As you get older, you’ll probably notice that food isn’t what it used to be. Some of the dishes or food items that you used to enjoy could now be the source of your pain and discomfort.
See, sometimes, pain and inflammation aren’t only due to physical trauma. More often than not, they’re also because of the things you eat. What’s shocking is that so many people are unaware that certain foods are actually harmful. They keep eating these foods and as a result, the body keeps on fighting by “tripping the alarm”, otherwise known as an inflammatory response.
A Primer on How Inflammation Works
When somebody says inflammation, we automatically think of trauma or wounds like scraped knees or pulled muscles, but it’s actually not limited to those situations. Inflammation can occur whenever the body thinks something is wrong. During an inflammatory response, your body floods the area with red and white blood cells in an attempt to heal the damaged part and flush out the invader. This often leads to redness, heat, tenderness, and pain.
Now, imagine if the damage isn't caused by a fall or scrape, but is in the substances found in, say, a burger or a pancake. Every time these substances enter your system, the body starts fighting. The result is not only manifested by chronic pain; sufferers can also struggle with a bunch of other problems like weight gain, headaches, and digestive problems, to name a few.
It turns out that there are a lot of inflammation-inducing foods that are found in a typical diet. If you want to reduce pain and be more healthy, start by slowly scrapping these foods from your diet:
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Sweet doesn’t always mean good. Sugar has been linked to many health issues, including chronic pain and inflammation.
Studies show that high sugar consumption actually increases oxidative stress and prompts your body to release substances called cytokines, which promotes the inflammatory process. Aside from that, sugar increases the chances of toxins entering your bloodstream. Your body would naturally fight against those toxins, which would ultimately lead to---- you guessed it--- an inflammatory response and a ton of discomfort you can definitely do without.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners are also the main culprits behind obesity, one of the most prevalent and dangerous health issues in the US to date. Obesity worsens chronic pain conditions by burdening the muscles and bones, especially the spinal column and weight-bearing joints. This usually leads to swollen joints and sore backs. Sugar may be sweet, but if you want to lessen your pain, you might want to slowly eliminate it from your diet.
A lot of dairy products contain Vitamin D, which is helpful in building strong bones and teeth. However, dairy has also been linked to inflammation thanks to its high saturated fat, sugar and protein content.
Dairy products contain a protein called casein, which is similar to gluten, a substance that triggers chronic inflammation, especially in your gut. People who have gluten sensitivity are often sensitive to casein as well.
And here’s some shocking news: contrary to popular belief, milk--- or any other type of dairy for that matter--- can actually lead to brittle bones.
Here’s how it goes: taking in dairy increases acidity in your body. Your body would have to use alkalines like calcium to bring that acidity down and achieve acid-base balance. Where does it get all that calcium? From your bones. This could possibly make you more susceptible to injuries like sprains, fractures and even osteoporosis. Because of this, many dietitians are encouraging their patients to get calcium from plant-based sources like spinach, broccoli, and kale instead of dairy.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that fats like saturated, unsaturated and trans fat are huge culprits when it comes to chronic pain and inflammation.
Foods high in saturated fat include popular favorites like bacon, butter, and red meat. Studies show that high levels of saturated fat signal your immune system to release white-blood cells, which triggers inflammation to the body's adipose or fat tissues. Having too much unsaturated fat like omega 3 and 6 will also cause an inflammatory response, so it’s always best to keep things in moderation.
Trans fat is just as sneaky and twice as dangerous as its cousins. Unlike unsaturated and saturated fat, trans fat isn't a naturally occurring substance. It is formed when hydrogen is added to unsaturated fat to make food products last longer. A lot of experts would tell you that it's the worse kind of fat you can possibly ingest.
Why? It’s pretty simple.
Since trans fat doesn't occur naturally, your body will basically treat it as an invader, which results in inflammation of tissues. A diet full of products with trans fat like sweets, pastries, and fast food could also possibly lead to cardiovascular disease, so stay away from these as much as possible.
Foods High In Purine
If you've got joint pain, foods with high purine content are your worst enemy.
Purine, found in most organ meats (kidneys, liver and the like), legumes, and even some fish and grains breaks down into uric acid. Uric acid loves to settle and crystallize between your joints. When it does, it causes a form of arthritis called gout. If you want to prevent gout or even lessen pain in your joints, cut high-purine foods from your diet.
A lot of people might think that gluten sensitivity is but some hipster myth, but those suffering from celiac disease would prove them all wrong.
Gluten is a protein found in most grains like wheat, barley, and rye. People with gluten sensitivity suffer from celiac disease, a condition where their immune system attacks their small intestine whenever they eat anything with gluten. They have to totally eliminate gluten from their diet to avoid diarrhea, bloating and a bunch of other uncomfortable symptoms.
Gluten sensitivity isn't only limited to those with celiac disease, however, Turns out that some people just don't react well to gluten and experience something called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Its symptoms include dizziness, rashes, bloating and most notably, joint pain. Because of this, a lot of nutritionists have suggested cutting gluten off from the diet, which has led to favorable results.
Carbs can either be good or bad for your pain problem. Low-glycemic carbs, usually found in whole grains, veggies, and fruits, have been known to help with joint pain like arthritis. High-glycemic carbs have been known to make it worse. You can find high-glycemic carbs in refined grains like white flour, and in other food products like soda, candy, and most junk food.
Lessening your high-glycemic carb intake also does wonders for your cholesterol levels and blood sugar, so it not only helps your joint pain, it's great for your overall health as well.
Final ThoughtsSometimes it's hard to think of food as anything but delicious. When you see a sundae or a slice of pizza, you initially think of how good it would taste...not necessarily how it would make your pain problem worse.
And that's the thing about yummy food: you just want to eat a lot of them but if you're not careful, they will do more harm than good in the long run.
Stay healthy and pain-free by switching to a healthier diet. The foods listed above could be hard to give up altogether, but eating them in moderation should already help you a great deal. Likewise, you might benefit from foods rich in antioxidants like leafy greens and fruits. They have been known to alleviate a lot of health issues, including inflammatory and weight problems. Most importantly, don’t forget to consult with a dietitian or nutritionist if you have further health concerns.