The Relationship Between Food, Inflammation, and Pain

The Relationship Between Food, Inflammation, and Pain

Your body's natural response to an accident or illness is inflammation. Consider it as your immune system raising the alert and beginning an attack on a potential threat, such as a germ, virus, splinter, or damaged ankle.

An inflammatory response is typical, healthy, and useful in the short term. However, chronic inflammation can wear down the immune system, damage tissues and organs, speed up cellular aging, and increase the risk of chronic health disorders. Chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, cancer, obesity, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune diseases (in which the immune system targets the body's own cells and tissues).

Here's where nutrition comes into play:

The Relationship Between Food, Inflammation, and Pain

As inflammation in the body rises, pain can worsen. Meanwhile, a person's pain level can typically be significantly reduced or controlled by reducing or managing inflammation. Research suggests that certain foods and beverages enhance inflammation in the body while others minimize it. Foods that cause inflammation can do so in a variety of ways:

Certain foods cause a fast rise in blood sugar levels.

These types of food can raise the quantity of free radicals in the body, which are unstable chemicals linked to oxidative stress, a harmful process (sometimes compared to the process of rusting on metal)

Artificial ingredients, fillers, and preservatives which, in addition to promoting an inflammatory response, may irritate friendly gut bacteria in the digestive system, negatively affecting metabolism, nutrient absorption, and even mood. Processed foods frequently lack the micronutrients required for building healthy tissues and supporting key physiological processes in the body.

Certain foods can cause allergic reactions in some people, which can be dangerous.

Excess fat cells in the body also release inflammatory substances. With this in mind, any diet or eating pattern that encourages weight gain and obesity might be considered a reason of chronic inflammation. Obesity is a prominent risk factor for chronic pain.

On the other hand, foods that are supposed to lower inflammation in the body have the opposite impact. They don't normally cause blood sugar levels to rise as quickly or as high. They are usually created using whole ingredients and are not processed. They are always high in micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes, which help to fight oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and offer the raw materials for healthy tissues and cells. They are also fewer in calories but richer in fiber, which helps to prevent obesity.

The Best Foods to Eat (and Avoid) to Reduce Inflammation and Pain

These few nutritional guidelines, can help you to control your chronic pain:

To begin, stay away from foods that cause inflammation, such as highly processed foods, sugary beverages, alcohol, and processed meats. Some of the top inflammatory foods to avoid, according to the Arthritis Foundation, are:

  • Table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, both of which are added to anything from ketchup and salad dressings to canned foods, are examples of refined sugar.
  • Trans fat is a form of fat created in a laboratory that is commonly found in fast food. Although trans fats are prohibited in the United States, they are nevertheless permitted in other countries.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: In comparison to omega-3 fatty acids, the conventional American diet contains too many omega-6 fatty acids (found in corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean, and sesame oils) (found in things like fatty fish and olive oil). This omega 6 omega 3 fatty acid imbalance has been linked to inflammation.
  • Most breads, pastas, cereals, crackers, chips, and other snacks have refined carbs, which have a higher glycemic index (a scale that measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar). Many of them also include gluten, a protein that causes inflammation in some people, particularly those who have celiac disease.
  • MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) is a common addition in fast food and other prepared foods.
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can cause problems for some people due to a sugar called lactose and a protein called casein. Dairy products are heavy in saturated fat and calories, which can contribute to inflammation and weight gain.
  • Aspartame and other non-nutritive sweeteners can be present in diet soda and other products. Although there is conflicting evidence about aspartame's impact on the human body, it's likely that some people's immune systems see artificial sweeteners as "foreign substances," triggering an inflammatory response against them.

Second, make sure that the majority of your diet consists of anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense whole, natural, and minimally processed foods, such as:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits and veggies (canned is fine, but keep an eye out for additives)
  • Legumes and whole grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates.
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Oil from olives
  • Chicken, fish, shellfish, lean meats, eggs, and beans are all good sources of protein.
  • Kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut are examples of fermented foods (these contain gut-healthy probiotics)

Third, stay hydrated and incorporate other complementing lifestyle habits such as daily exercise, stress reduction, basic cleanliness, and injury prevention methods into your daily routine.

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