Health Concerns

Pain (Chronic)

Nutrition and Pain

Diet

Recent evidence suggests that certain types of dietary interventions may have significant effects on chronic pain, especially severe forms of chronic pain (Tennant 2011). Also, chronic pain can result in a decreased protein intake and increased sugar and starch intake. These dietary changes result in wasting (i.e., catabolic state) (Tennant 2011).

Although the exact parameters of an "anti-pain" diet have not yet been recommended by any clinical organization (Tennant 2011), the scientific literature contains plenty of data indicating a strong link between food and pain. For example, periods of dietary fasting has been linked to the temporary relief of pain among many patients (Bell 2007). For longer term pain relief, some experts suggest a high protein, low carbohydrate diet (i.e., low glycemic index), which has been associated with decreases in pain sensitivity and inflammation (Ruskin 2009). Likewise, several studies have shown that a vegetarian/vegan diet is also beneficial to patients with chronically painful conditions (Bonakdar 2009).

Consuming a diet rich in antioxidants may also be helpful for the relief of chronic pain. This is because antioxidants neutralize free radicals and oxidative stress, which play a significant role in persistent pain conditions and have been linked to an increase in pain sensitivity (Tall 2004).

Some researchers believe that many of these dietary interventions activate the endogenous opioid system, which is the body’s natural defense against pain (Bell 2007). Moreover, documenting dietary history to ensure adequate protein intake can help chronic pain patients avoid muscle loss and weakness (Tennant 2011).