Why Diet Should Be Part of Every Pain Management Regimen

3 diet basics for patients on reducing inflammation

By William Welches, DO, PhD

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Research shows that diet should be an integral part of a pain management program — especially as patients age. A vegan or Mediterranean diet — or healthier eating inspired by these diets — can control insulin and cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, which is the pain culprit.

Inflammation is the body’s immune response to “purify” and remove toxins, and over time it can trigger chronic diseases. A fair amount of research indicates that diet can correct fibromyalgia and chronic pain symptoms. Patients who have followed rigorous vegan or Mediterranean diets have seen complete turnarounds in their pain symptoms.

These are three diet basics we should encourage all of our patients to consider:

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  1. Eat the rainbow

Consume eight to nine servings of vegetables each day. A couple of those servings can be fruit.

  1. Restrict dairy and grains

Eat dairy products in limited quantities. When choosing grains, stay away from simple carbohydrates with refined sugar. Opt for whole grains, including:

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Wheat
  1. Avoid red meat

Eat red meat the way we eat turkey right now — twice a year. Have it on very special occasions, very infrequently. Instead, include fish as the “meat” or eat vegetarian main dishes. Chicken is neutral — not harmful but not beneficial in the anti-inflammatory sense.

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Dr. Welches is a specialist in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pain Management. He can be reached at welchew@ccf.org or 216.295.1010.