Food Tips for Chronic Pain Patients
With treatment from a pain specialist, physical therapy, and some other lifestyle alterations, chronic pain patients can help keep their pain under control. Research is showing that what we eat can also have an effect on the body’s pain levels – especially in fibromyalgia patients.
Many experts blame fibromyalgia pain on oversensitive nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, and certain foods may stimulate the release of neurotransmitters that heighten this pain. While research in the area is young, specialists have compiled a list of healthy and helpful eating tips for patients with back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia and other types of chronic pain.
Eat more whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, and omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3’s increases inflammation in the body, increasing muscular and joint pain. A diet high in whole, fresh foods also helps control weight – and as overweight pain patients tend to report more severe pain, controlling weight can indirectly help control pain.
Eat less refined, processed “junk food”. Heavily refined, sugary, and chemically processed foods are known to irritate muscles, disrupt sleep, and interfere with immune function – three things that can enhance chronic pain. Aspartame, a chemical sweetener used in diet soft drinks, has also been found to heighten pain sensitivity in some fibromyalgia patients.
Avoid nightshade vegetables. While vegetables are a nutritious and important part of a pain patient’s diet, vegetables in the nightshade family – such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants – can increase joint pain and arthritis symptoms in some individuals due to neurotoxins in the plants. While many will experience no difference, some sensitive patients will improve remarkably without nightshade vegetables.