What do cheese, sugar, bacon, beer, cream, hot dogs and butter have in common? They’re all foods we turn to during celebratory times of the year, like the holiday season or summer cookouts. They’re also inflammatory foods that cause pain.
When you’re dealing with chronic pain, it’s important to watch what you eat. Why? Inflammation, an autoimmune response, can be triggered by certain foods and exacerbate pain in the back, joints and throughout the body. Opt instead for natural anti-inflammatory foods that can ease inflammation and help with pain, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
But there are times when avoiding foods that cause pain is easier said than done. When everyone around you is indulging in holiday feasts and cookies, or enjoying a freshly grilled burger and an ice cream cone on a hot, sunny day, it can be tough to avoid foods that cause pain altogether.
Here, we share tips for navigating seasonal festivities while focusing on foods that help you feel your best.
Understand The Foods That Cause Pain
If you’re new to following a chronic pain diet, make sure you are familiar with foods that cause pain due to inflammation so you can work to avoid them in any setting. These foods include:
- Highly processed, trans fat-laden foods such as fried foods and processed meat, and foods high in refined sugar and carbohydrates, like desserts and soda.
- Dairy like milk, butter and cheese, thanks to saturated fats.
- Alcohol, which can cause inflammation when consumed in excess.
- Seed and vegetable oils like grapeseed oil and safflower oil.
- Gluten – an irritant for those with celiac disease – is found in foods like bread, pizza, pasta and cereal.
It may seem like a lot of foods are off-limits to someone following a chronic pain diet, but there are plenty of healthy choices to turn to – some that will even help reduce inflammation in the body.
Know Which Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Turn To
Dr. Vivian Chen, who goes by @plateful_health on Instagram, shares this tip in a recent post:
“What we put in our mouth can either cause inflammation or calm inflammation… A good general rule of thumb: Foods in its whole form from the earth can help calm inflammation… Ultra-processed foods where the ingredients have been refined and processed, can cause inflammation.”
The top anti-inflammatory foods on rotation in her household are leafy greens, turmeric and spices, nuts and seeds, berries, leafy greens, green tea and grapes. Other natural anti-inflammatory foods that help with pain include coconut milk, salmon, apple cider vinegar and pomegranate and root vegetables.
Consider ways you can substitute anti-inflammatory ingredients for foods that cause pain. For example, use almond flour and natural sweeteners in your baking, spritz your salad with an apple cider vinegar-based homemade dressing instead of something store-bought and loaded with preservatives, or put grilled salmon on the menu instead of burgers and hot dogs.
Set Yourself Up For Success With Your Chronic Pain Diet
You can memorize all the foods that can cause pain and name anti-inflammatory food swaps in your sleep, but the desire to dig into a holiday appetizer platter or Grandma’s sugar cookies can be overwhelming. During times when food is the focus of family gatherings and other celebrations, it’s key to remember “everything in moderation.” You can also set yourself up for success pre-festivity with advice from dietitian Paula Norris, who shared tips in a recent Instagram post (find her at @movingdietitian):
- Drink enough water – thirst can be mistaken for hunger, so being hydrated can help you cut back on mindless snacking and alcohol consumption. Another tip is to drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks.
- Fill half your plate with salad or vegetables – think leafy greens, a natural anti-inflammatory food. Adding a hefty helping of greens to your plate naturally cuts down your portion of heavier foods.
- Don’t arrive too hungry – that way, you won’t be ravenous when confronted with a table full of treats.
Using these tactics, enjoy yourself and be mindful about going overboard with foods that cause pain.
It’s Not Just About Avoiding Foods That Cause Pain
Managing chronic pain isn’t all about following a special diet and avoiding foods that cause pain. It’s also important to get adequate sleep, keep your stress in check and treat injuries that arise in trouble spots like your joints, neck and lower back.
You can also give BioWaveGO a try. BioWaveGO is a wearable device that blocks pain at the source with therapeutic electrical stimulation. Results show that for 80% of patients, BioWave technology provides relief from chronic low back pain for up to 24 hours post treatment. Try BioWaveGO risk-free for 30 days.