Foods to Eat & Avoid for Pain Flare-Ups

November 6, 2021

anti-inflammatory foods We know that an anti-inflammatory diet can help with chronic pain management. It’s just one of the many tools we have in our arsenal of treatment options and other approaches, such as physical therapy. Changing the way you eat will probably not be a magic cure, but when included as part of your pain management plan, it can definitely help.

Eating the right foods for your body and avoiding the wrong ones can be difficult any time of the year, but the holiday season presents even more challenges than normal. There are so many treats, sweets, and temptations. While we don’t suggest you deny yourself these indulgences completely (that strategy can easily backfire with overeating), we do suggest sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet as much as possible. 

How to Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods & Why

Inflammation is a way in which your body can protect itself from infection, illness, or injury. Classic signs of short-term (acute) inflammation include redness, pain, heat, and swelling. However, with long-term (chronic) inflammation, you may have no obvious symptoms. This can lead to various problems within your body, or it can make already existing conditions worse. 

Eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol or sugary beverages, and engaging in little physical activity are all factors associated with increased inflammation. Many of these factors are also associated with increased pain.

Anti-inflammatory diets are typically considered very healthy, so even if the effects on your condition are minimal, it will likely improve your overall health and well-being. It may also help you lose weight, which can be a huge factor in alleviating your pain.

An example of a healthy, anti-inflammatory meal might look something like this:

Half your plate should be filled with whole grains like whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice, along with healthy proteins, such as fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. During the holidays, this might be a little more challenging. Typical holiday meal proteins such as ham and turkey are a good place to start. For the whole-grain aspect, you may need to volunteer to bring those items to a meal or potluck. A good example might be a salad made with whole grain pasta and added vegetables.

The other half of your plate should be mostly vegetables along with some fruit. Again, you might need to make your own healthy vegetable side dish to take to meals at other people’s homes. There are many options using seasonal vegetables, such as brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes (not in a casserole loaded with marshmallows), green beans, cranberries (not the kind from a can), and more. When preparing these healthy vegetable dishes, be sure to always use healthy oils like olive and canola oils instead of butter or other flavorings.

More Tips for Foods to Eat and Avoid

Overall, regardless of the time of year, you want to eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods in order to help reduce inflammation in your body.

Minimize or cut the following out completely:

  • Sweets, cakes, cookies, soda — You should focus on limiting these items during the holidays. These types of foods are full of sugar and have few, if any, nutrients. Eating or drinking too much of these items can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol, which are all related to inflammation. 
  • High-fat and processed red meat — These have a lot of saturated fat, which can cause inflammation if you get more than a small amount each day. Make sure you are eating lean, high quality meats during special meals and parties.
  • Butter, whole milk, cheese —  Saturated fat is the main problem here. 
  • Fried foods — There’s not really a way to make fried food healthy, no matter what kind of oil you use. These are a huge culprit in increasing inflammation. You may want to skip the fried turkey this year, and instead go for the roasted option.
  • Coffee creamers, margarine, other products with trans fats — Trans fats (often labeled as “partially hydrogenated oils”) raise LDL cholesterol, which causes inflammation. They are found in many packaged holiday sweets and goodies.

Your anti-inflammatory diet should include a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and fat at each meal. It’s also important to meet your body’s needs for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. 

We recommend that you work with your doctor at Southside Pain and/or a dietician on a plan that is tailored to you. Again, it’s more of a challenge during the holidays, but whatever your anti-inflammatory diet plan is, you should make it your goal to stick with it. If you need specific help in figuring out which holiday foods might be okay to eat or avoid, let us know.

Start your pain management journey by scheduling an appointment at Southside Pain Specialists

With highly specialized training and a multitude of pain relief options, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine, and the International Spinal Injection Society. We work hard to provide patients with comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.