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‘You are what you eat’

How many times have you heard or said this popular phrase?

This is especially true when it comes to the issue of chronic pain.

“A lot of chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation, and the evidence is quite strong that your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation,” says Dr Fred Tabung of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But your diet is also one of the best ways to reduce it.”

A wealth of research shows that foods and drinks that reduce inflammation can reduce chronic pain and improve your mood and, as you’d expect, avoiding foods and drinks that cause inflammation will help reduce pain further still.

 

What is the role of inflammation?
Inflammation has a bad rap, and because of the pain it can cause, you can see why. It’s a Jekyll and Hyde character when it comes to your health. If you’re injured or get an infection, inflammation signals to the immune system to send white blood cells to the affected areas to repair and fight your corner.

After the healing process has passed, the inflammation usually subsides too. However, sometimes your immune system stays on after the infection has passed and/or the injury heals.

This can cause increasing amounts of damage to healthy cells and organs and result in nagging pain throughout affected areas. Chronic inflammation also brings with it increased risks for your heart, certain types of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, among other things.

 

How does your diet fit into all this?
“Your diet can help support your immune system by having it turn on and turn off at the appropriate times. Yet a poor diet can alter your immune system, so it acts abnormally and can contribute to persistent low-grade inflammation,” says Dr Tabung.

So where do you start? What are the best anti-inflammation foods you can get your hands on?
We’ve scoured the internet and collated the best foods from the best research to make life easier for you. Consider it your cheat sheet to diet based pain reduction!

 

Ginger
A cornerstone of traditional medicine, this potent root is best known for its anti-nausea effects but it can also fight pain. One study we came across found that ginger tablets worked just as well as drugs like ibuprofen for relieving menstrual pain.

Garlic
Garlic, another cornerstone of traditional food and medicine that has been shown to reduce inflammation and aid joint pain, among many other things.

Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal. This has effects that work in the much same way as ibuprofen. When cooking with olive oil you must be aware the hotter you cook with it, the lower the benefits return.

Salmon
Salmon will be on every ‘great for you’ food list you care to find, and for good reason too. It’s a heart-healthy fish crammed full of omega-3 fatty acids which aid in fighting inflammation. The fatty acids can help stop the inflammation process before it even has a chance to start.

Turmeric
Turmeric is a great food to add to your diet to help fight the good fight against inflammation. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It’s been shown to possess strong anti-inflammatory benefits and is a potent antioxidant. Add it to soups and smoothies or an easy way to reap the benefits.

Chilli Peppers
Hot peppers are also chock-full of vitamins B-6, C and Capsaicin which has well documented painkilling and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has also shown that consuming chillies benefits heart and lung health as well as helping metabolic balance. How hot you go is up to you.

Blueberries
Jam-packed full of phytonutrients these berries fight inflammation and reduce pain. Frozen blueberries can be as nutrient-rich as fresh blueberries if you’re not in season, some other fruits with antioxidants and polyphenols to seek out would include pineapple, oranges and strawberries.

Garlic
Garlic, another cornerstone of traditional food and medicine that has been shown to reduce inflammation and aid joint pain, among many other things.

Much research also states that eliminating gluten, dairy and sugar enables the body to run in a reduced inflammatory state. I am currently doing this as I have always avoided gluten and dairy a lot anyway, sugar always is a good one to reduce also. Everybody’s circumstances are different and the reasons behind doing things are ultimately different, so please do think long and hard about the reasons that you are seeking changes through food.

If you would like to add something to the list that currently helps you, please get in touch!

I’ll happily add to the list and the above certainly help me 🙂

Until next time,

Stay safe,

Sophie x