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Is Your Diet Increasing Your Chronic Pain?

What if those diets you read one night on some Facebook support group claiming to cure your abdominal pain; your chronic pain or your endometriosis was actually increasing your experience of pain? Does cutting out your morning coffee, gluten or dairy actually make any difference or is the fear of these foods doing more harm?

The more we fear something, the more our protective mechanisms increase and our thresholds decrease. For example, if you have injured your ankle being tackled in a football game you are likely to experience pain in your ankle earlier when doing a similar movement as a protective mechanism. That is normal, our body learns and our body protects. Some times our body’s become over protective because of our thoughts or experiences. If you associate eating a certain of food with pain than fear of consuming that food again can actually begin to increase your experience of pain as a protective mechanism – don’t stress unnecessarily.

  1. Give your body the daily protein it needs to repair

Protein is the building blocks for our tissues and is important for repair of injury or damage to your soft tissues. It is common for individuals with chronic pain to stress about future injury or tissue damage. Eating daily protein will help ensure that you have the amino acids you need to efficiently rebuild issues.

Good sources of protein for individuals with chronic pain include:

  • Lean meat
  • Tofu
  • Legumes/pulses
  • Low fat dairy
  • Nuts

Aim for reaching your protein targets of:

0.75-0.84g/kg/day (19-70yrs)

0.94-1.07g/kg/day (>70yrs)

  1. Increase your consumption of anti-inflammatory foods

We need a healthy level of inflammation for our body to repair, recover and grow. Chronic inflammation can occur when this inflammation becomes overactive long term. Chronic inflammation is associated with chronic pain, particularly in conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Including these anti-inflammatory foods daily can help to reduce chronic inflammation and improve pain management:

  • Antioxidants– Found in Fruits and Vegetables
  • Omega-3-fatty acids– e.g. Oily fish, Nuts and Seeds
  • Soluble fibre– e.g. Oats, Onions, Legume
  • Unsaturated fats – e.g. Olive Oil, Avocado, Nuts
  • Fermented foods – e.g. Yoghurt, sauerkraut

Omega-3 fatty acids in particular have a substantial amount of evidence supporting their role in improving pain management through their anti-inflammatory actions, most commonly observed in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA found in oily fish (e.g. salmon & tuna) and ALA found in plant sources (e.g. walnuts, chia, canola, flaxseed). Supplements are also an effective source of Omega-3 fatty acids where dietary sources can’t be met. Aim to consume 2-3 serves of oily fish per week (150g/week), include regular walnuts, chia and flaxseed or look for fish oil supplements with 30% EPA/DHA and aim to consume 250-500mg/day.

  1. Increase your support team

Chronic and persisting pain can be exhausting. We want you to feel empowered and we don’t want you to fall into any fad diets. If you want to know any more information about diet and chronic pain management or have concerns about food intolerances increasing your pain, get in touch with us and seek advice from a dietitian.

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