NUTRITION AND PAIN
Emerging evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses demonstrates the beneficial effects diet therapy can play on chronic pain conditions.
Nutrition is one of the leading lifestyle factors implicated in chronic diseases and their management, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic pain.
Making poor food choices is considered a predicting or perpetuating factor in chronic pain conditions. Not only is proper nutrition deemed an essential aspect in personalised pain management, but it improves clinical outcomes of analgesic opioid therapy, which can considerably enhance an individuals quality of life.
A western-based diet commonly has several issues, including:
Deficiency of fresh fruits and vegetables
Excessive intake of:
Refined carbohydrates/grain products
Incorrect balance of omega-three to omega-six fatty acids
These dietary imbalances result in an imbalance of essential vitamins and minerals and the production of pro-inflammatory mediators within the body that can adversely affect pain.
Other diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats (omega-three fatty acids) and are associated with much lower levels of inflammation.
Research has found a minimum of five portions of fruits and vegetables per day could reduce the pro-inflammatory states associated with chronic pain.
Daily consumption of probiotics and fibre encourages a healthy microbiota, which positively impacts pain, mood, and other chronic health conditions. A healthy microbiota also helps protect against the negative impact of medication such as opioid therapy.
The optimisation of diet positively impacts common comorbidities of chronic pain, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular mortality, and mental health.
Gastrointestinal health is critical to health and well-being, and its role in chronic pain is becoming evident. Good gut health includes appropriate digestion and absorption of food, normality and diversity of the microbiota, proper immune function, and the absence of gastrointestinal illness and disease. Microbial manipulation through the use of pre and probiotics shows therapeutic promise in visceral pain disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and improving mood and symptom control.
In addition to dietary optimisation, evidence supports supplementation with specific nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin B, vitamin D and omega-3 to assist with pain management. A 2011 systematic review suggests that nutrients with high antioxidant activity, e.g. B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and magnesium, can improve chronic pain without any undesired effects. However, before taking any supplements, it is recommended that a health professional review you.