Chronic pain is widespread and disrupts the lives of millions of people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 20% of adults in the United States experienced pain lasting three months or longer in 2021.
The highly trained and experienced providers at Pain Consultants of Atlanta help people daily whose lives are affected by pain. One common thread among them is chronic inflammation, and adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can be a vital step in reducing pain. The connection between diet and inflammation has been thoroughly researched, and surprising positive changes often result from changing your diet.
Much like stress, inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you’re sick or hurt, inflammation is one of your immune system’s defenses. However, chronic inflammation, or inflammation that doesn’t go away, can worsen chronic pain and even drive many conditions.
You can’t always see or feel inflammation, either. Low-grade chronic inflammation happens throughout your body, and can cause serious conditions such as atherosclerosis, a serious cardiovascular issue, and osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.
Although millions of people have chronic pain, it’s caused by various underlying issues. Some of the more common issues that result in chronic pain include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, and post-surgery or post-injury pain that doesn’t go away, among many others.
Researchers aren’t sure why some people develop chronic pain following an injury while others don’t. For example, around 80% of people experience low back pain at one point or another, but only around 24% have chronic low back pain. Even with a full understanding of why chronic pain develops in some cases, the link between diet and inflammation is clear.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with your diet, and it comes down to the fact that what you eat directly impacts your overall health, including your immune system. Several studies have shown that eating specifically to reduce inflammation can help reduce pain in patients with various conditions.
What should you eat? What should you avoid? Generally speaking, an anti-inflammatory diet is what you probably think of when you think of a “healthy diet.” To reduce inflammation, you should focus on whole foods, eat more vegetables than anything, and include healthy fats and lean proteins in your meals.
Foods known to cause inflammation are the usual suspects: processed foods, sugary beverages, refined flour and sugar, and fatty meats. Cakes and other baked treats should be limited in your diet, along with soda, red meat, and fast food.
The Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of an anti-inflammatory way of eating. It stresses fish as a source of protein, includes a large variety of vegetables, and emphasizes foods like fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
If you have questions about what to eat to support your overall health and reduce your pain levels, schedule an appointment at Pain Consultants of Atlanta. Our team is always happy to discuss your situation and give pointers on following a natural, anti-inflammatory diet to reduce your pain.