Nutrition to Manage Pain and Lower Inflammation

This is the long-awaited follow-up to Peter’s post on pain. If you haven’t read his post yet, check it out here.

After a few months of dealing with loss and pain, and re-establishing and grounding ourselves, we are back on track with writing, researching, and developing our practices. We have both just completed a 21-day cleanse, which was a wonderful way to let go of toxins and unwanted thoughts. If you are interested in cleansing yourself, check out our schedules for guided group cleanses here.

Now let’s talk about pain and inflammation and the many factors that influence them.

Let’s start with pain: there are the obvious triggers for pain such as getting burned on a hot pan, injured in a fall, cut with a knife. But there are other more subtle triggers within which can cause back pain, joint pain, headaches, and many other “internal” pains. These triggers within are the ones I will address within post.

To understand pain, it’s important to know that: headache

A)   most tissues have specific pain receptors and pain perception depends on the site of stimulation, the type of fiber transmitting the message, adequate levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins, as well as GABA and other sub-receptors;

B)   the spinal cord sends a message to the brain via ascending pathways and then receives messages via the descending pathways and also from periphery. There are different fibers that carry the message: tiny C fibers carry the long lasting burning pain; A delta fibers carry the sharp (or first pain) and localization data; and A beta fibers carry information on vibration and position.

In order to suppress pain from C fibers (the long-lasting pain) we can stimulate A delta fibers with acupuncture, and stimulate A beta fibers by rubbing the skin or using TENS (Bauman College, 2012). These fibers are only the messengers, however. Imbalances in the internal environment can affect pain signals, and make them stronger or lighter depending on what is lacking (nutrients) or what is in excess (toxins) in the environment. These imbalances can be corrected with proper nutrition and lifestyle and at times, the use of supplementation is suggested for those who are very depleted of certain nutrients.

One major reason for pain is inflammation (inflammation also precedes development of diabetes, among other growing diseases). So taking a look at inflammation and doing everything we can to reduce it is of extreme importance today, especially since inflammation can be largely attributed to our modern lifestyle. “Specifically, dietary triggers (fructose, wheat and industrial seed oils), stress, poor sleep, gut dysbiosis and environmental toxins all cause inflammation on their own. When combined together, they are an explosive mix” (Chris Kresser, 2010).

InflammationAccording to Nutrition Data, “inflammation can silently involve every cell in your body and, over time, negatively affect your health and abilities. For example, allergies, joint pain, and premature aging are just a few of the common ailments linked to “systemic inflammation…”  The levels of certain chemicals in your blood are known to increase with increased levels of inflammation. One of these chemical markers for inflammation is a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is often measured in conjunction with other blood tests, and normal values are well established. From a clinical standpoint, a CRP level of less than 5 milligrams per liter of blood is considered normal. “Normal” may not be optimal, though. Many medical researchers believe that even slight elevations of CRP are tied to increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and many other diseases.”

Without the CRP test, we can tell if a system is inflamed if there is constant allergic reaction activity (seasonal, foods, dust), inability to lose weight no matter how little one eats, headaches, body aches, joint pain, and mucus formation, for example.

Looking at Nutrition to Lower Inflammation

I recently attended the National Association of Nutrition Professionals’ conference in San Diego, CA and got to listen to Tom O’Bryan’s talk on Musculoskeletal Conditions in the 21st Century, which was very rich in content, inspiring with a number of case studies and plenty of research to back up his arguments. One of the thoughts that stuck with me the most was that “each bite we eat is either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory, so we need to choose more anti-inflammatory foods to feed ourselves with.” So what are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods we might add to our plates daily? Here is a good list to get you started:

Omega-3 Foods: wild salmon, sardines, nuts and seeds (notably flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts), organic soybeans, winter squash, purslane. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are considered anti-inflammatory because this class of nutrients serves as precursors for compounds in the body (such as certain prostaglandins and leukotrienes) that have anti-inflammatory activity.

Extra virgin olive oil: it contains healthy fats (monounsaturated fats), and has been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Some of these benefits seem to come through its unique antioxidant phytonutrients, such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. It’s important to note that these phytonutrients are more concentrated in extra virgin olive than other types of olive oil. Olive oil should not be cooked in high temperatures. Use coconut oil or ghee for anything over 250 degrees.

salmon-baked-1Deep colored fruits and vegetables: berries, cherries, beets, leafy greens (like kale and chard), and pomegranatesPineapple also contains a proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzyme called bromelain that has anti-inflammatory activity. Flavonoid and carotenoid phytonutrients also have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are a great inclusion in any diet geared towards controlling inflammation.

Spices: ginger, turmeric, and garlic are among the highest anti-inflammatory spices – and they add wonderful flavors and aroma to just about any dish.

Foods to avoid: those that may promote inflammation, such as vegetable oils (sunflower oil, corn oil, and any highly processed oils including canola and soybean oils) as they are rich in omega-6 fatty acids; “white foods” such as white flour, white rice and white sugar; processed foods that contain synthetic flavorings, colorings and preservatives. (It is not that your diet should not have any omega-6 fatty acids as they are essential fatty acids that play a role in health. It is just that most people already get an ample supply of these fatty acids in their diets and therefore should try to minimize concentrated food sources of them in order to maintain a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio).

 

Sources:

Chris Kresser, 2010. How Inflammation Makes You Fat. <http://chriskresser.com/how-inflammation-makes-you-fat-and-diabetic-and-vice-versa>

World’s Healthiest Foods < http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=163>

Nutrition Data < http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000992000000000000000.html>

Bauman College Therapeutic Nutrition Notebook, 2012

 

 

 

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