Tailor your diet to manage chronic pain.
Many people make lifestyle changes to better their diet, but this gets a little trickier when the purpose of the change is to manage a disease. For example, the list of foods to avoid for those suffering from arthritis is restrictive and often makes managing the disease more stressful. Managing inflammation involves consuming foods that are good for your heart, as the bodies systems are often connected.
A healthy diet contains lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Today’s society pollutes this with foods like cake and lasagna, but this might not be a problem for everyone. Some bodies can handle processed food and sugar, while others cannot. Paying attention to your body’s response is crucial in finding the best diet for you. Maybe you take a week refraining from eating gluten and fried foods. If you feel better, you should probably not start eating them again. The way you feel after eating food should be a reminder instead of a punishment. This will help you get in the mindset of treating food like medicine instead of treating medicine like food.
Diet affects the human body so much more than people realize these days. Eating foods that decrease inflammation in your body can manage chronic pain for those suffering arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The best way to go about lifestyle changes is little by little. There are likely parts of your diet you can immediately stop consuming or at least consume less often, so we suggest we start there. Find the food or category of food that makes the most difference for your body. Here are the 12 inflammatory ingredients that cause problems in the average American diet.
Soda and Artificial Sweeteners
Dieters often turn to artificially sweetened drinks to avoid consuming too many calories. Aspartame is comprised of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. This artificial sweetener is often used in diet foods and sodas. It is approved by the FDA currently, however studies of its effects have not confirmed it to be harmless. It is a foreign substance entering the body, as it isn’t natural. This triggers an inflammatory response. Cutting soda—diet or regular-- is a great place to start making change in your diet. Too much refined sugars has proven to increase inflammation and provide many other problems for your diet.
Diets high in saturated fat often promote inflammation in the body. Processed meats are high in saturated fat. If you are looking for a variety of processed meats that will be a bit less triggering, try finding options that are nitrate and nitrite free. Also, try to cut down where you can. Maybe instead of eating bacon for breakfast every day, eat it only a few days a week.
To avoid trans fats, reading the labels on the food you buy is crucial. Partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats, but the ingredients list is not always clear about this. Trans fats are like saturated fats. They are often found in fried foods and have been proven to trigger systemic inflammation within the body. This is shown through an increase in biomarkers of inflammation such as the C-reactive protein. Along with inflammation, trans fats can also lead to insulin resistance and obesity.
Refined carbohydrate products like white bread include sugar that increases the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGES). These are compounds linked with inflammation and the development of arthritis. Try opting for the better bread varieties like whole grain bread, multigrain bread with seeds, and even gluten free bread. If you are trying to decrease your bread intake further, try open-face sandwiches.
White pasta is like white bread. It is made of refined carbohydrates that increase the formation of AGEs, which are linked with inflammation. You can still eat pasta, though! There are many variations of bean-based pasta and gluten free pasta.
Gluten is a popular food on the inflammation hit list. While the connection between gluten consumption and arthritis pain has not been confirmed by research, many people report worsened symptoms after a gluten packed meal. This is tricky to prove, as celiac disease and arthritis are both autoimmune diseases. Having celiac disease heightens the risk for developing arthritis. Regardless, if you choose to go gluten free today you will have a lot more options than in the past. People have created gluten free pizza crust, bread, pasta, cake, and more.
Soybean Oil and Vegetable Oil
Vegetable oils contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are technically required for normal development and growth, but the standard American diet tends to consume them in much excess. This excess is what triggers the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism discovered a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.
Processed Snack Foods
Processed snacks are bad for you in many ways, but they are pro-inflammatory due to three ingredients: refined carbs or sugars, trans fats, and vegetable oils. To make matters worse, chips and crackers are often high in sodium and completely empty of nutrients.
While considering giving up your favorite dessert is heartbreaking, you might want to stop and think about how you feel after eating it. Do your joints feel stiff? Are you lacking energy? Restricting your diet completely isn’t the point of this article. The purpose of this information is to help you realize the way you feel after eating certain foods. While most people don’t want to cut out sugary foods entirely, noticing the way it affects their body often helps them say no more often.
While studies have proved that moderate consumption of alcohol can sometimes reduce the risk of arthritis by reducing biomarkers of inflammation like C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha receptor 2, moderation is important. Excess alcohol interacts badly with arthritis medication, harming the liver.
While MSG is associated with Chinese food, it is a flavor enhancer often included in canned foods, prepared foods, deli meats, and fast food. Some people believe that MSG can trigger arthritic pain, but this has not been proven by research.
Text By Thomas Cox and Martha Kendall Custard