According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic pain is one of the most common reasons why adults seek medical care. Statistics estimate that around 20 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain and another 8 percent have pain that significantly limits their lives. If you suffer from chronic pain, you are not alone.
In our latest Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) Your Healthy Kitchen video, we explore the connections between inflammation, lifestyle, diet and chronic pain. We also prepare a delicious cool-weather salad that’s packed with inflammation-fighting leafy vegetables, fresh herbs and warm spices. Check it out!
Under healthy conditions, your immune system kicks up inflammation to protect you from injury and disease. However, if your immune system doesn’t turn off the inflammatory response in a timely fashion, chronic inflammation and pain may result.
Stress, depression, excessive alcohol, poor diet, lack of regular exercise and poor sleep can trigger chronic inflammation. While it can be overwhelming to consider making multiple adjustments in self care, finding ways to improve just one area can lead to changes in other areas as well. For example, eating well might improve mood and sleep, which can in turn increase the likelihood of getting regular movement and exercise, which may also improve mood, reduce stress and lead to a good night’s sleep. In a snowball-like effect, all of these changes can eventually lower inflammation and reduce chronic pain.
Plant-based foods that are packed with antioxidants are also important tools for reducing inflammation. Dark green, red, purple, red and orange vegetables and fruits; whole grains; nuts and seeds can all be part of a diet that reduces chronic pain. However, some people find relief if they eliminate some foods, such as grains, or at least gluten containing grains (wheat, barley and rye), from their diet. Consider working with a registered dietitian nutritionist to fine tune your anti-inflammatory diet in a way that provides you with adequate nutrition and satisfaction.
Other dietary tips and tricks for reducing inflammation and chronic pain include:
- Reduce added sugars in your diet as much as possible
- Cook with healthy fats, including extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil
- Avoid highly processed oils, including safflower, sunflower, corn and vegetable oils
- Don’t overeat meat
- Enjoy foods that contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including fatty fish, walnuts, and flax
- Flavor your meals with plenty of fresh herbs and spices
A final tip—eat your meals in a slow and relaxed manner, without distraction. This improves digestion and the absorption of those important anti-inflammatory chemicals. It also reduces stress, which in turn lowers inflammation. Eating in a relaxed manner might also help you to be satisfied with smaller portions at meals. If needed, this can help with weight loss, which in turn can reduce chronic inflammation and pain.
Managing and treating chronic pain requires a multi-faceted approach. That’s why YRMC offers an excellent, holistic Chronic Pain Self-Care Program through Physical Rehabilitation Services. Physical Therapist Cheryl Van Demark, PT, C-IAYT, created the program and teaches valuable skills and strategies to help individuals with chronic pain to live and feel better. You’ll need a referral from your health care provider to the Physical Therapy department to join the program and can learn more by calling Cheryl at 928-771-4747.
For more simply delicious, inflammation-fighting recipes and video tutorials, be sure to check out our collection. Remember to follow me on Facebook too, where I post photos and videos of the meals I make at home, product recommendations, and links to my favorite food and gardening destinations on the web.