If you have chronic pain, have you ever considered that what you put on your fork could be making your aches and pains better—or worse?
Scientific evidence shows that the things we eat can influence our experience of pain—whether by alleviating an underlying health condition or exacerbating it. Our physical therapist team is happy to educate our patients about ways to make smarter choices in their diets so their physical therapy treatment plan will be more effective overall. We encourage you to call our clinic today if you’d like to set up an appointment with a physical therapist and see how your food can help with your mood and function.
Creating A “Pain-Free” Plate—3 Tips to Improve Your Nutrition
There’s no one-size fits all when it comes to nutrition, but the following suggestions are good places to start:
1. Avoid foods that promote inflammation.
Chronic inflammation has been linked with everything from arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease. Foods known to promote damaging inflammation in the body include dairy, gluten, trans fats, and perhaps the most notorious of all—sugar.
Eliminating or minimizing these pro-inflammatory foods from your diet is one of the best ways to help reduce your chronic pain. Keep in mind that if you eat these things regularly and then take a “diet vacation” from them, you may actually notice a brief flare-up of your pain and other symptoms like headaches, food cravings, and irritability. This can happen if your body is so used to having these substances in your body that removing them causes withdrawal-like symptoms! Fortunately, most people see these issues resolve within a week or two.
2. Consume plenty of healthy fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids—found in foods like fish, eggs, and nuts—decrease inflammation and promote a healthier gut and immune system, all of which can lead to improved pain management. Eating more of these foods and adding a high quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement is essential for people with chronic pain. This is especially true since many of us consume too little omega-3 and too much omega-6, which is found in things like vegetable oils. In fact, the standard American diet has a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which has been shown to promote inflammation. Increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption helps normalize this ratio and will improve tissue health throughout the body.
Other nutrients that help reduce inflammation include antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins and minerals like magnesium and Vitamin C, which are rich in foods leafy green vegetables and berries.
3. Drink More Water!
Our bodies are mostly water, and we need to be replenishing ourselves sufficiently throughout the day to replace the water we lose with movement, metabolism, sweating, and other basic physiological functions. Drinking enough water can also keep your tissues healthy and may help reduce stiffness in your joints. So in addition to consuming water-rich foods like veggies and fruits, it’s also important to drink filtered or spring water regularly.
How much is enough? Aim for about one-third to one-half your body weight in fluid ounces per day, but you may need more or less depending on your health, activity, and environment.
Ready to See How Nutrition Choices Can Improve Your Pain?
If you want help dishing up healthy and pain-relieving meals that can enhance your injury recovery or chronic pain condition, contact our physical therapy clinic today and schedule an appointment. We’d be happy to offer you comprehensive and customized guidance.