Foods That Fight Pain: A Dietary Approach to Conquering Migraines, Backaches, and Joint Pain

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vegatable-marketIt’s normal to experience aches and pains every once in a while, but if the condition happens frequently, it can impair your quality of life. The good news is the root cause may live in your pantry, which means it is easy to fix: eliminate this trigger food from your diet, and stick with foods that fight pain.

Certain foods act as triggers for arthritis and migraines. At the same time, high-fat foods can increase inflammation and alter estrogen levels, affecting menstrual cramps, migraines, and even increasing the risk of certain forms of cancer.

High-fat foods also damage the arteries, creating blockages that reduce blood flow to the brain, heart, and spine. This explains why back pain is the most common form of pain and the leading cause of disability among American adults younger than age 45.

To determine if you have a dietary trigger for chronic pain, or just need an arterial makeover, consider a three-step intervention. Chances are you’ll be pain-free within months, with a clean bill of health.

Here’s how it works:

1. Adopt a plant-based vegan diet for 3 weeks.

The first step to identifying food irritants, or allergies, is to eliminate the most common sources: meats, cheese, eggs, and milk. Maintain this diet for 3 weeks and see how you feel. Most people feel remarkable and no longer need to progress to the second step, the elimination diet.

2. Eliminate trigger foods to identify inflammation.

If migraines or arthritis pain has not been fully eliminated, go a step further and purge common plant-based triggers – corn, nuts, tomatoes, wheat, and citrus fruits.
If you experience other forms of chronic pain, such as back pain or immobilizing menstrual cramps, simply stick to a vegan diet and avoid high-fat foods, including oils, nuts, olives, avocados, and prepared foods with more than 3 grams of fat per serving.

After eliminating these common inflammatory foods for a month, see how you feel. If you feel great, you’ve likely identified the trigger. If not, you may have an uncommon food allergy, such as blueberries or watermelon, or another cause of this source of pain. At this point, continue to keep a food log and consult with a physician or health care provider to help diagnose the underlying cause.

3. Reintroduce trigger foods.

If you’ve successfully eliminated pain, congratulations, it’s now time to confirm your food sensitivities. Start by reintroducing each problem food, one at a time, for a period of about 2 days, in medium to large amounts, and then assess how you feel. If painful symptoms occur, eliminate the food again and reassess after a few weeks. If you feel painful symptoms after this second reintroduction, you know you have a personalized solution to a longstanding problem. If not, keep a detailed food log to help identify other dietary triggers, which can cause pain anywhere from a few hours to 2 days after ingestion.

No further work is required, except to stay on a healthful plant-based diet.

For more information about dietary interventions for chronic pain, visit

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023