Thousands suffering chronic pain hold little hope of a reprieve, and seen multiple practitioners to no avail. A good night’s sleep and that exhilarating feeling that kicks in with the release of endorphins post exercise seems a thing of the distant past.
The good news is there is hope. What most don’t realise is that often inflammation is ticking away under the radar fuelling pain. One of the most common triggers of whole body inflammation and soreness is diet.
Often only a few simple modifications to the diet to remove common inflammatory foods and incorporating more of the anti-inflammatory foods can result in a dramatic easing of aches and pains, muscle cramping and joint swelling.
75 per cent of our immune system is in the gut wall only one cell deep. Some foods cause reactivity in the gut and damage the mucosal surface allowing food antigens to breach the gut lining and stimulating circulation of inflammatory cells that lodge in muscles and joints.
I hear many of my clients say, ‘I don’t have a problem with anything I eat’. But little do they realise, foods can cause symptoms up to 72 hours after eating. The next question is, ‘How do we know which foods could be a problem?’
The simplest way to determine if foods are affecting your pain is to remove common inflammatory foods from the diet for 2 weeks. Most symptoms related to food should ease in that time. The eliminated foods are then challenged one at a time to assess for a reaction. That is the gold standard for food intolerance testing.
In some cases, a qualified practitioner may need to suggest more specific elimination at a sensitive level. Another option is a blood test looking for antibodies produced in response to a range of foods. In this case elimination of foods is not necessary to get answers but these tests are not full proof.
Whether you are dealing with the chronic swelling of arthritis, or multi area muscle pain, tackling inflammation is the key. A few tweaks to your shopping list can make a huge difference. Many of my clients have been ecstatic to report a significant easing of their pain and swelling within the first 2 weeks off inflammatory foods. A common bonus spin off is better energy and weightloss without trying.
5 foods to avoid to settle inflammation and ease pain
- Vegetable oils
Vegies are good for you so vegetable oil should be healthy, true or false? The answer is false. Many vegetable oils contain high levels of omega-6 fats that promote inflammation. Palm oil, soybean, safflower, canola, and corn oil are all high in omega -6. Margarines contain Trans fats which cause oxidative stress and should be avoided.
Cold pressed olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and great to spread over food. Cooking with olive oil should be at low heat only so it doesn’t turn rancid. High heat cooking is safer with rice bran oil or coconut oil.
Eating oily fish 3-4 times per week will give you enough omega-3 oils which are anti-inflammatory, but if you have arthritis you may need to supplement with a quality fish oil up to 6 grams per day.
As a nation we eat far too much sugar. Our blood sugar needs to be kept relatively constant. Too much is toxic to the brain so the body stimulates release of insulin from the pancreas to deposit the sugar into the cells as fat. Over time, with greater demands on insulin our cells don’t recognise it and we need more and more to do the same job.
That’s when the trouble starts. High insulin promotes inflammation and even cancer. Many tip into diabetes when the pancreas struggles to make enough insulin.
To reduce those dangerous blood sugar spikes, avoid refined sugars found in icecream, white bread and sweets. Buyer beware, fruit juice has just as much sugar as a can of soft drink. Check out the labels. Many popular cup sized tubs of yoghurt have over 25 grams of sugar, that’s 5 teaspoons!
Alcohol is a carbohydrate so that means it adds to the sugar load. It is said that red wine contains beneficial antioxidants but you need to drink 6 glasses to get a therapeutic dose. The alcohol consumed far out ways the benefit.
Alcohol dehydrates the body so toxic waste cannot move freely from the extremities accumulating in muscles causing pain. Alcohol also depletes the body of essential minerals particularly magnesium needed for muscle relaxation.
As we approach our 40s and 50s the liver’s ability to detox alcohol declines. Alcohol breaks down the liver cell membranes and they start to die. If you want to enjoy a drink, try to keep it to weekends and limit to a couple of glasses.
A little coffee can give you the kick-start you need in the morning and help you blast through a tough workout while it also supports cognitive function, protects the liver, and serves up a healthy dose of antioxidants. But more than 2 in a day drains the body of magnesium and zinc and increases body acidity. Too much caffeine can lead to anxiety, fatigue, headaches and digestive issues, all of which creates additional inflammation within the body and slows the healing process of any injuries or illnesses.
- Food allergy triggers
Gluten containing foods including bread, pasta, or wheat cereals and dairy are the two most common triggers of pain and swelling in joints and muscles. Not everyone reacts to these foods but if you suffer from chronic pain it’s worth checking it out.
Others may be sensitive to shell fish, eggs, nuts or high FODMAP foods. FODMAPS are types of sugars in food like fructose in fruit, fructans in wheat and lactose in milk that a percentage of the population do not have enzymes to digest, they ferment in the gut and cause stomach bloat.
Talking to a health practitioner about avoiding foods you may be reactive to can significantly reduce the pain and swelling of arthritis, muscle aches, headache and much more.
If you are concerned about joint pain, body aches, arthritis, and inflammation, I recommend you consume a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods and low in the reactive foods which can give you fast relief. Also, adding more real food like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and organic meat to your diet long-term.
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