Food quality always matters — but ESPECIALLY when you’re injured, recovering from surgery, or trying to reduce chronic pain. This isn’t the time for a calorie deficit; this is the time to deliver as MUCH nourishment as possible to support your body’s efforts at healing.
Food impacts our experience of pain on a bunch of levels:
— the function of the nervous, immune and endocrine systems
— the amount of mechanical load on our joints (via weight loss or gain)
— and the risk/severity of OTHER coexisting conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc).
Reduce inflammation and support the immune system. The most effective way to do this is via lots of COLORFUL foods, which contain helpful polyphenols. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones (and in some cases better!).
The omega-3s found in healthy fats are another helpful tool for reducing inflammation and promoting brain health. There is also good evidence for curcumin, which is the polyphenol found in turmeric (however, make sure it’s combined with black pepper extract, otherwise the bioavailability is minimal).
Reducing ultra-processed foods (and alcohol) is another strong anti-inflammatory strategy.
Vitamins and minerals. Three very common deficiencies are Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and magnesium; the latter two can significantly impact the neurological aspects of pain. B12 is found in animal products, and magnesium is in dark leafy greens, nuts, and… chocolate! The easiest way to manufacture Vitamin D is to get about 15 minutes of sunlight exposure per day.
Hydration (at least half bodyweight in ounces per day). Water allows our blood and lymph fluids to circulate more effectively, which has a direct impact on pain.
Fiber (25-35g/day). Fiber is found in fruit and vegetables as well as oats and multigrain products. It “feeds” the good bacteria in our gut to help strengthen the immune system!
Mental health. The mental aspect of pain and injury is often more significant than the physical. Nutrition is a powerful healing tool, but “all foods fit” — there is space for social pleasure too!