Living With Chronic Pain

Foods That Prevent Inflammation

Last week I discussed how what we eat affects the bodies inflammatory responses and can ultimately decrease our pain. Now let’s talk about specific foods thought to help achieve this goal.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are pain-safe foods that virtually never contribute to arthritis, headaches, or other painful conditions. These include: rice, cooked green, orange or yellow vegetables, and cooked or dried non-citrus fruits.

They also recommend staying away from common pain triggers that can cause pain in susceptible people, including alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and colas), sugars, monosodium glutamate, aspartame (NutraSweet), and nitrites. Here are the common food triggers, also known as the “Dirty Dozen”:




citrus fruits



nuts and peanuts





Other known inflammatory culprits include gluten (e.g., muffins, bagels, pasta), processed foods (e.g., French fries), foods prepared at high temperatures (e.g., fried, blackened, barbequed), and some nightshade vegetables (e.g. potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant). Choosing to reduce or eliminate some of these culprits can be beneficial. The healthy alternatives are packed with phytochemicals (plant-based compounds) that include antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids, all of which help reduce inflammation and protect the tissues from oxidation, which can damage them.

Perhaps the best advice is to pack your plate with anti-inflammatory foods. You can get the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats your body needs from fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for more plant-based foods, more monounsaturated fats (from foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocado), and less animal-based protein. Season with spices (e.g., turmeric, ginger) and herbs that are also known inflammation fighters. (I’ll discuss these more in a future post).

Any diet can also reap the anti-inflammatory benefits by just adding certain oils. Extra virgin olive oil helps reduce inflammation and can have a similar effect to taking ibuprofen. However, using it at low temperatures because high heat destroys its beneficial compounds, called polyphenols. Use it in salad dressings or for tossing pasta, not for frying and baking.

Remember, adding a more plant based diet doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Start with a meatless meal once a week and gradually build up to more meat-free meals. Changing gradually often makes it easier both mentally and physically, since suddenly cutting out meat can lead to crankiness, headaches and digestive changes. Also consider that meat doesn’t have to be the central focus of a meal. It can be served in small amounts in a dish such as a stir fry that’s full of vegetables, or with a salad. This doesn’t have to be a full time commitment, you can choose certain days or meals.

However you chose to start, the answer is to start. Studies showed even small changes made a noticeable difference in just two weeks! No pills, no needles, no appointment needed. Pick up a plate and see how these foods can help you too.

Dr. Courtney


Leaning vegan: A natural strategy against chronic pain

Always check with your healthcare provider to make sure these recommendations are safe for you.

Main image courtesy

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