Your diet should support your body in every way possible by providing it with the nutrients it needs to function well. Unfortunately, modern diets have become calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, which can have a big impact on your health, including the level of pain you may be experiencing.
To shed some light on the connection between pain and your diet, Dr. Boris Shwartzman, Dr. Do Chan, and the rest of the team here at Comprehensive Pain Management present a little food for thought when it comes to managing both chronic and acute pain.
Diet and inflammation
One of the primary drivers of chronic pain is system-wide inflammation, which is a response by your immune system to purify your body of toxins. Those toxins that your immune system is fighting often stem from your diet.
Modern diets favor processed foods, fatty foods, and sugary foods, all of which can cause your immune system to behave abnormally as it registers these foods as it would harmful bacteria. As a result, you can experience persistent, low-grade inflammation that can wreak havoc on your body’s tissues, causing or exacerbating pain.
One of the best ways to improve immune function and combat chronic inflammation is through a diet that supports your immune system, rather than sets it off. For example, The Arthritis Foundation calls the Mediterranean diet, “The Ultimate Arthritis Diet.”
The Mediterranean diet includes:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
- Spices and herbs
- Seafood and fatty fishes, such as salmon and tuna
- Poultry and eggs
What you won’t see on this list are foods that are processed, refined, or chock full of sugar. A good way to think about this diet is to only eat foods that are in their original form — an apple instead of an apple fritter or whole-grain oatmeal instead of refined, sugary cereal. As a side note, while that steak may be unprocessed, too much red meat can promote inflammation.
Diet and nerve health
Another way your diet can influence pain is if you have certain vitamin deficiencies that can lead to poor nerve health. More specifically, we want to focus on vitamin B12, which plays a critical role in supporting nerve health.
Not only can a B12 deficiency lead to neuropathy, there’s growing evidence that supports using B12 as a treatment for nerve damage. Researchers believe that B12 promotes myelination (strengthening the nerve sheath), increases nerve regeneration, and decreases ectopic nerve firing (spontaneous nerve impulses).
While we can recommend B12 supplements, there are some foods that contain ample amounts of the vitamin, including:
- Certain fish and shellfish, such as clams, tuna, salmon, and sardines
- Dairy products
Beef is also a great source of vitamin B12, but given what we explored above about red meat and inflammation, you may want to limit this B12-rich food.
The bottom line is that it is possible to combat pain through your diet, and we’re happy to help you devise a nutritional plan. To get started, please contact one of our offices — in Attleboro or Franklin, Massachusetts, or South Kingstown or Warwick, Rhode Island — to set up an appointment.