Our bodies use the food we eat to maintain bones and muscles and also to produce chemical messengers that affect how we function. A diet rich in highly processed foods, especially sugars, can cause an increase in the amount of chemicals associated with inflammation in the body. When these chemicals are found in higher levels we experience increased pain sensations including but not limited to muscle aches, spasms and joint stiffness.
Inflammation is a process by which there is an increase in temperature and amount of fluid in an area of the body. There may also be redness and pain associated with inflammation. The inflammatory process is a means by which the body can heal itself and so it often happens after an injury. However, if the inflammation persists it can lead to ongoing pain or other problems in the body.
A higher level of inflammation in the body, besides causing pain, can lead to serious problems in the future. Research studies showed a link between high levels of inflammation and the possibility of developing heart disease. (http://www.americanheart.org).
Foods like leafy green vegetables, and cold water fish such as salmon help to reduce inflammation. Limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, sugary snacks and white rice can help to decrease pain. The use of certain supplements like essential fatty acids, ginger or digestive enzymes may be helpful in reducing inflammation.
It is very important to read labels on foods. Highly processed foods contain more of the inflammation-causing substances. Did you know that high fructose corn syrup is often used instead of sugar and it has the same effect of increasing inflammation? Another confusing fact is that a box or can of food often contains more than one serving. The nutritional information is only given per serving so the amount of fats and sugars may appear lower than the content of the box or can. A bagel from a typical bagel shop is 3 - 4 servings of bread! The Department of Agriculture has some useful information about serving sizes:
A good way to assess your diet is to keep a diet diary listing everything you eat and drink for 1-2 weeks. Once you have gathered the listing, see how many sugars and starches you are eating. Large numbers of those items can actually be a cause of bodily pain but you can improve how you feel by following the nutritional guidelines.
Pineapple is full of enzymes that help decrease inflammation. Curry powder that contains turmeric is another great thing to incorporate into your diet if you have chronic pain. Cherries have been associated with a decrease in joint pain for people that have certain types of arthritis. As you can see the foods we eat, as well as those we choose to avoid, really make a big difference in decreaseing inflammation and keeping us feeling our best!
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