Manage Chronic Pain & Inflammation Through Nutrition

Thank you to Kelley Johnsen for her contribution on managing inflammation and chronic pain through better food choices. You really are what you eat! After reading this post, be sure to check out Kelley’s other contributions on Nutrition and check out her blog – you’ll find the link below.


 Chronic pain, ranging from headaches, back pain, knee pain, neck pain and more, accounts for a majority of Dr. appointments across America. We use the term chronic when the pain does not go away without turning to a pain reliever. There are many pain relievers to choose from such as Tylenol, ibuprofen and prescription meds. While some of these drugs help mask the pain, was the problem fixed? What about the effects these chemicals have on your liver and stomach? Pain meds can cause liver dysfunction and have long been said to be the second-most cause of ulcers.

So, let’s talk about WHY we have these pains. One of the most common reasons is from inflammation in the body. One way we create and can stop this inflammation is in our food choices.

Here are some items that cause inflammation leading to pain in the body.

  • Sugars: refined, processed, white
  • Grains: enriched, processed, white flours. Examples are bagels, breads, pasta, desserts.

These can cause and lead to leaky gut syndrome.

  • Oils: refined and processed
  • Fatty Meats

Americans eat these foods on a daily basis and they consist of 80% of the food eaten. Wow, think about that! 80% of the food choices… and it causes your pain and we chalk it up to a bad day at the office, studying too hard or not getting a good night’s rest. The inflammation caused by these foods hits joints and muscles, causing you pain, so you in turn take medications to put aband-aid on the pain instead of STOPPING it. The meds will wear off and the pain will still be there.

What can you do?

  • Make a lifestyle change and transform your eating habits. Start by picking cleaner foods or try limit the use the foods listed above. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Use natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar. Natural sweeteners include fruits, honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc. We have many great choices that are better for the body now.
  • Chose whole grains, whole wheat and brown rice. Of course if you are gluten free, you will stick to sprouted grains or cut them out entirely. Many people are finding that grains and simple carbs are best left completely out of their diet due to digestive issues.
  • Better oil choices include olive oil (raw or low heat cooking only), coconut, grapeseed or pure butter (used in moderation). These oils should always be cold pressed and non-hydrogenated. Most cooking oils create Free Radicals in the body that breakdown at a cellular level, creating illness and disease.
  • Opt for organic lean meats, such as skinless chicken and fresh fish.
  • Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce and clean up areas that have been affected by inflammation.

Two Recipes for you this week

Gluten-Free Granola

  • 1-cup soy flour
  • 8 cups rolled (clean oats)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sesame seeds, ground
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup cashews
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Combine first 7 ingredients and mix well. Blend the dates, cashews and vanilla in water.  Pour into first mixture and mix well. Spread out on cookie sheets. Bake at 200° F for 2-3 hours or until lightly browned. Stir occasionally for even baking. Raisins should be added after baking, as should any other dried fruit.

Sage egg-white frittata

  • 9 egg whites
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper, for taste
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh sage leaves
  • 2 cups mixed greens, trimmed washed and dried

Pre-heat oven to 375° F. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy. In another bowl, whisk 3 whole eggs until frothy as well, and then fold in egg whites. Add in mushrooms and seasoning. In an oven-safe pan, heat over medium heat and add oil to bottom and sides of pan. Pour egg mixture to pan and add sage leaves. Cook low-medium for 4 minutes (until edges are set). Then place in over and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes, until set, and add over greens.

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  1. Ashley says

    Fabulous article! I went gluten-free 2 months ago and the overall inflammation has greatly reduced. Working on the rest of the grains and sugar right now. It’s so hard but I love actually seeing the results.

  2. says

    I LOVE the GF granola recipe. I’m not gluten-intolerant, but I have been trying to cut back on refined wheat/sugars. Thanks so much!

  3. Judy Gregory says

    2 additional foods to avoid. 1. dairy and meat increase the chemical that sends pain signals between nerve fibers. the “omegas” help to block these same chemicals. (think throwing up a firewall). 2. the nightshades. tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and tobacco, etc. these plants are from the same family as bella donna (deadly nightshade) they can increase the pain suffered from joint inflammation. (this knowledge is based on 20+yrs working for a national supplement/health food chain). i claim no specific medical training, degree, or “prescribing” powers

  4. says

    Brown rice is certainly better than white rice, but wild rice is even better than brown. I sprinkle a little bit of pepper and just a dash of sea salt on my wild rice, and I think it even tastes better than brown rice. Takes more water and more time to cook, so keep your eye on it when cooking it the first few times.

  5. says

    I have been suffering from inflammation a lot, which in turn is causing chronic pain. I have never been a true believer of no carb diets and cutting out the goodies but after reading your article I am finally going to give it a try. I don’t really have a choice because the inflammation is really making my life miserable. I will post back to let you know if it helps.
    Candy recently posted..Sleeping Pills • Re: Clonazepam and Alprazolam as sleeping pill?

  6. says

    I need to add tart cherries to your article on nutrition. The anthocyanins and phenols found in tart cherries have been shown to provide protection against muscle injury and damage, especially after exercise. Like you said, many run to ibuprofen…try 1 cup of tart cherries (frozen or fresh)instead for a month and see what happens.

  7. says

    Food choices most certainly play a big role in our overall health, but they also play a HUGE role in America’s drastic problem with obesity, which also affects joint pain. Right now, it’s predicted that if current trends continue, by the time the children that are being born today graduate from high school, 45% of them will have type II diabetes as a consequence of obesity. It’s also predicted that those children will have shorter life spans than their parents. Scary thought!!! Americans could potentially eat themselves into extinction.

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