No matter what kind of pain you deal with, inflammation plays a role. From arthritis to lower back pain to knee injuries, inflammation is a process that impacts not only how your body interprets pain, but how severe it feels. Although inflammation is actually a natural healing response, out-of-control chronic inflammation can be a major contributor to pain and discomfort.
Many people who are dealing with chronic pain and inflammation are surprised to find out that improving their diet can be a very effective step for long-term relief. An anti-inflammatory diet is an approach to nutrition designed to curb harmful inflammation and promote healthy nerve function. If you want to learn more about this exciting and beneficial way to eat, Physician Partners of America is happy to share this helpful overview.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Explained
An anti-inflammatory diet, or low inflammation diet, is any diet that reduces foods that have been shown to increase chronic inflammation and maximize foods with evidence of anti-inflammatory properties. There are many individual diet plans that are labeled as anti-inflammatory, such as the Mediterranean diet, but any diet that minimizes inflammation and balances overall good nutrition can be an anti-inflammatory diet.
Can It Really Help with Pain Relief?
An anti-inflammatory diet may not be able to cure or fully heal the underlying causes of pain, but by reducing certain markers of inflammation and increasing overall health, it can potentially help with symptoms.
When the body is under attack or injured, the immune system triggers the inflammatory process, which uses cells to help fight off germs and heal the body. If inflammation continues even when there is no longer a specific problem or the body is past a certain healing threshold, it can start to become harmful to the body and contribute to chronic pain. This form of chronic inflammation has been linked to diseases including Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
Doctors and researchers have begun to discover that a significant contributor to chronic inflammation may be the foods we eat. According to research, certain foods have been shown to increase inflammation, including many of the processed, high sugar, and fried foods that are common in the modern Western diet. In contrast, diets that reduce inflammatory foods and increase anti-inflammatory options, such as the Mediterranean Diet, are associated with a number of health benefits. This can include increased life expectancy, reduced risk of chronic disease and better quality of life.
What Are the Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
The foundation of most anti-inflammatory diets is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables combined with healthy, unsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids. These natural foods are high in antioxidants and polyphenols that help the body fight off inflammatory agents such as free radicals. Additionally, unsaturated fats help promote cardiovascular health and good blood flow.
Foods that should be the basis of any anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Leafy greens like spinach, chard or kale
- Fruits, particularly blueberries, strawberries, cherries and citrus
- Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and even peanuts
- Olives and olive oil
- Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna
- Green tea and moderate amounts of coffee
Combining a diet that emphasizes these powerful anti-inflammatories with healthy staples such as whole grain oats, brown rice and lean protein like chicken can potentially help with a wide range of health concerns, including chronic pain.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
On the other end of the spectrum, anti-inflammatory diets should significantly limit or even avoid foods that increase inflammation. This includes foods that promote free radicals and other oxidizers, such as fried foods, red meat and sugar, as well as foods that can decrease cardiovascular health, such as saturated fats and salt. Most anti-inflammatory diet plans will advise people to stay away from:
- Refined grains and carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta
- Red and processed meat, including steak, hamburger, and hot dogs
- Fried foods and fast foods, such as french fries
- High sodium foods, including most packaged dinners and canned soups
- High sugar foods and beverages, especially soda
- Margarine and shortening
While it can be ok to have some of these foods as an occasional treat, anyone dealing with chronic pain and inflammation should try to avoid them as regular parts of their diet.
How an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Fits With Your Broader Pain Management Plan
A healthy diet plan and good nutritional habits can be a key part of a holistic pain relief program. While eating a consistent anti-inflammatory diet may not be able to reverse the aging process, arthritis or age-related spine conditions, it can improve overall health and create an environment in the body that is more responsive to other pain management measures such as physical therapy, injections or therapeutic massage. When starting any new diet, speak to your physician or treatment team about developing the best personalized plan for your condition and lifestyle.
The caring and dedicated team at PPOA is committed to helping anyone living with pain overcome their symptoms and improve their quality of life. We can help develop a holistic plan that works to combine your healthy lifestyle choices like diet and exercise with comprehensive treatments such as interventional pain management.
Contact us today to start your pain relief journey.