Nutrition and Pain management

Chronic pain has been linked with weight gain so by eating a healthy well-balanced diet your pain can be managed better

Good food can improve the function of the nervous, immune and hormones systems directly impacting on your pain experiences

Losing weight or maintain your ideal weight can reduce the load on your joints and reduce inflammation

Food intake and your weight can help lower risks of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, mental health occurring same time as chronic pain

3 areas that are often affected by pain

1. Limited/poor mobility and strength which can directly affect ability to shop, cook and prepare meals

2. Mental health and feeling isolated commonly associated with chronic pain can lead to intake of energy dense food poor in quality and increased comfort eating or mindless eating

3. Lack of sleep can lead to irregular eating habits

Nutrition and Pain management

Top tips for nutrition and pain management

1. To reduce inflammation, have fruit and vegetables –using frozen mixed vegetables easily added to a stir fry/casserole /curry/bolognaise. They are easy to store and quick to use and can last longer avoiding too many shopping trips. Frozen fruits are also a healthy option to maintain nutrition quality e.g frozen berries. Tinned tomatoes, lentils and pulses can easily be added to stews and pasta dishes. Have reduced salt canned vegetables. Aim ½ plate of vegetables at main meals and have vegetables as snack

2. Healthy fats– omega 3 fats and monounsaturated fats e.g olive oil both help reduce inflammation and improve immune system. Oily fish e.g sardines and salmon, flax seed or canola oil, linseeds and walnuts boost omega 3 fats. Aim for 2-3 serves of oily fish per week. Use olive oil in cooking, as salad dressing within a low-fat diet. Reduce saturated and trans fats e. g butter, processed, takeaway foods, hydrogenated vegetable oils and limit polyunsaturated fats e. g sunflower/safflower oil. Seek advice from a Dietitian or your Doctor if you are considering fish oil supplements

3. Have a variety of nutrient dense foods to meet your vitamins and mineral requirements. Vitamin D is associated with muscle fatigue, good sources are sunshine, fish, and eggs. Vitamin B12 plays a role in nerve related to pain, good sources are meat, fish, and dairy food. Magnesium is linked with muscle spasm, inflammation and nerve pain, good sources are green leafy vegetables and wholegrains. A dietitian can assess your intake to identify early and address any changes to your food intake.

4. Dehydration can increase your sensitivity to pain. Drinking water can help essential nutrients to circulate around your body and remove waste to improve healing of wounds, reduce pain and avoid developing constipation. People who drink water may find that they consume less food and thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Recommended 2-3 litres per day- carry a water bottle with you and drink throughout the day

5. Dietary fibre is important for healthy digestion, healthy gut bacteria and weight management. When increasing dietary fibre, it is important to increase your fluids intake to promote bowel health. The recommended amount of fibre for adult female is 25g/day and adult male is 30g/day. Good sources are whole meal bread, wholegrain pasta, high fibre cereals, fruit, and vegetables

6. Finally, it’s important to reduce your intake of energy dense processed foods high in saturated fat and sugar as these foods can increase inflammation, your weight and ultimately worsen your pain. Swap sugary drinks with water, unhealthy snacks such as crisps, sweet biscuit, chocolates with fruit, vegetable sticks and diet yoghurts. Swap takeaway meals with home cooked meals that are quick and easy to prepare.

Reference: International association for the study of pain-2020 -systematic review of 73 studies.