FOOD and pain, strange bedfellows? Dear readers, read on. Researchers all over the world, especially in the United States are striving to understand the underlying mechanisms that explain why food choices have the potential to influence inflammation and cause discomfort and even pain, in certain patients. Studies have mixed results and are difficult to simplify into treatment recommendations.
To make research findings more accessible to the medical community, your columnist is happy to share the findings of diet- rich in olive oil, cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish and legumes- Bhawna Gupta of India and medical journalist Heather Stringer who reviewed nearly 200 studies about managing inflammation and pain with dietary interventions. In a paper published in the Frontiers of Nutrition in 2017, they described several studies showing that the so-called Mediterranean diet- rich in olive oil, cereals, fruits, vegetables, fish and legumes- can reduce inflammation by decreasing the process of oxidative stress in the body.
They also examined studies focused on the Vegan diet, with interesting evidence of disease remission and improvement in participants who avoided animal products and consumed only vegetarian food.
There is also the possible benefit of shifting to the so-called “elimination diet” in which individuals give up specific foods for a certain period of time to assess whether some foods are triggers for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Emily Gesino, registered dietitian and nutrition manager at Roger Williams Medical Center I Rhode Island, recommend that the following eliminate the most common known food triggers- gluten, corn, dairy, citrus, soy and eggs- for 12-14 days, and then to slowly reintroduce one food at a time to observe any change in symptoms.
Frequency and timing of meal appears to be a crucial factor in the causation of inflammation and pain, according to Dr. Victoria Maizes, executive director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Women who ate less than 30 percent or l/3 of their total daily calories in their evening meal experienced a significant decrease in the laboratory test for C-reactive protein, an important biomarker for inflammation. “Our studies suggest that a larger breakfast, smaller lunch and even a much leaner dinner is most health promoting. Longer periods of overnight fasting, ideally 12 hours, allows the immune system to reset.”
All of the specialists currently involved agree that it is never too late to make dietary changes and modifications as well as adjustments in lifestyle, which include exercise, alcohol intake, and cessation of smoking. There is the proverbial window of time of catching any disease in its early stage, when diet choice has a great impact on disease progression. And they are quick to add, “Everybody is different so there isn’t one formula that works for everyone, thus a visit to your family physician- who can recommend a dietitian, would help a lot lessen or hopefully eliminate your pains.”