Can Your Diet Affect Chronic Pain?

There are certain foods that are considered to cause inflammation in the body.

While pain is defined as “physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury,” chronic pain is pain lasting longer than three months. Chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans; that’s more people than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. Each September is designated as Pain Awareness Month where advocates like me help to raise awareness about issues related to chronic pain.

The most common forms of chronic pain are from migraines, lower back pain, knees, and neck pain. I happen to suffer from back and neck issues, along with fibromyalgia, and suffer some level of pain daily. Chronic pain can lead to depression, trouble sleeping or concentrating, and is the number one reason for long-term disability care in the U.S. It is very difficult to treat chronic pain. Opioids are often prescribed to people seeking relief from chronic pain, yet only about 23% of people experience relief. This can then lead to misuse, people self-increasing their dosages, and then often an addiction to pain killers.

Chronic pain manifests itself differently in everyone, which also means there is no one size fits all answer to treating it. Drugs, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, or supplements/diet – or some combination of the above – may offer relief. While an imbalanced diet may not be causing your migraines or back pain, it’s no secret that proper nutrition is the foundation to a healthy life, so why not consider your diet when it comes to chronic pain?

Can Nutrition Help Relieve Chronic Pain?

There are certain foods that are considered to cause inflammation in the body, so proper nutrition can have an impact on your pain. An anti-inflammatory diet might just reduce some of that pain you are feeling.

When inflammation occurs, chemicals from your white blood cells are released to protect your body. It’s your body’s way of saying, “Hey, something is attacking us and we need to take action!” Pain is a byproduct of that response. That’s why you commonly hear to ice an injury, take aspirin or ibuprofen, and to rest the affected limb — it’s all aimed at stopping and controlling inflammation so your body can begin the healing process.

Texas Health Resources

Foods Known to Cause Inflammation

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

*Nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers)

*White potatoes

*Gluten, wheat, grains






In order to determine if there are certain foods that trigger a reaction in you, you can try a food sensitivity test or just try an elimination diet. The best way is to eliminate all of these offending foods for 7 days, then add one back at a time for a week. Keep a log of how you feel and react, tracking things like energy level, cravings, sleep quality, stomach pains/gas/bloating, body/joint aches and pains, headaches, skin reaction/acne, clarity of thought. (Here’s an example of an elimination diet and meal plan.)


Your plate should have a variety of colors in it – eat the rainbow!

*Colorful fruits and vegetables (except those listed above)

*Whole grains like wild rice and Gluten free grains like quinoa

*Healthy fats like avocado and olive oils

*Seeds and nuts like walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds

*Lean proteins like salmon, tuna, trout, sardines


*Spices like ginger, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon for their anti-inflammatory properties.


*Processed and packaged foods, especially with ingredients you cannot pronounce

*Simple carbohydrates such as white bread, white potatoes, white rice, added sugars


In living with fibromyalgia and chronic neck/back pain for over 20 years now, I can honestly say the biggest thing that has made a difference is changing my diet. I followed an elimination diet (I used JJ Virgin’s The Virgin Diet) to discover what affected me. Looking back at that log from 2012, the week that I added wheat/gluten back into my diet, this is what I wrote: “Fibromyalgia pain, headaches, no energy/not able to work out. 😦 ” I ended up cutting out wheat, soy, peanuts, dairy, and sugar. At times I splurge on a little sugar, gluten, or cheese, and can usually feel it almost immediately after eating if I do.

My favorite way to get some of these great anti-inflammatory foods in my diet are to have a smoothie with fruits and vegetables and non-dairy milk either for breakfast or lunch. (Check out some of my other blog posts for some of my favorite recipes and this post on Fight Fibromyalgia with Your Diet.)

I also enjoy my own special anti-inflammatory “Arnold Palmer” lemonade + iced tea as needed after workouts or on days when I am in pain. I brew 1 bag of Traditional Medicinals Tumeric tea and 1 bag of Yogi Detox tea in 2 cups of water and let those cool. Then I mix that with another cup of water and ice, along with a scoop of ginger-turmeric sport recovery lemonade mix (*). The mix is designed as a post-workout recovery drink, but I find it helps relieve muscle aches on days I am particularly sore or my fibromyalgia has flared up. Sometimes I add strawberries, for a great strawberry-lemonade flavor.

Have you considered an anti-inflammatory diet or found any other dietary changes that have helped your chronic pain? Do you have any favorite inflammation-fighting foods?



Please visit for more information on Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia for Pain Awareness Month.

(*) Disclosure: This post is not sponsored. I purchase all of my own Orgain products. However, as an Orgain Ambassador I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase with my personal code PHOTOBAUGH or through my link. You can received 30% off and free S&H on your first purchase.

Author: Cynthia, My Inspired Fibro Life

Wife. Mom. Fibrowarrior. Joy seeker. Picture taker. Coffee drinker. Blogging about living with fibromyalgia and finding inspiration in every day life. Welcome to My Inspired Fibro Life.

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