Foods That Can Help Decrease Inflammation and Chronic Pain!

Working in physical therapy I often get asked the question, “Are there certain foods I can eat to cut down on my inflammation and decrease chronic pain?” The answer is, Yes, to a certain extent. There are two types of inflammation that occur in our bodies, Acute and Chronic. Acute Inflammation is critical to our bodies healing process and is a natural and valuable response to tissue damage. When there is a disruption in our tissue caused by an injury or infection, there is an increase in blood flow and white blood cells to the localized area to start the healing process. Chronic Inflammation has a long duration and occurs with persistent injury or infection or related to diseases such as arthritis, obesity, and diabetes. Chronic inflammation usually leads to tissue damage and can be more controlled with our diets. Foods high in sugar and saturated fats can cause an over stimulated immune system which can produce joint pain, fatigue and tissue damage. Studies have shown certain foods can help decrease inflammation caused by chronic inflammation in our bodies.

Here are 5 of the many foods that can easily be incorporated into our diets.

• Fish or nuts : the omega-3 fatty acids can increase the amount of anti-inflammatory cells
• Whole grains: higher in fiber and less added sugars
• Dark leafy greens such as: spinach, kale and broccoli contain high levels of vitamin E
• Low fat dairy such as Greek yogurt contains calcium, vitamin D and Probiotics
• Berries: which are high in antioxidants

When it comes to chronic pain, what you eat can greatly impact how you feel. Eating a well-rounded diet of appropriate carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals along with adequate water intake will allow your body to work properly. Diets high in processed food do not supply your body with suitable nutrients and can cause the tissues to become inflamed which then manifest into pain.

When consuming the appropriate carbohydrates (which should be more complex vs simple) and in moderation, they are essential for your body to produce energy. Carbohydrates includes sugars, starches and fibers. Simple carbohydrates are quick energy sources: table sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, etc. which should be limited in your diet. Complex carbohydrates are derived from plants and contains both starch and fiber: vegetables, potatoes, whole grains and fruits. They provide 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate. Adults are recommended to consume between 45%-65% of daily calories.

Fiber is also a part to of the carbohydrate family. It cannot be digested but it is important to keep the digestive tract healthy. Dietary Fiber is found in beans, whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Soluble fiber absorbs water, slows nutrient absorption and helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber does not brake down and adds bulk to intestinal contents.  Recommended daily consumption of fiber for women is 19-50 y/o 25 grams, 19-50 y/o 38 grams per day for men.

Fats provide the highest level of energy. As carbohydrates are burned off more quickly, our bodies rely on our fat storage. Fat provides 9 calories per every gram of fat and should be about 20-30% of our daily calories. Its other function is to help move vitamins through our bloodstream to be absorbed within our body. Fats are broken down into Saturated and Unsaturated. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal products such as meat, milk and cheeses.  Ingesting high levels of this type of fat is associated with the increased risk of heart disease. Some saturated fats are found in plant products, such as palm, coconut and cocoa oils. Unsaturated fats are broken down into mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids which include olive, canola, and fish oils and are associated with lowering the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are more problematic, in which they are “super whipped” changing them from a liquid to a solid form at room temperature.

Vitamins and Minerals provide no energy to the body but are important in carrying out many functions. Vitamins help control the growth of body tissue, bone health and blood clot formation. Minerals also help with bone formation, oxygen transport and immune function.

Proper water intake is one of the most important things you can do. Water makes up about 60% of our bodies and is responsible for carrying out all of our body’s normal functions, such as:

• Transporting blood sugars, oxygen and fats to working muscles.
• Providing structure and protection which cushions and lubricates joints and organs.
• It is needed for chemical reactions which involve energy production
• Regulating body temperature
• Eliminating waste

Overall, eating a clean diet and cutting out processed foods will allow our bodies to perform at their best!

Kerra Pietsch, LPTA, C.F.N.C
Physical Therapist Assistant
Andover Physical Therapy

May 30th, 2018

Posted In: General

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