how much of a role does food play when addressing pain and inflammation?

My goal isn’t to breakdown inflammation at the cellular level in this post. I’ll admit that the title sounds pretty broad and general. I’m also not here to tell you that your goji berry, mint and arugula salad will magically heal your nagging knee pain. Mostly because I don’t see the combo of those ingredients tasting good together (in my opinion) but most importantly, because there’s so many factors that come into play when addressing an injury and saying that food alone will heal everything would be untrue.


What I will say is that the types of foods you eat can eliminate low-grade inflammation and in some cases, can speed up the process of healing a sustained injury. Conversely, certain types of foods should be avoided as they either cause or contribute to an inflamed state. Let me paint you a picture…


A patient or client comes in complaining of an ongoing achy knee or shoulder joint. Seeing a chiropractor or physiotherapist will eventually get them better (They’ll address compensations and the biomechanical issues that are contributing to the pain as well as a number of other things). However, a well-constructed diet plan that compliments the ongoing manual therapy, can get you better faster or at the very least, help manage the pain the client is experiencing by significantly lowering inflammation. As a nutritionist, I’m biased. If I can address one part of inflammation through the immune system response, then why wouldn’t you want this along side your manual therapy protocol?


How about certain disc issues? In this case, food can play a therapeutic role when we have fluid from the disc in which the body sees as foreign. This jumpstarts the immune response and its inflammatory cytokines. The quicker the immune cells act on this, the quicker the inflammatory response goes down.


When we talk about pain from injury, were usually speaking of inflammation. This we can drastically improve with the right diet.  Examples of how poor food choices can manifest itself as physical pain….


1.     Poor food choices cause an antigen/antibody response that bring upon inflammatory markers. This is the process by which the body doesn’t recognize certain foods and calls upon the immune system to get rid of it thereby causing an inflammatory response. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as inflammation is a part of the healing process, but this becomes an issue when inflammation progresses into chronic inflammation. If you ingest something that’s foreign to the body (oh lets say skittles or trans fats), then the immune system is called upon and the inflammatory response begins. This has more to do with low-grade inflammation.

2.     Inflammation is an important process in the body. If inflammation is a consequence of an immune response then we should be supporting the function of our immune system. Probiotics, prebiotics, whole foods and cofactors found in healthy foods support immune function. Ya dig?

3.     An imbalance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids can lead to an inflammatory response because of the hormone like factors known as prostaglandins. Note: Omega 6 in excess is inflammatory. Because of the way food is processed, were getting more omega 6s than we need. This is where sushi has a therapeutic effect!


I understand that this is only one piece of the pie and in no way am I trying to say that food alone is the reason you’re in pain. After all, you didn’t piss your back off deadlifting because you didn’t eat a kale salad. What I’m saying is the therapeutic effect of food and supplementation should be considered when addressing pain and inflammation.


Eat. Move. Be Happy.