Whilst the medical profession cannot say for certain whether inflammation of our body tissues has a role in maintaining chronic pain, there is a growing school of thought that following a diet aimed at reducing inflammation can also reduce levels of pain.
Can an anti-inflammatory diet reduce pain?
In fact, this idea has been around for a long time. Back in 1991, a study into the effect of diet on rheumatoid arthritis concluded that following a vegetarian-based diet resulted in a significant reduction in joint inflammation, pain and stiffness.
More recently, a number of studies have shown that we are more likely to suffer with musculoskeletal pains and tendinopathy if we also suffer metabolic syndrome (a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity) which can in part be treated with an anti-inflammatory diet. Reduce or resolve the metabolic syndrome and levels of pain are also reduced.
One type of diet associated with benefitting a number of medical conditions is a ketogenic diet; a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that shares many similarities with the famous Atkins diet. Essentially, it involves drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat. This reduction in carbohydrate intake puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy, as well as turning fat in the liver into ketones.
Ketogenic diets are associated with numerous health benefits, but can they reduce levels of pain?
There is definitely evidence that following a ketogenic diet can reduce inflammation and a study in Connecticut reviewed much of the available evidence on “the impact of a ketogenic diet on thermal pain, inflammation, and neuropathic pain.” Its conclusion was encouraging, with the authors recommending that “A major research focus should be on how metabolic interventions such as a ketogenic diet can ameliorate common, comorbid, and difficult-to-treat conditions such as pain and inflammation.”
Should I consider an anti-inflammatory diet?
If you suffer with chronic pain, changes in diet may seem an attractive, non-pharmacological addition to your existing treatment and therapy regime. However, any significant change in lifestyle should only be considered after taking appropriate medical advice. It would be very easy to do yourself long-term harm by following a diet deficient in something crucial for general health and wellbeing.
Most doctors will be open to discussing a specialist diet and, if necessary, making an onward referral should more specialist advice be required. One of our clients found that her specialist pain doctor was particularly supportive of her plans to try an anti-inflammatory diet and referred her to a dietitian whose advice proved invaluable.
Mediterranean diet for chronic pain
It has been said that if you’re looking for a ready made plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. Indeed, in the UK the Mediterranean diet is highly recommended by the NHS for good overall health.
Whilst pondering whether to investigate further whether an anti-inflammatory diet may be right for you, why not treat yourself to an anti-inflammatory smoothie? Follow this link for some delicious recipes.