Experiencing ongoing pain is called chronic pain and yes, it is true that chronic pain wrecks lives. It can destroy happiness and may affect career and relationships. It even disturbs sleep and may cause irritability, depression, and suicidal thoughts. With chronic sufferings, our system does not realize that there should be an end to pain. Pain stimulates chemicals that cause inflammation, leading to other chemicals causing more pain – and it goes on.
There are different disease conditions such as, chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, and arthritis, which cause a state of chronic pain and seriously alter the quality of life. Chronic pain sufferers often feel that life is more challenging for them.
There are millions of people across the globe suffering from chronic pain and unfortunately, conventional medicines have limited scope as a treatment option. While relieving pain, these drugs may destroy gastrointestinal tract and may produce potentially dangerous side effects. But it is not an end to hope.
Fortunately, apart from alternative therapies, food has a great influence on pain-tolerance capacity. A specific substance in food can increase or decrease the pain and inflammation.
How Foods Affect Pain?
According to scientific studies, there are certain chemicals in the food we eat, which can trigger the release of neurotransmitters and may increase the pain and inflammation.
Second important thing that can cause the pain is “Allergic reaction to food”. Food allergies (that could be specific to each individual) may trigger the inflammation. Wheat, corn, eggs, soy, nuts, citrus foods, and dairy products, are some of the common foods that may cause allergic reactions. Learning to avoid these foods is a good option to start with, which further avoids inflammation.
Now-a-days adopting an “anti-inflammatory diet” is the most exciting approach for counteracting the chronic inflammation. According to experts, “Anti-inflammatory diet is a diet, that would not hurt but may help in easing the intensity of chronic pain”.
The famous author Dr. Neal D. Barnard reveals “there are pain-safe and nutritious foods available, that can soothe pain by improving blood circulation, relieving inflammation, and balancing the hormonal imbalance”. It is a revolutionary approach towards healing that can help a lot.
There is growing evidence that lifestyle changes such as, eating the healthy diet, and regular exercise may have a positive effect in treatment and prevention of diseases, but it is always important to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Nutritional Elements That Fight Chronic Pain Naturally
Foods Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acid
There are two types of essential fatty acids – Omega-3 and Omega-6. They are called essential fatty acids because, our body cannot produce them. They must be supplied by the food which we eat.
There is an evidence that Omega-3 may reduce certain types of chronic pain and may even decrease the long-term need for anti-inflammatory drugs, while Omega-6 promotes inflammation. Most people find it easier to get Omega-6 than Omega-3 in their diet.
Scientific studies suggested that the amounts of essential fatty acids in the diet may not be as important as the ratio of these two (Omega-3 and Omega-6). Usually, for a diseased person, 2 : 1 to 4 : 1 ratio is recommended. And for getting a perfect ratio, we can adopt some simple dietary changes such as, the use of olive oil or canola oil instead of vegetable oils, and if you are a fish lover, switch to more of cold water fishes (such as tuna, bluefish, and salmon). They are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acid.
Omega 3 fatty acid can be used as a safe alternative treatment for chronic pain. Scientific studies suggested that Omega-3 fatty acid demonstrated equivalent effect of Ibuprofen in reducing arthritic pain, and the best part is that it is free from side effects.
Best Sources Of Omega-3 Fatty Acid
- Canola oil
- Wheat germ
- Chia seeds
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps our brain to make serotonin. Serotonin plays a therapeutic role in pain and inflammation and works as a “Natural pain buffer” and thus, it can be used in easing the intensity of chronic pain.
Apart from that, serotonin is a “feel good hormone” of the body, which improves sleep and mood disorders, relieves depression and anxiety. So it is another help for chronic pain sufferer. Usually, chronic pain causes depression and low self-esteem in numerous patients. And serotonin helps in improving their mental state too. Dr. Murphree (a famous author who has written several books on fibromyalgia) clearly explained the benefits of tryptophan in treating sleep disorders, depression, and fibromyalgia.
Best Sources Of Tryptophan
- Red meat
Foods Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
There are certain foods available that have “anti-inflammatory properties”. They can reduce pain and inflammation. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can be a safe and alternative approach for dealing with chronic pain.
Most Easily Available Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Garlic has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It boosts our immune system and helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
It is one of the oldest roots that is being used in ancient Ayurvedic treatment for its great benefits. The substance called “gingerol” is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is believed that it can work like anti-inflammatory drugs without any side effects.
Whole grains are the good source of fiber and have higher nutritional value than refined carbohydrates. But, one surprising benefit of whole grain is that it can reduce the level of C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is a marker that increases in various inflammatory diseases like in rheumatoid arthritis.
Foods Have Antioxidant Properties
Actually, antioxidants are the substances that neutralize free radicals and prevent cell damage. It is believed that free radicals may contribute to chronic pain. If left unchecked, these excessive free radicals can further damage the already inflamed tissues. Apart from neutralizing these free radicals, antioxidants increase our immunity and improve the overall health. So, it is wise to include “Antioxidant foods” in our diet to reduce pain and inflammation.
Best Sources Of Antioxidants
Green tea1is an excellent source of polyphenols, which is a great antioxidant and helps reduce free radicals in the body that can cause pain and inflammation.
Not only cherries, but raspberries and strawberries have an exceptional nutritional value. Anthocyanins are the active ingredients (similar to aspirin) that have wonderful antioxidant properties.
Capsaicin is the active compound in cayenne that makes it a profound antioxidant agent and helps in reducing inflammation.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and collard) are well-known source of nutrition. They contain an abundance of carotenoids – the antioxidant that protects cells and plays a vital role in reducing inflammation.
If we are talking about anti-inflammatory foods how can we ever forget the great “turmeric”? It is an important component of ancient Ayurveda medicine and used extensively in Indian cuisine. The curcuminoids are the active and powerful ingredients in turmeric, can be as powerful as non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs in fighting inflammation.
The best part of turmeric is that it can be used as a part of a diet, as a supplement and topically too. It is considered as one of the best natural anti-inflammatory products2.
So as a conclusion, it is amazing to see that including these foods and modifying the diet, helps in reducing the intensity of chronic pain. But for a complete and better relief, only diet modification is not enough. Adopting a healthy lifestyle such as eliminating unhealthy and processed foods from the diet, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, regular exercising (according to your body condition), maintaining an ideal body weight and paying enough attention to overcome your mental stress, are some easiest ways that will control your pain more effectively. And you would be able to enjoy your life more peacefully!
|↑1||Chacko, Sabu M., Priya T. Thambi, Ramadasan Kuttan, and Ikuo Nishigaki. “Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review.” Chinese medicine 5, no. 1 (2010): 1.|
|↑2||Maroon, Joseph C., Jeffrey W. Bost, and Adara Maroon. “Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief.” Surg Neurol Int 1 (2010): 80.|