Inflammation is the body's natural response to protect against harmful bacteria, heal an injury, or fight an infection. Typically inflammation resolves during the healing process, unless the inflammation is chronic, which can be linked to a number of medical conditions including arthritis and pain. A few risk factors that can contribute to chronic pain include an unhealthy diet, obesity/overweight, poor sleep, smoking, and stress. Which risk factor is the most controllable?
The foods you eat influence your health. Many turn to medication or physical therapy to manage pain without considering their own diet. According to the Orthopaedic Integrative Health Center (OIHC), focusing on incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods is a form of pain management. Think of the anti-inflammatory diet as a set of guidelines to increase nutrition and reduce pain. In addition to changing dietary habits, any pound lost, takes 3-5lbs of pressure off the joints.
Here are a few tips to help ease inflammation and pain you may be feeling:
1. Stay hydrated. – Think of yourself as the Tin Man needing oil. Water keeps the joints lubricated, which can help you move more easily. Increasing hydration flushes out excess sodium, and also improves blood volume and circulation.
2. Load up on fruits and vegetables. – They are low in calories, and packed with nutrition, in other words, vitamins, minerals, fiber. Fill half your plate with these foods and aim for three servings of each per day to prevent deficiencies.
3. Incorporate more plant based protein. - Research has shown plant based protein reduces inflammation and may reduce morning stiffness, joint tenderness, joint swelling, and has proven to be effective in weight loss. Start with a meatless meal or Monday. Plant based protein includes beans, grains, nuts, seeds.
4. Enjoy more home cooked meals. - Limit foods that are prepared outside of the home, especially fried foods. Excess fat and sodium can contribute to inflammation. When cooking at home, you are in charge of the ingredients and the amount of salt and fat is used.
5. Quality over quantity. - Don't skip meals! It's essential to make sure you're getting enough nutrition. The quality of your food choices is just as, if not MORE important than the quantity of food you consume. Working with our dietitians will ensure you eat the right amount to meet your needs, and reach your goals of less pain.
If less pain is a goal you’d like to achieve, working with our Orthopaedic Integrative Health Center physician and dietitian can help reduce any inflammation and pain that may be caused by food and lifestyle choices you make. Any chance to increase nutrition is a chance to improve your overall health.
Phyllis LoDuca is a registered dietitian and sees patients at Rothman Orthopaedics in Bryn Mawr, Center City and Malvern. For more information, please contact her at Phyllis.LoDuca@RothmanOrtho.com.