As the old adage decrees, you are what you eat. If you consistently fuel your body with poor nutrition, you will feel poorly. It is common knowledge that dietary choices can help or harm your health. Poor choices result in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a litany of other medical conditions. Did you know that dietary choices can also influence your body's inflammatory response and keep you in pain? If you have been enduring chronic pain, choosing the right foods can help you in your quest for relief.
The Inflammatory Response
When viruses or bacteria invade your body, your immune system shifts into high gear as your disease-fighting white blood cells go into battle to fight infection. The battle scene in your body can become swollen, reddened, or painful, and that is collectively referred to as inflammation. When it comes to fighting viruses and bacteria, this inflammation is a normal part of your body's healing process. However, other things can trigger an inflammatory response, including poor dietary choices. If your diet consists of unhealthy foods, then your body ends up in a state of chronic inflammation, and that can leave you in chronic discomfort.
Foods to Avoid
The foods that can trigger inflammation and pain are those that are high in refined sugar, high in saturated fats, and highly processed. Sugar-laden products and highly refined carbohydrates, such as soda and white bread, raise the level of cytokines, which are inflammatory transmitters. Conversely, whole-grain carbohydrates take longer for the body to metabolize, and this reduces blood sugar spikes and prevents the increase in cytokines. The following foods should be avoided:
- Fast food
- Deep-fried foods
- Soda, fruit drinks, and other sweetened beverages
- White rice, white-flour pasta, white-flour breads, and processed cereals
- Pastries and candies
- Convenience foods, such as frozen foods
The best way to avoid heaping processed and convenience foods into your shopping cart is to do most of your grocery shopping around the outer perimeter of the supermarket, where the foods that you should be eating regularly are typically displayed.
The Mediterranean Diet
Rheumatoid arthritis is one example of a condition that is characterized by chronic pain and inflammation, and it affects roughly 1.5 million Americans. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, rheumatoid arthritis affects fewer people who live in the southern Mediterranean region. This may be attributed to the healthy nutritional habits that have come to be known as the Mediterranean diet. If you change your eating habits to mirror the Mediterranean diet, you will be taking a proactive approach to reducing chronic inflammation as well as reducing your risk for the following health conditions:
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Alzheimer's disease
To consume the Mediterranean diet, you will need to include the following foods in your diet:
- Plenty of produce, which includes a variety of vegetables and fruit
- Legumes, such as beans and lentils
- Fish that is rich in omega-3 fats, such as salmon and tuna
- Lean protein sources, such as chicken and eggs
- Healthy fats, such as olives, nuts, and avocados
- Whole-grain complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain pasta
Red meat and full-fat dairy products should be consumed sparingly. As you adopt this healthier nutrition plan, you can also incorporate some specific foods that work to kick inflammation and pain to the curb.
Foods to Embrace
Some foods contain nutrients that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties to reduce your pain. Some examples of such foods include the following:
- Ginger contains several strong antioxidants that block the enzymes that play a role in the inflammatory response.
- Edamame, tofu, and other soy products contain isoflavones, which are plant-based hormones that fight inflammation.
- Turmeric contains curcumin, which prevents a particular protein that sparks the body's inflammatory response from activating.
- Cherries are high in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that help to combat pain and inflammation.
- Hot peppers are loaded with phytochemicals that fight pain and inflammation. One of these phytochemicals, capsaicin, has been used as an ingredient in analgesic topical ointments.
Once you have been eating healthier food, exceptions that you make on holidays, treat days, or other special occasions may help you to pinpoint which specific foods cause you pain and general malaise. If you prefer to pursue a pain-free existence without pills, try making the aforementioned dietary changes as part of your natural pain-management plan.
Talk to a company such as Pain Relief Center to learn more.