"An anti-inflammatory diet, along with regular exercise and reducing stress, can help improve chronic pain," Dr. Nadia M. Khan, MD, internal medicine at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, confirms.
Just like food can act as medicine — helping to ease issues like cramps and acne — it has the potential to elicit a negative response from your body, leading to pain.
"The body produces inflammatory cytokines in response to toxins, and over time, this can lead to chronic pain and even autoimmune diseases," Dr. Khan explains.
"Several studies have shown that processed and preserved foods contain harmful additives that can trigger this response, so reducing these types of foods can help manage some chronic conditions."
While Krista King, RDN says that an anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial for everyone, it's particularly helpful in managing autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, endometriosis, type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome.
It can also be particularly beneficial for those suffering from fibromyalgia, which is a condition marked by chronic widespread pain.
To follow an anti-inflammatory diet, one would limit potentially triggering foods — like high levels of sugar, processed meats that contain nitrates or nitrites, inflammatory oils like processed vegetable oils, trans fats, and alcohol — and add in "whole foods that contain antioxidants that help to lower free radicals, or compounds that are triggering the inflammatory response in the body," King says.
Some examples include colorful fruits and veggies, slow carbs, anti-inflammatory fats, grass-fed meat, organic poultry and eggs, wild-caught or sustainably farmed fish high in omega-3s, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and green tea.
Before starting on any new diet regimen to treat chronic pain, be sure to speak with your doctor to determine your personal best plan of action.