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Got Chronic Pain? Nutrition + Supplements Can Help
As a health coach, I’ve seen first hand how the foods we eat can help with chronic pain or inflammation. The truth is we can change our body chemistry every time we eat. If you’ve been living with chronic pain I’d like you to consider that the foods you put into your body are just as important in managing your pain as what type of medications you may take. With this approach, you can be your own doctor and learn what helps you the best by experimenting on your own body.
You no longer have to rely on a doctor or pharmacist to help you manage pain. You can take your health into your own hands by discovering what foods or supplements do and don’t support your health and modifying your behavior to manage your pain.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet For Chronic Pain
If you’re experiencing chronic pain, my first recommendation is to follow an anti-inflammatory way of eating. An anti-inflammatory diet is considered a holistic approach to pain management along with exercise, stress management, and alternative therapies, like acupuncture and chiropractic.
Inflammation is a natural process in the body that defends against disease; however, chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression, according to ClevelandClinic.org.
You can find a wealth of information about eating anti-inflammatory foods by searching on google, but in general, it involves avoiding all processed foods and meats and increasing nutrient-rich plant foods. The idea is to replace sugary, refined foods with whole, nutrient-rich foods.
The specifics of the diet will vary depending on the severity of your pain and your overall health, but in its strictest form, the diet involves eliminating the following: simple carbs, like sugar and flour (including most grains like rice, corn, and wheat), dairy, and red meat. Instead, you focus on whole fruits, vegetables, and lean animal proteins like fish and chicken in moderation.
Supplements For Chronic Pain
In addition to the food you eat, supplements may help. I recommend you try each of these supplements one at a time to see what works. You may find that one works better for you than another- or that you need to try a combination of a few of them.
Many of my clients skip most of the others on this list and go straight to CBD oil for pain support. If you feel like you have tried everything and nothing works, I’d highly recommend researching the benefits of CBD oil (Cannabidiol oil).
CBD oil is one of the 104 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa; Most CBD is sold without THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis and causes the “high” you have heard about. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive and doesn’t get you high.
Recent studies have shown vitamin D in high doses to reduce pain. According to a 2011 study focused on breast cancer patients, vitamin D helps chronic pain because it limits how much inflammation can take place.
This is because vitamin D is a key nutrient that prevents the immune system from responding excessively, leading to chronic inflammation, also known as pain.
I recommend taking at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day for pain; however, it is important to work with a doctor and get regular blood draws if taking vitamin D in high doses for long periods of time.
Glucosamine & Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are part of what makes up the cartilage in your body. These supplements are also helpful for joint pain and are often sold together as a supplement.
Though evidence is conflicting, many of my clients have found pain relief by taking these daily. DHA/EPA (fish oil)
New research shows that essential fatty acids, DHA and EPA, promote a class of compounds called resolvins, which restore nerve and immune cell function to normal in a more timely manner, thus getting rid of excess pain.
I recommend taking high, therapeutic doses (2-3 grams) of fish oil daily as shown in a university study in 2012 where more than 380 arthritis patients concluded that doing so for more than 3 months, reduced patients’ need for NSAID (Aspirin, Ibuprofen) drugs.
Turmeric is a root in the ginger family and has been known to reduce inflammation. I recommend taking a minimum of 500 mg daily for back and joint pain. You can find this as a powder, tea, liquid, or capsule form.
Kratom, or Mitragyna Speciosa, is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. Kratom contains a chemical called mitragynine which works like opioid drugs such as codeine and morphine to relieve pain.
Due to its association with opioids, many people are nervous about its use; however, I have known many people to benefit from it without side effects. Remember to use a holistic approach when dealing with chronic pain.
Most likely no single one of the above recommendations will be a “fix-all” for you. You may find a blend of several of these, in addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, stress-relieving techniques, medications, and alternative therapies to be the solution that is right for you.
1. I recommend working with a nutritionist, health coach, or dietician when making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have chronic health issues.
2. It is important to first understand what is causing your pain in order to know what supplements or alternative medicines may work for you. I recommend working with an integrative or functional doctor in tandem with an acupuncturist and/or chiropractor to diagnosis the root of your pain. In addition, always check with your doctor before starting any supplements if you are taking prescription medications.
3. There is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of CBD oil and Kratom for pain, so please do your research and use caution.
- Rastelli, A.L., Taylor, M.E., Gao, F. et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2011) 129: 107. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-011-1644-6
- Lee YB et al. “Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis.” Archives of Medical Research. 2012 Jul; 43(5):356-62. Epub 2012 Jul 24.