Chronic pain is the number one medical complaint in the US today, with a staggering 100 million Americans reporting chronic pain. This results in a whopping estimated $600 billion, yes billion, a year in medical treatments and lost work productivity according to a report from the Institute of Medicine. Many of these cases are treated with drugs, and sadly, many times that leads to additional health problems, especially where opiate drugs are prescribed. So imagine how great it would be to lessen or eliminate pain through drug-free and surgery-free means. Would you believe in some cases, it would be as easy and maintaining the optimal nutritional balance in the body?
Nutrition plays a major role in how the body feels pain. Many times inflammation is the culprit that causes pain. While it is not the only cause of pain, inflammation can make the pain feel both more intense and longer lasting. The amount of inflammation in the body can be affected by what you eat. Eating foods low in vitamins and minerals can lead to more pain chemistry. The chemistry that causes pain signals tends to be increased by starchy and sugary foods and conversely, can be decreased by healthy proteins. Avoiding unhealthy carbs is one way to control inflammation. Portion control, or not eating more food than the body needs for fuel each day, is also important in controlling inflammation.
Another very important factor to consider is maintaining the proper pH balance in the body. The body’s pH balance is largely determined by the foods you eat, although stress and environmental concerns such as pollution do also play a role. Making the best nutritional choices to keep the body in an alkaline state. Having an acidic body can lead to aging, sickness and disease. Everything we eat except for fruits and vegetables are acidic so it is imperative to make sure that you get some fruits or vegetables at each meal in order to keep the body’s pH balance in check. Of course, we do need protein as well so the key to maintaining healthy balance is eating a 1.5/ 1 carb/ protein ratio.
While changing eating habits can be hard at first, the results are worth it and not only can the body experience a reduction in pain, but other benefits include elevation in mood, clearer thinking, improved memory and of course in some cases, weight loss. Sticking to natural foods and avoiding foods that have artificial colors, preservatives and other chemicals allows the body to put its energy towards healing.
When thinking about eating for optimum health, and especially to aid with lower inflammation and pain, there are some easy rules to get started.
- Keep in mind the need to always maintain a proper pH balance in the body
- Stick to a 1.5/1 carb/ protein ratio at each meal
- Increase intake of fruits and vegetables, aiming for at least two cups of fresh vegetables per day
- Avoid sweets and reduce starchy foods
- Snack on fresh fruit, nuts and seeds
- When considering protein, choose clean, lean meats, poultry, fish and eggs
- Avoid artificial colorings, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics and herbicide and pesticide residues in food
Clean foods are essential to our health and it is important to wash your fruits and vegetables. For a list of The Clean Fifteen, or the fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide levels, click here. For fruits and veggies not on this list, consider buying a produce wash or check out these seven tips for cleaning fruits and vegetables from the US FDA.
Pain management is multifaceted and while there is not one single miracle cure for chronic pain, nutrition cannot be overlooked as one of the key factors in managing the body’s response to pain. There are many resources available to help people understand the basics of how nutrition can improve our well being including Pain.com’s Guide to Chronic Pain and Nutrition and the FDA’s website.