Are you in chronic pain? Well, you’re not alone! Did you know that over 3.4 million Australians live with chronic pain and this number is set to rise to over 5 million by 2050. That’s every 1 in 7 adults who suffer, with the most common pain issue being joint and back pain.
Pain is a complex issue with many different causes. What we do know is that some of your most common foods and daily behaviors can trigger an inflammatory response that can result in, or worsen chronic pain. So, let’s take a look at what pain IS and what we can do to reduce and maybe even prevent it.
What is pain and inflammation?
Pain is a message that there is something in your body that is out-of-balance and needs to be fixed.
There are 2 different types of pain:
- Acute pain which lasts a few hours or days and this is usually from an obvious cause. This acute pain is the body’s positive feedback in response to an injury. As this inflammatory response is required to heal and repair damaged tissues. E.g. muscle pain after working out stimulates your body to rebuild your muscles, thereby creating stronger muscles. The pain is switched on to aid repair and then it is TURNED OFF.
- Chronic pain lasts longer than 3-6 months, is often more subtle, but can be debilitating for some. Research shows that one of the biggest causes of chronic pain is ‘out of control‘ inflammation. This is a background response to continuous, low-level damage on a cellular level. This is where the inflammation turns on and DOESN’T TURN OFF. This is commonly experienced as joint pain, back pain, muscle pain, period pain, migraines and chronic disease-related pain.
What to eat to reduce pain & inflammation
Following an anti-inflammatory diet can make a huge difference in helping to reduce inflammation and pain. Below is a list of specific foods to add to your diet that have been proven to do just this;
Studies have shown that curcumin, a compound in turmeric, may reduce inflammation in the body. This has been consumed traditionally as Golden Milk, or in curries and soups. Curcumin is most active when eaten with fat based ingredients and black pepper.
Omega 3 healthy fats:
Aim for 3-4 serves of omega-3 fats per week from wild-caught oily fish, hemp seeds, walnuts and/or flaxseeds. The fish highest in Omega-3 are SMASHT which stands for Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring and Tuna. If you are not eating enough fatty fish and flax seeds you can also get the same benefits from a superior-quality fish oil supplement (or plant algae supplement for vegans) to meet you daily omega-3 requirements. Omega 3 can reduce the inflammatory load on your body and even reduce pain signals to the brain.
Other healthy fats: Load up on healthy anti-inflammatory fats including olive oil, olives, avocado, walnuts, other raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed meats.
Organic sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir contain beneficial probiotics that help to form a healthy gut microbiome. Choose sauerkrauts, kefirs and kombuchas from the fridge section of a store. Healthy gut function is closely attributed to a well regulated immune system. Thereby reducing our overactive inflammatory response.
Colorful vegetables and fruits:
Brightly colored vegetables and fruits are also a dense source of anti-inflammatory polyphenols. Berries are the most polyphenol-rich fruits, and they also happen to be low in sugar, which makes them a perfect food. If you want to decrease inflammation or address chronic pain, try eating a couple servings per day of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries. You can also add in colorful veggies like red cabbage, spinach, kale, rainbow chard, broccoli, and asparagus.
What not to eat (cut back on)
This includes processed packaged foods like; crackers, pastries, sweets, ready made meals like noodles and savoury treats.
Deli meats: Deli meats are high in nitrates that are a known carcinogen and inflammatory compounds. Avoid deli meats as much as possible including devon, ham, salami and other luncheon meats.
Processed oils: Ditch the refined oils including vegetable, canola and sunflower oils. Instead use organic virgin coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil or walnut oil for cooking.
These chemicals that mimic the taste of sugar are well known to disrupt our gut microbiome negatively, and as a result trigger inflammation. Hence, avoid these as much as possible by reading your food packet labels and looking out for numbers, especially those in the E950s. The most common ones in our food and drinks are sucralose (E955), aspartamine (E951), saccharin (E954) and Acesulfame K (E950).
Drinking alcohol is like pouring fuel our the inflammatory fire. Limit to no more than 4 drinks on one occasion, and at least 2 alcohol free days a week.
Your body can develop intolerances to certain foods that, if consumed, can trigger an immune response and cause your digestive tract to become inflamed. This can be experienced as bloating, gas, gut-pain, nausea, headaches, skin rashes. Therefore, if eaten frequently, these trigger foods can result in chronic low-grade inflammation and can damage issues. So, it is key to address your food intolerances and remove the sources of inflammation to let your body heal. Common trigger foods include gluten, dairy, soy, corn, egg and peanuts. Always work with your Dietitian, Nutritionist or other health care professional when eliminating potential trigger foods to minimise the risk of nutrient deficiencies from restricting foods.
Posture and strengthening exercises
Here’s your friendly reminder to remember to stretch.
Evidence shows that simple stretches and exercises can help to reduce muscle and joint pain from as little as 10 minute session per day!
Strengthening your core and pelvic muscles will help support the spine.
Here’s a quick video to help strengthen your core (suitable for any age) >> Click here.
Regularly move your body. Sitting or standing for long periods can fatigue even the strongest of backs. Hop up out of your chair and go for a quick walk – stretch and do some deep breathing. Also follow the recommended 2 1/2 hours of exercise a week. Exercise is anti inflammatory and will keep you fit.
And finally, if you’ve been to see a physio or chiropractor you’ve probably been given some exercises that are specific for you. Keep them up and you’ll see improvement.
Key ANTI-INFLAMMATORY supplements and topical gels
There are some amazing anti inflammatory supplements that can help reduce pain and inflammation. Our favs are listed below;
Fusion Ocean Pure concentrated fish oil – high dose Omega 3 to reduce inflammation mediators.
Fusion Pain & Inflammation – a White Willow and Boswellia combo has been traditional used to as a pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory formula.
Caruso’s Pain-analgesia – contains a revolutionary ingredient called PEA. PEA is a natural compound made by your body that helps control inflammation and pain.
Fusion Pain Relief Gel – this is a topical gel with magnesium, turmeric and arnica. Great for those mild muscle aches and pains.
This information is for education purposes only and is not designed to treat or diagnose a disease. If you do experience any sudden or intense pain please see your health care practitioner.