Basic Diet for Chronic Pain

You know the saying “You are what you eat”. It is literally true. Pain often results from inflammation, and inflammation can result from too many pro-inflammatory foods and not enough ant-inflammatory ones. Following the tips on this info sheet will help you maintain the right balance.

What’s your strategy?

To make the most of your energy peaks and minimize the limitations of the valleys, you will need to be strategic about how you eat. This article presents the dietary strategies you’ll want to use: self-assessment, implementing the basics of good nutrition and avoiding CRAP.

Three Important Questions for Self-Assessment

  • Do you have at least one bowel movement daily?
  • Is passing gas a rare thing for you?
  • Is your breath inoffensive? (Maybe you should ask someone…)

The Basics of Good Nutrition

Eat a variety of fresh, whole foods most of the time.
Foods provide the greatest nutrient value when they are fresh. Canned and processed foods provide fewer nutrients, along with other undesirable ingredients. Frozen foods provide a nutrient level that is midway between fresh and processed. The healthiest foods will always be fresh items that you prepare for yourself.

Eat plant-based foods more than anything else.
Nutrition is chemically complex. While we have identified many biologically active and health-supporting chemicals in food, we haven’t found them all nor do we understand how they work together to influence health. Plants provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and a host of other nutritionally important components in ratios that are perfect for our health. These nutrient packages cannot be replicated with supplements.

Enjoy your food but treat it as fuel.
The heightened availability of dietary information has fostered much anxiety and many misconceptions. People worry about eating too much of this and not enough of that. The bottom line is this: Food is meant to be enjoyed. Enjoy what you eat, eat a wide variety of foods, and eat modest portions. Viewing your food as fuel means that you make conscious decisions to select high quality foods in the amounts that you need. Learn to recognize and respect your body’s cues to hunger and satiety.

Have some protein at each meal.
Protein, like carbohydrates, provides 4 calories per gram. Unlike carbohydrates, it is digested slowly and helps to keep blood sugar stable. Blood sugar spikes and the corresponding insulin peaks they produce, contribute the development of metabolic dysfunction and inflammation in your body. Having some protein with each meal helps to keep your blood sugar level and your energy high throughout the day.

Eat regularly – do not skip meals.
This principle also addresses the concern about stabilizing blood sugar. When you skip meals, your metabolism slows to conserve energy. Your body “thinks” it’s starving. With the next meal comes a flood of blood sugar, which triggers an insulin spike. Frequent small meals keep your body supplied with a steady stream of fuel. It doesn’t go into starvation mode. If you must fast or skip a meal, make your first meal after your fast a small one that includes some protein to prevent sugar-flood/insulin-spike reaction from occurring.

Ensure your diet includes: sufficient water, probiotics and fiber.
Your body uses water in most of its millions of chemical reactions every day. Staying hydrated keeps your metabolism running smoothly.  Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue.

Probiotics are bacterial that are normally found in our digestive systems. They are commensal organisms, meaning we provide them with a living environment and in return they help to keep us healthy. Make a mental note to include a source of probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut, in your diet every day.

You’ve heard a lot about fiber in the news, in magazines and on TV. You know it’s important to get enough, but how much, exactly, is that? While most people need 25 – 30 grams per day, the good news is that if you eat a diet that is 75% plant-based, you will probably get enough without ever thinking about it.

Avoid CRAP

Carbonated drinks
Refined sugar
Artificial anything
Packaged/processed foods

I recommend minimizing your intake of these foods because they promote inflammation, often by interfering with insulin regulation, and because they tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.

For additional guidance, check out the Advanced Diet Information for Chronic Pain.

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