The Diet-Pain Relationship
Our experience of pain can include feeling local injured tissues and related symptoms such as numbness and tingling. Pain can also be affected by psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual factors that are individual to us. We each have our own story of where our body has been and how we interpret what we feel.
We can approach pain in a variety of ways using manual therapies (chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage, and acupuncture), pain meds, exercise, and nutrition to help ourselves. Exercise helps by releasing endorphins resulting in exercise-induced analgesia aka pain relief. Nutrition helps because 70-80% of the body’s immune system is in our gut, and the immune system has a lot to do with…everything!
Historically our ancestors lived off the land which meant they ate a lot of plants (approx. 100g of fibre a day vs. 15g in a Western diet today). These plants are indigestible without the help of our gut microbes. The microbes ‘eat’ the undigested plant material and release energy, gas, and metabolites called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are used as signalling molecules for hormone and nerve pathways that help brain function and mood states. SFCAs modulate the way the brain processes emotional information. The lack of SCFAs has been linked to anxiety and depression as well as obesity and diabetes. An unhealthy diet causes a decrease in the variety of microbes in your gut and decreases the amount of SCFAs made in the body. A plant-rich high-fiber diet with less meat is essential for diversifying our gut microbiome and to maximize SCFA production so that we can respond more positively to stimuli within our environment.
Pain, depression, and sleep are interlinked and by eating better we can influence how our brain interprets things and assists us when dealing with chronic pain.