An Integrative Approach to Pain Management: Diet

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A few weeks ago, we posted this blog about natural approaches to pain management. Since then, we have had requests for more information. So over the next few weeks, we will post more information on dealing with pain using a holistic approach, starting with diet and including testing, internal supplementation and topical support. For a more individualized protocol, consider scheduling a consultation with one of our naturopaths or nutritionists.

Diet plays a critical role in regulating pain and is the foundation for good health. The foods you eat have the ability to trigger either pro-inflammatory chemicals or anti-inflammatory chemicals. Pro-inflammatory foods increase pain, swelling, and cellular damage. An increase in inflammatory chemicals has been associated with most chronic diseases including arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and various cancers. Anti-inflammatory foods are health promoting and protective to the body. Unfortunately, the current American trend tends to promote inflammation. 

  • Eating out a lot, much of it fast food
  • Eating on the run, with increased need for antacids, which can dampen digestion/absorption
  • Eating more processed foods (containing high salt, sugar, refined oils, artificial colors, preservatives, unhealthy fats, synthetic ingredients and other additives)
  • Eating less fruits, vegetables and whole grains (less fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals)
  • Eating more “empty calories”
  • Eating foods that have been genetically manipulated
  • Drinking more soda
  • Eating foods containing toxins such as hormones, pesticides, herbicides, etc.
  • Eating more food but getting less nutrients
  • Eating restricted diets or a narrow range of foods (increases likelihood of nutritional deficiencies)

So if you are trying to decrease inflammation (which causes pain), here is a list of foods to avoid.

  • Trans fats, hydrogenated oils (margarine or shortening), and refined polyunsaturated oils such as sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and corn oil
  • Red meat (conventional meat (hormones) is worst, grass-fed is preferred)
  • Grilled and processed meats
  • Refined carbohydrates (white rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries)
  • Sugar
  • Dairy products (especially highly processed or non-organic)
  • Chemical additives and preservatives, pesticides, herbicides
  • Foods that you are sensitive or allergic to, such as nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne), gluten, wheat, soy, corn, dairy, eggs, etc.

So what should you eat?  Luckily, the selection is long and tasty.

  • Spices, such as ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, dill, rosemary, oregano, basil, etc.
  • Herbs, such as green tea, licorice, nettles, etc.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, flax, walnuts, etc.
  • Dark leafy greens (bok choy, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, spinach, etc) – provide powerful plant chemicals and essential minerals
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables (berries, citrus, melons, pears, apples, beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, yams, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, etc.) – provide antioxidants and vitamins
  • Whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, whole wheat, corn, etc.) – provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants
  • Legumes (lentils, soy, black beans, pinto, garbanzo beans, etc.) – provide protein, fiber, and vitamins
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts) – provide essential fats, minerals, and protein
  • Sea vegetables (wakame, kombu, hijiki, arame, nori, dulse) – essential minerals and trace minerals
  • Healthy fats – eggs, avocados, butter, flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds, nut butters (almond butter, pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter, tahini), olives, sardines and other oily fish (cod, haddock, mackerel, salmon), meats (buffalo, lamb, organic / grass-fed beef, venison), cooking oils (olive, coconut, butter, ghee)
  • Organic dairy foods / dairy alternatives (milk made from almonds, rice, hemp, oats, soy, coconut, etc.) – provide protein
  • Organic/hormone-free meat, poultry, grass-fed beef, fish, eggs – rich in protein and essential fats
  • Filtered water – detoxification, lubrication and assimilation

A whole foods diet is a way of eating that promotes life-long health. Emphasize  fresh, organic, raw and cooked vegetables, seasonal fruit, whole grains, high quality protein and fats, beans, and purified water. This will have many benefits besides decreasing inflammation including promoting healthy intestinal function, decreasing cellular damage, assisting hormonal balance, supporting the immune system and promoting healthy weight.

Thanks to Margo Gladding for providing this information.


Our Bloggers

  • Paula Gallagher
    Paula Gallagher
    Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
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  • Margo Gladding
    Margo Gladding
    Margo's impressive knowledge base is the result of a unique blend of educational and professional experience.
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  • Dr. Neal Barnard
    Dr. Neal Barnard
    Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
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  • Joseph Pizzorno
    Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
    Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND is a pioneer of integrative medicine and a leading authority on science-based natural medicine.
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  • Debi Silber
    Debi Silber
    Debi is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, a personal trainer, and whole health coach.
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  • Teri Cochrane
    Teri Cochrane
    Teri is a is a Certified Coach Practitioner with extensive certifications and experience in holistic medicinal practices.
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  • Dr. Rav Ivker
    Dr. Rav Ivker
    Dr. Rav Ivker is a holistic family physician, health educator, and best-selling author.
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  • Susan Levin
    Susan Levin
    Susan writes about the connection between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
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  • Rob Brown
    Dr. Rob Brown
    Dr. Brown's blended perspective of healthcare includes a deeply rooted passion for wellness and spiritual exploration.
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December 2022