Pain and Nutrition


Nutrition plays a major role in your experience of pain.

The food you eat affects the amount of inflammation your body makes in response to injury. While inflammation is not the only cause of pain, increased inflammation will make pain from any cause feel worse.

Environmental pollution, artificial coloring, and preservatives may also increase your body’s inflammatory response and increase the amount of pain you feel throughout your body. Learn to pay attention to what you are exposed to and what you eat to reduce inflammation.

Eating foods that are low in the nutrients you need, like essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, will make your body more likely to produce inflammatory chemicals. Food choices are also directly related to body fat. Fat cells are tiny factories constantly producing inflammatory chemicals.

A person who is overweight and has chronic low back or hip, knee, or foot pain is suffering in part because their joints experience small amounts of injury and inflammation everyday, simply from supporting that extra weight.

RealPainCare Recommends:

Changing Your Diet

Changing how you eat, drink, and exercise can be hard but the results are rewarding.

All the changes you make to reduce your pain by losing weight will benefit every part of your life, including your ability to think clearly, how well your memory works, and your moods.  Eating to reduce pain will also help you avoid illness of all kinds, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Avoiding foods with artificial colorings, preservatives, and other chemical pollution allows your body to concentrate on healing.

Changing how you eat so that you lose weight is one of the surest ways to reduce pain.  Research suggests that losing as little as 7% to 10% of your current body weight will result in changes to body chemistry that can reduce your physical pain.

Diet and exercise are crucial; medication, herbs, and nutritional supplements can help but won’t be enough without your efforts to improve your muscle tone and lose extra fat.

Potential Adverse Effects

We all hear lot of mistaken and misleading information about how to lose weight.  Ninety percent of people regain fat after they lose it.  Preventing re-gain is so important to long-term health.  Health researchers are learning more all the time about how to lose fat and keep it off.  It is important that you accomplish fat loss in a manner that is healthy and that you will be able to maintain your whole life.

There is no single diet that will work for everyone who needs to lose weight.  Food choices can be personalized to allow for specific food preferences.  But there are certain rules that are required for anyone to be successful long term.  Drinking at least 2 1/2 quarts of water a day, increasing vegetables and fresh fruit intake, avoiding foods that are high in fat and sweeteners, and getting plenty of lean protein are the basic rules of any healthy diet.

The chemistry that creates pain signals in your body is increased by starchy and sugary foods, and decreased by protein foods and good quality fats.  Controlling inflammation and therefore pain is best accomplished by minimizing unnecessary carbohydrates, such as sweets and grain products.  Meals that regularly include lean meat, fish, and eggs are the other essential for controlling pain chemistry.  Portion control, that is, not eating more food than you are using for fuel on a daily basis, is also central to controlling inflammation, and to successful weight loss.

For some people using meal replacement products can be useful; however learning to eat home-cooked, appropriately sized meals will always be part of complete recovery from obesity.  Following structured meal plans and regular contact with supportive professionals and friends or family will also make weight loss success more likely.

Each person’s ability to exercise pretty much every day, is also an important factor in choosing how much of what foods will make the best weight loss diet for anyone.

Anti-Inflammatory Eating: Some Basics

The following basic rules will help everyone reduce pain-producing chemistry in their body:

Organically grown local foods are the best nutrition for you.  Organically grown foods have more available vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids than conventionally farmed and processed foods do.  Organically grown foods offer only good nutrition; conventionally grown foods add damaging chemistry to your body.

Sweets of any kind, and grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes increase the inflammatory response in your body.  The more muscle you have and the more you use it, the more of these foods you can eat without having ‘leftover’ in your system to cause inflammation.  If you do not have a lot of muscle and you are not exercising much, your body just does not need these starches and sugars, and will turn it into fat.

Fat cells are factories for inflammatory chemicals.  If you have extra fat, reducing starchy foods and eliminating sweets and offending grains is a healthy and effective way to use up the energy you have stored as fat.

Wheat and corn products are the starchy foods that are damaging to most people. Whole grain brown rice, wild rice, millet, and quinoa are good choices for most people.

Your serving size of even the best grains matters a lot. Over eating causes inflammation.  If you are not well muscled and don’t exercise vigorously, about 1/2 cup sized servings of starchy stuff is what you should eat at any meal.  If you are very fit and exercise regularly and vigorously, up to one cup sized servings can be fine. More than that and you better be training for a triathlon!

Animal protein is required for humans to be optimally healthy. Vegetarian diets will eventually lead to malnourishment and health problems. Except for the rare true allergies, most people thrive on fish. Eggs and lean, clean poultry are good for most people as well.  Organically raised red meat is excellent for people who are blood type O. People who have blood types A, B, or AB do best with fish, and turkey. Lamb, chicken and wild game can also be excellent food, depending your blood type.

Fruit is great food, and can be over-eaten. Eat more of the less sweet fruit, less of the starchy or densely sweet, and dried fruit. In order of desirability examples of best fruits to eat looks like this:

Best-melons, berries

Pretty Good- apricot, peach, papaya, plum, kiwi

Good, but don’t over-do- apple, cherries, pears, mango, pineapple, pomegranate
Limit- banana, grapes, figs, prunes, any dried (check dried fruit for added sugars as well)

Avoid fruit juice- it is an unnaturally dense source of carbohydrate

Nuts and seeds are great for healthy fats and oils.  You can over do in terms of calories if you eat too much.  Think in terms of 10 nuts per serving, or about an ounce.  Enjoy raw walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews etc. (roasting tends to alter the fats in nuts).

Flax seeds are good medicine.  Grind 1 to 2 tablespoons and add to 8 ounces water.  Or sprinkle on your salad or in soup.  Just be sure to drink that water soon after.  Deer-pellet poop means you are not getting enough water with your flax.

Organic butter used in moderation is fine.  You can also mix 1 pound of butter with 1cup virgin olive oil, whip together at room temperature and store in the fridge.

Olive oil is your best all around choice for oil.  Small amounts of nut oils like sesame, walnut, and coconut can add wonderful flavor to salads and stir-fry.

Drink water! 8 glasses minimum daily.  Use herb teas.  Green tea is also great for many people.  A little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in your water makes it more refreshing.

Minimize alcohol, coffee, soy, rice, or oat milk.  These add extra liver challenging chemistry and carbohydrates that stimulate inflammation.

If dairy foods are appropriate for your blood type, use only products from organically raised cows.

Fried foods, packaged foods and restaurant foods will all have extra additives like preservatives, colorings and stabilizers, be less fresh and more burdensome to your body.  Meals made at home from locally grown, organically raised fresh, frozen or dried food will always be better for you.

What nutritional supplements should I consider?

There are some nutritional supplements that can help with weight loss.  None are a substitute for changing eating and exercise habits.  Research is showing that quite a few herbs and nutritional supplements are exciting options for pain control.  Comparing these nutraceuticals to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reveals that some of them are as effective at pain relief while having few to no side effects.  These natural products are also often less expensive than many drugs.


It is important to understand that everything we swallow – food and drink, medicines and dietary supplements — all have important chemical effects in your body.  What you choose to eat and drink is regularly changing your experience of pain for better or for worse.  Understanding how to use your food, drink and supplement choices will be a powerful tool to help you manage pain.


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