Nutrition as a means to combat chronic pain has become a topic of interest in medical communities today. As more and more patients are looking for relief from chronic ailments like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and idiopathic pain, doctors, nutritionist and holistic health practitioners are looking closer to explore the cause and treat more than the symptoms. This kind of whole-body treatment often leads to looking at causes of chronic inflammation.
Within the body, inflammation can have a number of reasons. It may be physical trauma such as a sprain or break. Acute illness may be another cause. Allergens such as pollen enter into the body and can cause an inflammatory reaction. In most cases, these causes of inflammation are short lived and resolve as the illness, allergic response or physical trauma heals. In some cases the inflammation is long term and does not resolve. This leaves the body in a constant state of crisis. Some signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation are: gastrointestinal disorders, asthma/wheezing, nasal congestion, rashes and heart problems. If left untreated, chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Diet often plays a role in chronic inflammation. The modern diet consists of heavily processed and sugar-laden foods. Foods such as red meat, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sugary drinks, fried foods and refined carbohydrates (white bread, etc) are often considered inflammatory foods. They create a response in the body much the same as allergens. In contrast, foods such as nuts, olive oil, tomatoes and fatty fish can have an anti-inflammatory response in the body. There are several diets that have shown to improve symptoms in patients experiencing chronic pain and inflammation. As with any change to your healthcare routine, it is best to research each option to find the limits and benefits before starting on a new diet.
- Low Inflammation Diet: Also knows as The Mediterranean Diet, this diet mimics the eating patterns of the coutries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It is heavy on fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts. This diet has been shown to lower weight and heart disease. This diet may be the easiest to switch to from a more traditional modern diet.
- Histamine Intolerance Diet: This diet would require additional testing with an allergist. But introducing low-histamine producing foods can help with people who experience chronic inflammation caused by increased histamine levels in the blood and cells.
- Elimination Diet: Working with a nutritionist or allergist can help you to pinpoint foods that are causing sensitivities through IgE and IgG blood tests. You can then eliminate the foods from your diet for a period of 2-3 weeks. Once the foods have left your system, you can also “test” the reaction by introducing them slowly and singularly to your diet. Here is a helpful handout to help you with the process.
- GAPS Diet: Developed by a doctor in 1998 to help her own children with chronic issues, this diet explores the role between gut health and inflammation throughtout the body. This diet is perhaps the most challenging on the list, but it is not meant to be maintained long term. It is a series of steps towards healing.
- Paleo Diet: The Paleo Diet is a system of eating that mimics our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This diet eschews processed foods, many starches and sources of carbohydrates. In this article, you can read about five clinical trials that have investigated the benefits of the Paleo Diet. While the sample sizes are small and short trial times, it does show some promise for the benefits of using the diet, at least short-term.
As with any treatment, the key to finding a nutritional source of healing is balance and sustainability. If you introduce too much as once, you are less likely to get a benefit from a half-hearted attempt. Working with a nutritionist can help you create a plan that is individualized to your needs and lifestyle. But looking into changes in diet can help you along the path to being free of chronic inflammation and pain.
- Harvard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
- Loren Cordain, PhD http://thepaleodiet.com/
- University of Wisconsin, Medical School file:///home/chronos/u-fe21f2f2ef386fc01a51e9b4efce43df04caa729/Downloads/handout_elimination_diet_patient.pdf
- Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride http://www.gapsdiet.com/home.html
- Histamine Tolerance Awareness http://www.histamineintolerance.org.uk/about/the-food-diary/the-food-list/