How Nutrition Plays into Pain Management
Treating chronic pain usually involves a variety of approaches, including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. Changing your diet may be the biggest lifestyle change you can make to reduce your pain. Diet is usually not associated with pain management, but some foods may aggravate your pain and cause flare-ups. To tackle your pain, it’s important that you follow a healthy, balanced diet and pay close attention to how your body responds to what you eat.
How Diet Affects Pain
For some people, the source of their pain is easily identifiable. For others, like those with fibromyalgia, the pain seems to have no root cause. Though doctors are unsure why fibromyalgia occurs, they believe that people with the condition have overly sensitive nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. For these people, certain foods may trigger the release of neurotransmitters and increase their pain. Other foods may cause excessive inflammation and aggravate the digestive tract, which can cause a pain flare up. There is still a lot of research to be done in the field of pain management, but it never hurts to eat a little healthier.
Eat More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Pain is often linked to inflammation and digestive problems, which is why you should eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, avocados, spinach, and apples will aid digestion and regulate bowel movements. Foods like blueberries, beets, and red peppers are also known for their anti-inflammatory effects, which with further decrease pain. In general, stay away from processed foods that advertise that they are “high in fiber” and opt for fresh, fibrous produce instead.
Cut Back on Dairy and Yeast
Lactose intolerance and gluten intolerances are more common than you might think. In fact, nearly 70% of adults have some degree of lactose intolerance. Eating foods that your body has trouble digesting will only worsen your pain. To see if dairy and yeast are upsetting your body, temporarily cut them out of your diet and pay attention to how your body responds. If you notice a dramatic reduction in your pain, keep them out of your diet in the future.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
Cutting back on caffeine is one of the most effective pain management tactics because some pain conditions are linked to imbalanced brain chemicals and unrestful sleep. If you drink coffee or soda throughout the day, now is the time to cut back. You do not need to cut out caffeine completely but drink caffeinated beverages in moderation and be conscious of the time of day. To improve your sleep, limit caffeine to the AM hours only.
Avoid Junk Food
Last, avoid highly-processed junk food and fast food. This is a good rule for anyone, but it is especially important if you have chronic pain. Too much junk food can lead to obesity, disrupt sleep, and inhibit the body’s ability to fight illnesses — all of which can increase chronic pain.
Contact a Pain Management Specialist
In addition to changing your diet and lifestyle, you should also visit a pain management specialist. At Haven Physical Therapy, we can help you manage your pain, so you can get back to doing the things you love. To talk with a pain management specialist, contact us today!