Does Diet Influence Pain?

Many factors can contribute to pain such as biomechanics, activity level, tissue tolerance, psychosocial factors, sleep, and also nutrition. Dietary habits are fundamental to health and well-being, and foods with certain nutrients may help individuals prevent acute and chronic pain. There are substances in foods that are known to be active antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which reduce pain.

Analgesic (pain relieving) natural compounds include flavonoids, ginger root, curcuminoids, Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and taurine. Correct intake of trace elements and minerals is strategic to reduce inflammation-related pain.

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Foods containing high amounts of refined carbohydrates and Omega-6 fatty acids are considered significant factors in the development and severity of chronic pain. Modern corn-based foods have very high ratios of pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids compared to anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these fatty acids use the same converting enzymes in the body. Eating foods high in Omega-6 fatty acids increases sensitization of C-fibers, which carry the pain signals to the brain, and can increase neurogenic (nervous system) inflammatory pain. Eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce neurogenic inflammatory mediated pain because they will bind to the pain receptors and block the pain signals being sent to your brain. Some examples of foods that contain pain reducing nutrients are berries, vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, ginger, and green tea. Examples of other anti-inflammatory trace elements are vitamin D, selenium, magnesium, and zinc.


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Another key contributor to inflammation in the body is excessive body fat which is a major factor in many musculoskeletal issues such as osteoarthritis, tendon pain, bone loss, and muscle loss. Excessive body fat is not only an issue due to the mechanical effects of pressure on joints, tendons, and muscles, but more due to the systemic inflammatory factors that come with excessive adipose (fatty) tissue. Therefore, the presence of excessive adipose tissue alone can lead to increased inflammation and pain. Reducing adipose tissue can help reduce pain by decreasing inflammatory pain signals in the body, which has more of an effect on pain than the reduced pressure and forces on the body. Losing weight isn’t only about reducing mechanical forces on the joints and tendons, but about reducing inflammation in the system which will help lower pain and produce many other health related benefits.

In conclusion, healthy dietary habits and lifestyle can prevent inflammation-induced pain. The evidence behind the role of exercise as well as nutrition in reducing chronic pain continues to grow. Contact Physical Therapy Institute for an evaluation from a health care provider who will assess you as a whole person, provide meaningful education and interventions for a healthier version of you!