Most people that suffer with chronic pain, such as arthritis, migraines, headaches and fibromyalgia, don’t consider that their pain could be caused by some of the foods they are eating. Often times, these chronic pain issues are accompanied with fatigue, depression, digestive problems, sleep problems and weight problems. Unfortunately, many of these people will suffer with these problems for years before finding a connection with certain foods they are eating that may be akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. It can be rather difficult to identify which foods may be the culprits due to a number of factors including delayed reactions after eating the food, prolonged reactions from eating certain foods on a regular basis, and certain foods or ingredients being pervasive throughout the foods we eat. There are also different types of reactions from foods that can lead to chronic pain such as immune or autoimmune responses commonly initiated by a loss of integrity to the mucosal lining of the digestive system leading to an inflammatory response. Another response occurs when certain neurotransmitters are released when certain foods are eaten which sensitizes the nervous system leading to heightened sensitivity to pain.

To add insult to injury, many of the foods that people are sensitive to, when broken down, create morphine-like substances such as gluteomorphin present with the break down of gluten. These chemicals trigger a “feel good” response in the brain, in turn creating a possible food addiction to the actual foods you are sensitive to. In fact, when food cravings are present, many times these are foods you are sensitive to.

So what steps can you take to find out if what you are putting in your mouth is fueling the fire to your chronic pain? There are some lab tests available to detect if food sensitivities are a problem for you, but it is also important to understand there is a major difference between food sensitivities and food allergies. Just because your doctor has performed food allergy tests on you that check out normal, doesn’t rule out a problem with food sensitivities. Here is a list of strategies you can implement to determine if what you are putting in your mouth is a part of your chronic pain and associated health challenges.

  • Reduce and minimize sugar intake Most people are completely unaware of how much sugar they consume in a day. If you are suffering with chronic pain, or any other chronic disease, do not exceed 25 grams of sugar per day including all foods and beverages you consume. Many people consume 5 to 10 times this amount on a daily basis.

  • Give Gluten-Free a Try The protein found in wheat and other grains such as rye and spelt can trigger a variety of adverse inflammatory reactions in the body, not only limited to the digestive system, but also affecting joints, muscles, skin and brain function. It is best to go gluten-free for two months and then reintroduce foods with gluten after this period to see if there is any adverse reaction.

  • Avoid Aspartame This artificial sweetener is considered an excitotoxin and can increase the sensitivity to pain.

  • Consider Nightshades Some people are sensitive to vegetables in the Nightshade family including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers (not black pepper) and eggplant which may lead to arthritic symptoms. Eliminate these for two weeks to see if you notice any improvements.

  • Avoid Food Additives Many additives such as MSG are excitatory to the nervous system and may increase the sensitivity to pain.

  • Get a Rainbow of Produce Get a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. These supply an abundance of antioxidants which have many anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Include Anti-Inflammatory Fats and Oils Most people consume an abundance of Omega-6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils such as canola oil and soybean oil which fuel the inflammatory pathways in your body. Be sure to get an abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet from supplements or foods including fish, grass-fed beef or fresh nuts and seeds including walnuts.

  • Spice It Up Frequently include ginger, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, fresh-ground black pepper to quench the inflammation and pain.

  • Get Plenty of Fresh, Clean Water Many people are not adequately hydrated and subsequently suffer with unnecessary pain, muscle cramps and spasms. How do you know if you are getting enough water? Divide your body weight in half and this is the minimum number of ounces you should be drinking every day.