Are you causing your pain? I’m not talking about muscle soreness caused by a good strong workout. I am talking about the chronic pain that we sometimes blame on arthritis or fibromyalgia, or simply ‘getting older’. What we eat can have a big impact on how much pain we experience.
Certain foods cause more inflammation in the body, while others reduce inflammation. It is like having two containers of clear liquid. One is gasoline, the other is water. If you pour one on a fire it is going to explode in your face. If you pour the other one on the fire it will diminish or put out the fire, depending on how big a fire you have.
Foods that cause pain and inflammation include:
- Sugar. This is one reason people feel worse around the holidays. They blame it on the winter weather, but it is the sugar in those Christmas goodies.
- Cooking oils. We are talking about the vegetable oils here. They are high in the Omega 6 fatty acids that cause inflammation. One way to look at it is that if it is on the shelves in a clear container leave it there!
- Trans fats. These are found in processed foods. If it stops by a factory on the way from the farmer to the store read the label very carefully. If it contains vegetable oil, and especially any oil that has been hydrogenated in any way it is going to cause you problems.
- Dairy products. It may not be the dairy itself, but the pasteurization process the milk has gone through that is causing the problem. Milk that comes from cows that are grass fed without the antibiotics and hormones is less likely to cause problems. If you still notice inflammation try the raw milk you can get from the farmer directly.
- Meat. Just like with the dairy products it depends on what the animal was fed as to how much problem it is going to cause you. Once again we look at the Omega 6 vs the Omega 3 fatty acids. Factory farmed meats contain a lot more of the 6 and less of the 3. Organic meats are the other way around.
- High levels of alcohol. Some are better than others, but any alcohol in excess will increase pain and inflammation.
- Refined grains. You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to have problems with grains and the products made from them. Part of it is the refining process. The more the grain is refined the more the body thinks it is sugar, and it reacts accordingly.
- Food additives. There is a long list of examples here. We are talking about artificial sugars, MSG, and even fake colors. All of them increase your pain levels. Not all additives have to be listed on the label. To be really safe the rule of thumb is that if it stops at a factory on the way from the farm to the store, leave it at the store, no matter how great the original ingredients were.
- Nightshades. This one doesn’t apply to everyone, but you won’t know until you eliminate them for up to 90 days and then try adding them back in. Nightshades are a group of plants that contain contain a substance called solanceae or solanine. If you are sensitive to solanine it reacts like pouring gasoline on a fire. If you are not there will be no effect. The 90 days is to completely clear your body of all traces of solanine. Then when you eat some it quickly lets you know that this is a problem for you. Nightshades include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, blueberries, huckleberries, goji berries, artichokes, and products made from them like salsa, tabasco and Worcestershire or A-1 sauce.
I think I just heard someone say there is nothing left to eat. Actually there are a lot of foods and supplements that will help you in your fight against pain and inflammation. Let’s look at the foods first. Many of these are high in antioxidants.
- Fatty fish. These contain more Omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure they are wild caught and not factory farmed.
- Beets and beet juice. Not only helps inflammation, but improves athletic performance and reduces blood pressure.
- Cherries, the darker the better.
In addition there are a lot of spices that not only make your food taste better, but reduce inflammation as well.
- Turmeric. This can be used in cooking or taken as a supplement. It can also be applied topically.
- Cayenne Pepper. Only try this if you have proven you are not sensitive to nightshades. It works best in topical applcations.
- Cinnamon and Ginger. Both are high in antioxidants and can be used for flavoring, supplementation or topically. A great way of using it is to mix with coconut oil and use it in a massage.
- Flax seed. Like fish this contains the Omega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation.
- Fruits and vegetables, unless they are listed as nightshades.
- Black Pepper. This is NOT a nightshade!
- Celery seed
- Green tea
In addition to foods there are herbs and supplements that reduce inflammation.
- Boswellia, also known as Indian Frankincense. Increases mobility and reduces inflammation.
- Astaxanthin has been shown to be as effective, or possibly more so, than over the counter pain relievers.
- Peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils.
- White willow bark. This can be found in liquid or pill form. It can be used internally or topically. It contains salicin which the body converts to salicylic acid. This is the concept behind aspirin.
- Nettle. Most commonly used for allergies it is also helpful for inflammation.
- Dandelion leaves.
In addition to these helpful foods, spices and supplements you will also want to look at things like gentle exercise, chiropractic and even acupuncture treatments. If you pain is being caused by skeletal misalignment the chiropractor is your best bet. Exercise keeps you from losing more mobility and acupuncture can correct a multitude of problems.