammation can cause serious issues in these cases.
What Is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
The anti-inflammatory diet is simple: it’s all the foods that reduce inflammation in the body and none of the foods that increase it. It reprograms the body’s molecular signaling to prevent inflammation from happening in the first place.
Here are all the components of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acid family is three different fatty acids: ALA, DHA, and EPA. For the purpose of discussing the anti-inflammatory diet, we’ll focus on the last two. These are the fatty acids found in fish and seafood.
Fatty acids make up cell membranes. The fatty acid composition of these membranes determines what kind of chemicals they secrete. If the cell membranes are made primarily of omega-6 fats, they secrete chemicals that promote inflammation. But, if there’s enough omega-3s available from the diet, omega-3s will start to take over the cell membranes and produce chemicals that reduce inflammation.
Turmeric is a golden spice that contains high levels of compounds called curcuminoids. These are powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients that can reduce inflammation in the body.
To make the most of turmeric, always consume it with a healthy fat like coconut or olive oil and black pepper.
Inflammatory proteins that characterize inflammation secrete damaging chemicals called free radicals. These go around the body and can damage cell components, which can stimulate more inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle.
Antioxidants can intervene in this cycle and neutralize these damaging free radicals. This not only protects the integrity of cells but prevents more inflammation.
Some examples of antioxidant-rich foods are wild blueberries, strawberries, green tea, herbs and spices, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Fermented foods provide healthy bacteria to the gut. Certain strains of healthy bacteria can produce anti-inflammatory compounds called short-chain fatty acids. By repopulating the gut with more of these healthy bacteria, more short-chain fatty acids can be produced to reduce inflammation.
Some good fermented foods are sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.
Remove Processed Vegetable Oils
Processed vegetable oils are sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil. These all contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. They often come in clear containers, causing these already inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to become more inflammatory. Processed foods also usually contain these foods.
A good chronic pain diet should remove these altogether.
Fiber is negatively associated with inflammation markers. This means that fiber may help reduce inflammation in the body.
High fiber foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Reducing Sugar Intake
Foods that contain refined sugar spike glucose in the blood. In normal cases, insulin spikes with this glucose to prevent it from doing damage to cells. But, consistent high intakes of sugar over time can cause a phenomenon known as insulin resistance. This means insulin no longer spikes as well in the presence of glucose. As a result, glucose blood levels can be higher than usual.
High glucose, or hyperglycemia, is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body. So, it’s best to keep sugar consumption to a minimum.
How Does an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Chronic Pain Work?
Inflammation is a key part of chronic pain. For this reason, an anti-inflammatory diet can be helpful for those struggling with chronic pain.
Let’s talk about how it works.
Reduced Inflammatory Protein Production
High levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet can promote lower total inflammation. This is coupled with the short chain fatty acids from the healthy gut bacteria in the digestive tract and turmeric.
With these combined, they can prevent the production of inflammatory proteins like cytokines, chemokines, and macrophages. These components of the immune system are helpful in short time spans. But, they can damage tissue over time and be a source of chronic pain.
By reducing inflammatory protein production through these foods, inflammation can be neutralized.
Lowered Free Radicals
Free radicals are responsible for tissue damage that can restimulate the inflammatory process.
Environmental factors and inflammatory proteins produce free radicals. Wherever the source, high levels of antioxidants in the diet can neutralize these damaging compounds.
Intense Chronic Pain: Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Enough?
Antioxidants, turmeric, and omega-3s are hallmarks of an anti-inflammatory diet. Fermented foods can repopulate the gut for lowered inflammation. Removing sugar and omega-6 oils also benefit inflammation levels.
But, in the case of intense pain, an anti-inflammatory diet for chronic pain might not cut it. Lowering inflammation is beneficial for health but sometimes pain medications are needed.
So, what are some non-addictive options for chronic pain relief?
At NWA Interventional Pain, we tackle pain at the source by using powerful treatments to reduce inflammation that causes chronic pain. We also use conservative treatments to reduce pain naturally. We work with a variety of pain conditions and offer advanced treatment options.
Suffering from chronic pain and live in the Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers or Springdale, Arkansas area? Contact us to make an appointment today.