Lifestyle and nutrition
The food you eat can help manage your pain. Good nutrition is a key part to your overall health and wellbeing, it can help to prevent chronic disease, control your weight and even boost your mood.
The positive effects of food and nutrition can be due to the type of foods you eat, your bodyweight or a combination of the two. The amount of information about food, new diets and nutrition can be overwhelming. Remember, just keep it simple.
So, here are the simple messages about food and pain to remember.
Some food can reduce your pain and inflammation levels
Food can influence the amount of inflammation in your body and your pain. For example, dietary fats can make pain better or worse. The good fats like omega 3 have been shown to reduce inflammation and the experience of pain. Omega 3 fats can be found in fish, like salmon, canola oil, some nuts and in omega 3 supplements.
Equally, you should avoid bad fats like polyunsaturated and saturated fats (such as those found in fatty meat, cheese, butter) because they have minimal nutritional value, increase the risk of heart disease, and can lead to weight gain.
Keep your weight in the healthy zone
Being overweight or underweight can put extra burden on your body by adding pressure on your joints and muscles, contributing to your overall experience of pain. Using a food diary to write down what you eat at every meal or snack can help you keep on track and manage your weight and pain.
Try to reduce emotional eating and comfort food
Emotional or comfort eating is when you eat in response to your emotions. To stop comfort eating, keeping a food and emotions diary can be really helpful.
Be prepared for pain flare-ups
Being in pain all the time can be exhausting, sometimes you might not have the energy or be physically able to shop or cook a healthy meal. Make sure you have easy, healthy food options available when you have a pain flare-up.
Healthy food can help manage your mood
Eating a range of healthy foods is linked to lower rates of depression and stress. Likewise eating unhealthy food, like processed foods, is linked with higher rates of depression and sometimes anxiety. Make sure you eat foods that are fibre rich and nutrient dense to help support your mood.
Medications and constipation
Often people with chronic pain say they have constipation as a side effect of some medications, like opioids, or because they aren’t moving much anymore. Food high in fibre, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can help to support healthy bowel function.
Follow the healthy eating guide
All you need to do to eat well is to enjoy a range of nutritious foods from each of the five food groups. Make your plate into a rainbow – try to have a variety of different foods each day and keep hydrated. Remember to aim for the recommended serves each day. Use the plate guide from the Australian Dietary Guidelines to help you make healthy choices.
Alcohol and other drugs
It can be tempting to use alcohol and other drugs to help with your pain. They might give you some relief in the short term, but over time it often leads to more side-effects and problems. Most doctors recommend not drinking alcohol or using other drugs for at least one to two years after a brain injury, because it can increase your risk of further injury and can make thinking, memory and attention problems worse.
It might take a few months for you to notice a difference from the healthy eating changes you have made. To learn more information about nutrition and pain, read the Lifestyle and nutrition guide and then use the My nutrition plan to make five simple changes to your eating patterns and learn to Be Pain Smart.