| One-Minute Clinician

Nutrition and Pain: Rules for Success

Roughly 40 percent of anyone’s chronic pain comes from their food. If your pain is worse or you’re having a bad day there’s a reason for it and the most overlooked reason is our food. The food that we eat causes tremendous amounts of inflammation and if we’re eating inflammatory foods, that turns into pain. The foods are very common, are highly addictive, and aren’t something that we want to quit eating.  It’s really hard to convince somebody that the foods they love are so dangerous to their bodies. Everybody in primary care should be coaching this. We also miss is the absoluteness of it.  It’s not enough to say ‘well I’m going to change my diet, so I’ll eat less of this.’ If you have a speck of something that turns on your inflammatory system, you’re on for the next four weeks. You can’t minimize it. You need to not eat any of it and that’s a level of commitment that is difficult for people to maintain and to do.

So, what should we be coaching? First, do I see foods are inflammatory; bread flour, sugar, potatoes, fruit juice, artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated fat. Second, have I read the label on everything that went into that meal? You need to know that there’s no high fructose corn syrup and there’s no wheat used in it as a thickener. Even common vegetable soup stock has wheat in it as a thickener. Third, what contaminated my food in its preparation?  Was the cheese knife clean? Was the cutting board clean? If it wasn’t and you’re sensitive to whatever was on that board, you can’t eat that piece of cheese. And finally, if nothing is coming up, you need to look for something that is particular to your own body. I tell my patients with pain to write down as specifically as they can everything they ate in the last 24 hours.  Put it in a drawer and next time the pain occurs,  do the same thing and put it in the same drawer. And by the third or fourth time, you’re starting to identify what’s in common. I don’t think doctors are educated enough in this whole process to be able to speak to patients with enough conviction to get them to buy into it. But by repetition and by staying with it, patients can learn and then they find their way out of pain.

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