The right diet can help you manage chronic pain.

By Rania Batayneh, MPH
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When it comes to making lifestyle changes, our diet is often our number one priority. When it comes to managing diseases, it can get a little more complicated. If you were to do a Google search on foods to avoid if you suffer from arthritis, you will find a very restrictive list which can make managing your symptoms all the more stressful. Foods that are good for fighting inflammation are also good for your heart. The body's systems are all connected.

The more fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates your diet contains, the better. Everyone has times when they may want to enjoy a slice of cake or their mom's famous lasagna. If your body can tolerate these foods, then go for it. Listening to your body is essential. If you feel better after a week of eliminating gluten and fried foods, then continue to keep these foods out of your diet. Let the way you feel when you eat a certain food or eliminate it be a reminder, not a punishment.

Your diet can help you manage symptoms of chronic pain that you feel while decreasing inflammation happening in your body that you may be experiencing as a result of arthritis or other inflammatory diseases. Look at your diet and focus on the things you can immediately modify or minimize your intake of. Remember also that it's not always a specific food, it can be an ingredient or category of food that can trigger an inflammatory response. Here are 12 foods that can influence your body's inflammatory response.

Artificially Sweetened Drinks

Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol and is an artificial sweetener found in thousands of foods as well as diet sodas. While it is approved by the FDA, studies on its effects are mixed, and the impact on people with autoimmune disease are unknown. Because it is a foreign substance, your body may respond to it by attacking the chemical which can trigger an inflammatory response. This is something that happens over time. If you drink diet soda daily, this is a great place to start making a change.

Processed Meats

Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, and studies have shown that diets high in saturated fat-typically found in abundance in processed meats-promote inflammation in the body. Look for varieties that are nitrate and nitrite free. If you are eating bacon four days a week, reduce it to two.

Sugary Drinks

Several studies have found that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda or juice, is associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. What's more, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has also been linked to diseases like obesity, insulin, resistance, and systemic inflammation-all of which have been linked to the development of RA.

Trans Fats

This is where paying attention and reading labels carefully comes into play. When you see "partially hydrogenated oils" as an ingredient, this is a trans fat. Like saturated fats, trans fats, which are often found in fried foods, have been shown to trigger systemic inflammation within the body, as shown by increased biomarkers of inflammation like C-reactive protein. The consumption of trans fats is also correlated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and obesity, which are risk factors for RA.

White Bread

The consumption of sugars-found in refined carbohydrate products like white bread-have been found to increase the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), compounds that are linked with inflammation as well as the development of arthritis. Most of us have already transitioned to better-for-you varieties of bread such as whole-grain options that are higher in fiber, multigrain bread with seeds, or even gluten-free bread. Think about switching to open-face sandwiches as an easy way to reduce your bread intake.

White Pasta

The same rules apply here as they do for bread. It's the refined carbohydrates that have been found to increase the formation of AGEs that are linked with inflammation. The good news is that you can still eat pasta! With so many new varieties of bean-based pastas as well as gluten-free options, enjoying marinara and meatballs with your family can still be a weekend tradition.

Gluten

This is probably the most popular category of "foods to avoid" if you suffer from inflammation. The link between gluten and pain from arthritis is unclear and has not been confirmed by research, but some people believe that their arthritis symptoms worsen after eating a meal containing gluten. However, Celiac disease and certain types of arthritis are both autoimmune diseases, and having Celiac disease leads to an increased risk of developing arthritis. Eaters who are embracing a gluten-free lifestyle have more options than ever; gluten-free pizza crusts, breads, pastas, and more. A word of caution, even though a food is gluten free, it still has calories. If a gluten-free diet has been recommended to you to lose weight (which can lighten the load on your joints), you still have to pay attention to maintain balance in your diet and your portion sizes.

Soybean Oil and Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. While omega 6 fatty acids are required for normal development and growth, the standard Western diet tends to be too high in them, and excess consumption can trigger the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that a higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic inflammatory diseases, including arthritis.

Processed Snack Foods

Processed snack foods contain the trifecta of pro-inflammatory ingredients: refined carbs or sugars, trans fats, and vegetable oils. Most chips and crackers are void of nutrients and are often high in sodium. If you are snacking on cheese and crackers, try swapping the crackers out for a piece of fruit. Keeping snacks balanced is as important as keeping meals balanced.

Sugary Treats

The thought of giving up favorite desserts is depressing. But think about how you feel when do you indulge. Do you find that the next day your joints feel a little stiffer? Maybe your energy is a little lagging. It's not about restriction but rather the notion of realization. If you don't feel good when you eat something, don't eat it! Like processed snack foods, desserts often include the heavy hitters for promoting inflammation: sugar and trans fats.

Excess Alcohol

Studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption is fine-and sometimes even beneficial in reducing the risk of arthritis (it's been shown to reduce biomarkers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha receptor 2), but moderation is key. Plus, alcohol could interact with arthritis medications and end up taxing the liver.

MSG

This food additive is often associated with Chinese food but it is also a flavor enhancer that is found in thousands of canned and prepared foods, deli meats, and is also used in fast food restaurants. Research hasn't found a link between MSG consumption and arthritis; however, some people believe that MSG can be a trigger for arthritic pain.

Aim for balance and try to build meals and snacks with a combination of one protein, one carbohydrate, and one fat. This is the formula in my book, The One One One Diet: The Simple 1:1:1 Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss. Managing your blood sugar is one of the keys to keeping Type 2 Diabetes at bay. Studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic, low-grade inflammation and could potentially trigger the progression of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Comments (18)

Anonymous
May 20, 2021
Well done for the idea on this subject. Absolutely into the depth. Its really great blog. I recommended to the other people. You may like this one  22 Best Food For Inflammation And Body Pain Thanks for sharing this interesting article. :-) Keep up the good work. Thank you again.
Anonymous
January 4, 2021
Geeze some of you are whining crybabies and racist about the MSG? GIVE ME A BREAK! Yes Asians use that ingredient quite a bit, everyone knows that! And it IS true many of those foods mentioned DO aggravate inflammation. Duh!!
Anonymous
January 4, 2021
In answer to anonymous, Shame on YOU for trying to turn this into something it's not...and for the record there are years of data supporting the toxicity of MSG. As a person who consumed ALOT of it in the 80s while living in New York until my physician advised me to steer clear (and my symptoms subsided) and who still has an adverse reaction to foods containing MSG, you shouldn't be spreading false narratives and labeling it something it's not.
Anonymous
August 22, 2020
Shame on you for passing on that racist canard about MSG with, as you even admitted, no research based factual findings to support it! “Some people” might think the world is flat, but that is not a sufficient reason to retail the story!
Anonymous
August 22, 2020
Shame on you for passing on that racist canard about MSG with, as you even admitted, no research based factual findings to support it! “Some people” might think the world is flat, but that is not a sufficient reason to retail the story!
Anonymous
August 16, 2020
Good, sound advice. Anonymous below apparently has no idea what is inflammatory & what is not. I have followed this protocol for 20 years & am in excellent health— I take NO prescription drugs & have no arthritis pain
Anonymous
July 13, 2020
An opinion piece and not researched, this article is full of inaccuracies and not EVIDENCE BASED. An MPH doesn’t make you a diet and nutrition expert for that you need a REGISTERED DIETITIAN.
Anonymous
July 12, 2020
If you have an inflammatory problem, read about Nightshade vegetables. As a last resort I decided to see if eliminating them from my diet would make a difference, and it did. Now I steer clear of them and it has made a difference in my joint/bone pain. Good luck!
Anonymous
July 12, 2020
Read these type articles about everyday,this one is the best I've seen lately,thanks for the info..
Anonymous
August 28, 2019
Eat nothing out of a box or a can! That's a good place to start.
Anonymous
July 25, 2019
It makes me sad to read that yet another person has been diagnosed with "Fibromyalgia" and says her Lyme test was negative. Fibromyalgia is not a diagnosis; it's just a name that means "muscle pain." I was "diagnosed" with fibromyalgia for many years, and got worse and worse. They tested me 3 times for Lyme - all negative results. My docs were idiots. They were using the Elyssa test, which ONLY WORKS when you have an acute infection - i.e. when you were bitten in the last 6 months - 12 months. If you were bitten longer than that, the Elyssa test is useless because it tests antibodies in your blood for the Lyme bacterium. After a few months, the Lyme spirochetes VANISH from your blood stream! That's because they worm their way into your cells, where blood cannot find them. So the Elyssa test comes up negative while your infection actually is exploding inside you. One has to go to a Lyme specialist and go through the very expensive advanced tests for the Lyme syndrome (usually several different infections). If you do have Lyme (and 96% of "Fibromyalgia" patients in a California study actually had Lyme Disease when tested properly!), then long-term antibiotics are the answer. You WILL get better, your pain WILL gradually diminish, and you can live well again. Everyone should know all of this by now.....! Read about it on the ILADS.org site.
Anonymous
July 15, 2019
I have recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia which gives me pain in the body but an attack will occur when I least expect it and I'm bedridden for 2 or 3 days. I was tested for Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis and various other problems but had no inflammation in the body so these were ruled out. I don't eat processed meats, sodas, processed snack foods, fried foods but do have honey in my tea, together with lemon and occasionally a glass of wine (once or twice a month) I am taking an anti inflammatory OTC medication which I would dearly like to stop, but am so scared of an attack and my doctor cannot tell me if an attack would come on if I did stop. Am I going the right way with this disease problem as I have been told I will have it for the rest of my life which is not something I want to face. If I gave up all the foods in the list, would this help, or is there definitely no cure for fibromyalgia
Anonymous
July 14, 2019
JUST TOO CONFUSING TO ME! i NEED A LIST OF DO EAT OR DO NOT EAT. i DO NOT HAVE TIME TO DOALL THE READING!
Anonymous
July 13, 2019
I also read that MSG - Monosodium-glutamate - has been allowed to be called 'modified food starch' by the FDA on food ingredient labels. So, it's sometimes hard to know what's really in your food.
Anonymous
July 13, 2019
I hope and pray to see a difference when I cut out a lot of snacks and drinks I do not need
Anonymous
July 13, 2019
Thank you for this information. It is clear and concise.
Anonymous
June 12, 2019
olive oil and crisco. were do thy stand in this list. meat and potatoes do not obsorbe the fat the same we are told. and does a george forman grill realy reduce fat in meats
Anonymous
March 13, 2019
Tomatoes is a big no-no if you have inflammation issues. Another thing to try to reduce / control your inflammation is curcumin https://amzn.to/2VYF8e0 . It is what my doctor suggested me to try, along with reduced consumption of certain veg like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.