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VA Palo Alto Health Care System

 

Nutrition and Pain

Mediterranean or Modified Mediterranean style diets have been shown to be most helpful with managing pain.

Mediterranean or Modified Mediterranean style diets have been shown to be most helpful with managing pain.

By Roshan P. Luke, RD, Nutrition and Food Service
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Many people suffer from short and long term pain. To help relieve this pain some people take prescription or over the counter medication to get some relief. Others look to natural remedies or avoiding certain foods.

Can what we eat help relieve some types of pain? The short answer is yes, nutrition can help reduce some types of pain. Nutrition can help with pain that is caused by inflammation.  Inflammation is a process in which the immune system helps protect the body against things like bacteria or viruses. Inflammation is a normal and important way the body protects itself. Some foods can cause inflammation and that can lead to pain.  Some of these foods are:

  • Saturated fats: Sources of saturated fats are animal fat, lard, butter and chicken fat.
  • Trans fat: These types of fats are found in packaged cookies, cakes, pastries and other baked goods.
  • Foods that cause your blood sugar to increase very quickly.  Many of these foods have more regular or simple sugars.

The Mediterranean or Modified Mediterranean style diets have been shown to be most helpful with managing pain. The Mediterranean style diet includes the basics of a healthy diet (lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains) plus some of the following:

  • Heart-healthy oils such as olive oil, peanut, sunflower oils to name a few.
  • Small amounts of lean meat a few times per month and poultry or fish a few times per week.
  • Small amounts of low fat or non-fat dairy and yogurt.
  • Daily exercise
  • Water

A Modified Mediterranean diet is similar to a Mediterranean diet except it does not include gluten or wheat. This diet still has lots of fruits, vegetables and lean meats. A Vegan diet (a diet that does not include any animal products) can also be used.

Other things that can help with inflammation:

  • Daily Activity - try to move around at least 5 minutes for every hour you are seated.
  • Eating foods with Omega 3 Fatty Acid or taking Omega 3 Fatty Acid supplements
  • Weight loss if overweight, and gain weight if very underweight.
  • Take Vitamin D if your levels are low. If you have normal levels, make sure to get plenty of sunshine to help your body continue making this vitamin.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Quitting smoking if you smoke.

You are what you eat so good nutrition should be a part of your pain management plan.

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