HOW DIET AFFECTS PAIN LEVELS
Let’s take a quick look at how you feel and process pain.
Nociceptors are specialized nerves that can detect changes in temperature, chemical balance, or pressure. They cue your brain to feel pain when something is causing tissue damage. You react instantly by, for example, moving your hand away from something hot or stepping gingerly on a sprained ankle.
There are four general types of pain:
- Somatic pain: felt on the skin, like a cut or burn
- Visceral pain: felt in organs or cavity linings, like a stomachache
- Referred pain: felt in a different place than the source of tissue damage, like an arm numbing during a heart attack
- Chronic pain: felt continuously or intermittently, either mild or severe, like arthritis or migraines
In the first three instances, you need to feel the pain in order to protect your body from further damage, or even save your life with a triggered fight or flight response.
Chronic pain is a different animal. If you suffer chronic pain, your body has become so conditioned to the pain stimulus that your fight or flight response is no longer triggered. You may have been told that your condition is untreatable. Now, thanks to researchers and medical scientists, we know that certain types of food can help alleviate chronic pain.
Some foods actually increase cellular inflammation and make your pain worse, while others work to reduce them. Below are some suggestions for pain fighting food options.
Green leafy vegetables instead of starchy vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which combat nutrient deficiencies while helping rid your body of free radicals that cause cell damage. Fill at least half your plate with foods like spinach, kale, collard greens and fresh herbs daily. Switch out starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes for leafy greens.
Olive oil instead of Corn oil. Olive oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in the omega-6 fatty acids which most people’s diets already supply. A healthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is important to fight inflammation. Cooking with olive oil rather than corn oil or generic vegetable oil will give you the most anti-inflammatory benefits.
Frozen berries instead of ice cream. Berries deliver the most bang for your buck in terms of antioxidants, thanks to their flavonoid and phenolic compounds. Berries are naturally sweet and high in fiber, which make them a delicious dessert, without the sugar high of ice cream which is loaded with inflammation causing ingredients. After a meal, pop frozen blueberries or raspberries into your mouth as an excellent dessert alternative.
Nuts and seeds instead of chips. Nuts, especially walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and contain plenty of minerals that can help support a healthy metabolism. Choose natural nuts instead of salted or flavored nuts.
To decrease pain levels through food choices, it’s important that you examine your entire diet. It’s necessary to make significant changes, not just occasional food switches. Diet is about eating patterns over a long period of time. If you have the self discipline to make these changes, you will discover benefits beyond pain reduction in terms of improving your your energy level, immune system ,and even your body weight.