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Pain and Diet – An important connection

Certain foods can demonstrate significant medicinal actions against painful symptoms and applying the examples below can be considered "anti-inflammatory eating". Patience is required to implement dietary changes successfully and then see positive results, but considering the benefits that go beyond pain reduction, it’s worth the wait. Focus on the journey before reaching your goal.

Omega 3 (from the sea) versus Omega 6 (from sticks)

Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids have shown success in clinical trials by reducing inflammation markers that cause pain. Beneficial Omega 6 is derived from raw vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Inflammatory prostaglandins that cause pain depend on Arachidonic acid (an Omega 6) for production and these are derived from animal products such as meat and eggs. To counteract their use in the pro-inflammatory pathways, these fats should always be consumed in a diet alongside Omega 3 foods (fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds). Anti-inflammatory actions then improve when they are combined with beneficial Omega 6's, with Omega 3 proving to be a successful pain-reliever on its own.

Swapping Discretionary Foods for other Food groups

This is a good general tip for health, but has found success in pain relief due to inflammation and poor dietary choices being closely linked. Inflammation markers such as C-Reactive protein can be lowered by replacing “discretionary foods” with foods that balance fatty acids (as discussed above) and improve fibre intake (Barebring et al., 2018, p. 5). Most adult age groups are recommended between 0 and 2.5 serves of discretionary foods with a serve consisting of around 600kjs of that food. Swapping intake of these foods for anti-inflammatory choices improves chances for reducing painful symptoms.

We may not realise that some of the foods we eat often don't belong in a food group. See the list below from the Eat for Health Website (2017):

Go colourful - High Polyphenol Foods

High polyphenol containing foods contribute to counteracting enzyme activity responsible for the pro-inflammatory pathway and pain. Many polyphenol substances show the ability to inhibit prostaglandin production by preventing enzyme activity and blocking signals in the inflammatory cycle (Oliviero, 2017, pp. 1654-1655). Some common polyphenol foods include ginger, turmeric, most spices, vegetables, berries, cocoa, green tea.

Other considerations for addressing pain:

  • Symbiotics – probiotics (good bacteria) and prebiotics (food for the bacteria) help the gut and reduce inflammatory markers

  • Remove foods that cause allergy or intolerance

  • Reduce meat intake and consider more vegetarian and vegan meals (done in conjunction with a nutritionist)

  • High antioxidant foods to reduce oxidative stress

For information on the physical, social and psychological aspects of pain, see my blog from 25th June.

Beyond Pharmaceuticals: Ways to Control Pain that you need to know:

Always see your doctor to find a cause for painful symptoms that persist.

Need more health advice that is individually tailored to you? Email if you would like to know more or to book a consultation.


Bärebring, Linnea ; Winkvist, Anna ; Gjertsson, Inger ; Lindqvist, Helen M. (2018). Poor Dietary Quality Is Associated with Increased Inflammation in Swedish Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Nutrients, 10(1535), 1-8. doi: 10.3390/nu10101535

Eat for Health. (2017).

Oliviero, Francesca ; Scanu, Anna ; Punzi, Leonardo ; Spinella, Paolo. (2018). Anti‐inflammatory effects of polyphenols in arthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 98(5), 1653-1659. doi:

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