Diet and Pain Management

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is an effective approach to pain management. For the many individuals with chronic pain, medication may not always be the best answer, and incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet is the most beneficial method to reduce or eliminate pain. Although there is no cure-all food to get rid of pain, a balanced combination of the right types of foods would certainly help.

Pain management specialist Doctor William Welches recommends that patients who experience acute pain restrict themselves from consuming simple carbohydrates like sugar and flour, dairy, and red meat and eating around seven servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, chicken and fish. This eliminates a majority of the foods that Americans eat daily, including milk and processed foods. Sugar and flour should be avoided the most, followed by complex carbohydrates like whole grains. Potatoes, corn, and sweet potatoes, which are predominantly starch and/or sugar, are not recommended in an anti-inflammatory diet.

The most “healthy” foods are cruciferous vegetables, which include arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and radishes. These are vegetables originally named for having four equal-sized flower petals, and are commonly known as the mustard family vegetables and “cole crops.” Cruciferous vegetables are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that help in detoxification and cancer risk reduction.

The anti-inflammatory diet helps alleviate pain resulting from fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and other diseases, and it can also help to control Type I diabetes. However, this is a very strict diet regime which is difficult for most people to adhere to. The benefits from this diet can be amplified with an appropriate level of exercise, depending on the condition of the pain you are suffering from. Adopting a new diet is the same as changing your lifestyle – it is challenging and time-consuming.

A more feasible approach to improving pain management can be to know the things you should and should not eat instead of a heavy dietary restriction. Here is a list of dietary recommendations that may help alleviate chronic pain:

  1. Crustaceous vegetables: as mentioned before, these vegetables, which include Brussel sprouts and broccoli, help alleviate pain and can even slow the development of arthritis.
  2. Omega-3 fats: These are found in salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and other foods and are known to help prevent inflammation and reduce arthritis symptoms. Research from the Center for Genetics, Nutrition, and Health indicates that there are significantly fewer active COX-2 genes, which are responsible in joint inflammation, in individuals with a higher ratio of omega-6 than omega-3 in their diet. Omega-6 is commonly found in foods like meat and corn.
  3. Olive oil: The Mediterranean diet, which served to be the basis of the anti-inflammatory diet, was rich in olive oil. Olive oil contains oleic acid, which is rich in antioxidants like polyphenol and omega-3.
  4. Ginger: It is known for thousands of years to treat common ailments, and it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  5. Anthocyanin: They are antioxidants found in cherries, strawberries, raspberries, eggplants, etc. A study by Harvard School of Public Health revealed that individuals who consumed more strawberries had lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation.


Changing your diet can be difficult, but it is an effective technique in pain management. Even small increments of change can have monumental results.



Mary YoshikawaComment