Diet and good nutrition are important preventive measures that contribute to better health. So tell me, have you heard of the lamb chop and pineapple diet?
It involves eating lamb chops and pineapples three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The rather dubious science behind it was the lamb would provide sufficient protein for strength and pineapples enough sugar for energy, while the acid within the pineapple would negate the fat contained within the lamb chops. It was adopted and promoted by Nita Naldi and other Hollywood celebrities in the 1920s. She claimed the diet made her lose 20 pounds. However, the diet made her sick for weeks and she subsequently abandoned it after suffering from dizziness and hunger.
While that diet seems ridiculous, we are not short of fad diets and approaches to eating even today. In doing whatever you can to manage your chronic pain, have you tried any of these diets?
Atkins, paleo, carnivore, vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, dukan, south beach, Mediterranean, ketogenic, detox, gluten‑free, liquid, low FODMAP, alkaline, fruitarian or clean eating?
Pain management strategies affect people differently and a better diet could help some in managing their pain. When dealing with pain, everything matters and theories about how to improve diet and nutrition is just one tool available for people living with chronic pain and should be considered as part of a holistic approach to managing chronic pain.
In some cases, addressing seemingly unrelated factors such as weight, through better diet, can reduce the need for prescription drugs. While individual diets may affect people differently (there is no one size fits all solution) we can safely say that diet and nutrition are a critical part of the biopsychosocial approach to managing pain.
Foods that are considered to be less inflammatory and that are thought to help control chronic pain in conditions such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis include: cherries, soy, oranges, peaches, asparagus, cranberries, cauliflower and kiwi fruit. In the case of an inflammatory illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, dairy products, chocolate, eggs, meat, wheat, corn and nuts can theoretically worsen inflammation.
Migraine pain can be prolonged and be triggered by certain dietary factors unique to the individual, while for back pain (musculoskeletal pain), which accounts for more than 40% of early retirements, being overweight is a contributing factor which necessitates a need to focus on managing calorie intake as well as nutrition.
Pain is also associated with many disorders in the gastro-intestinal tract. These include gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), cholecystitis (gallstones), pancreatitis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, diverticular disease and haemorrhoids, for which diet may be an aggravating factor. For example, the low FODMAP diet, developed by researchers at Monash University in Victoria, helps people with IBS control their symptoms. FODMAP, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, are the chemical names of several sugars that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. While they don’t cause IBS to develop, they can trigger the symptoms of IBS in those people who have it.
So why is this important?
Painaustralia recently provided a Submission to the Draft National Preventive Health Strategy (the Strategy) Consultation. The Strategy’s aim is to create a stronger and more effective prevention system and a healthier Australia. However, we were disappointed that the Strategy did not make one reference to chronic pain. With the interrelated role that chronic pain plays in obesity, mental health and other health conditions, it is alarming that the Strategy failed to address chronic pain as a significant contributing and critical factor in the health of the 3.4 million Australians living with chronic pain.
Our submission outlined the importance, evidence and links that highlight why chronic pain should be included in the Strategy.
Once the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments have endorsed the National Strategic Action Plan for Pain Management (the Action Plan), Australia will be the first country in the world to have a national approach to pain management. Not having the Action Plan incorporated into the National Preventive Health Strategy would be like living on a diet of lamb chops and pineapple – it might do for a while but sooner or later, ignoring critical factors to good health will catch up with you.