Have you ever woken up to a headache, pain, and a thirst you can’t seem to shake? Nope, I’m not really talking about the after effects of a big night out… I’m referring more to the effects felt after a big take out! All too often, people underestimate the extraordinary power of food when it comes to their health, fitness, and general wellbeing. If you think pain and nutrition aren’t interlinked, well, you’d be very wrong. Similarly, if you think there isn’t a direct causal effect between your BigMac and some fatigue and back ache, well, you’d be wrong again! What we ingest is as important as how we workout, sleep, and maintain mental wellbeing. There’s a reason the Greek philosopher Hipprocates explained that ‘food is thy medicine and medicine is thy food’. Food matters, not only for your body, but for your mind and quality of life, too. In this post, then, we look at what the wrong foods really do to your body, why inflammation can be problematic, and what you can eat to make it balance back out. Ready? Let’s jump in?
First off, it’s important to start with why certain foods are bad for your health and a pain-free lifestyle. No, it’s not simply about the sugar and fat content, although that is, of course, important. Obesity is a big issue globally, and cutting down on harmful macronutrients such as these can go a long way to altering this. Here, though, I want to focus on inflammation itself, as it is inflammation that – more often than not – contributes directly to pain. Please know that obesity is often associated with inflammation, too, so the two are definitely not mutually exclusive.
What is inflammation, then? And how is it related to nutrient intake? Well, in essence, inflammation is a response by your immune system designed to fight infection – white blood cells rush to the area in question and combat the danger. However, if there is too much inflammation in the body… well, things can go awry fairly quickly. Your muscles get confused, white blood cells run amok, and your immune system becomes less capable of fighting actual danger – instead, it focusses on combatting the wrong things. And guess what? Inflammation can really cause you pain!
So, what induces and perpetuates inflammation? Though not limited solely to this, the intake of harmful inflammatory foods may do precisely that. Eating certain foods can increase the inflammation in your body, thereby opening yourself up to injury, infection, and a general decline in activity and energy. Doesn’t sound all that good, right? Luckily, there’s a very good way of avoiding this… stop eating inflammatory foods!
What are they? Well, here are a couple you may be familiar with:
- Processed Food
- Cow’s Milk and Dairy Products
- Wheat and Gluten
Now, if your favourite food is PB&J sandwiches followed by ice cream, don’t be too concerned! The idea is to be consistent in the way you approach your food choices. Don’t completely cut out all wheat or dairy, for example – these foods are actually good for you in many ways. What you do need to be aware of, though, is that your body may be communicating how these foods affect it: are you experiencing a production of phlegm after drinking milk? Do you feel tired after consuming wheat? Do peanuts cause a rash? It’s very important to listen to your body and to limit those foods that may cause more harm than good. Remember, when you aren’t at your healthiest, you open the door for injury and immobility, both of which can set your health and mobility back greatly.
Enough of what you can’t eat, though… what should you be eating? In the war against inflammation, some foods may well combat it to greater effect than others. Eating foods that combat inflammation goes a long way to increasing energy levels, reducing down-time, and contributing to your overall heath. Eating them can even reduce the existence of free radicals in the body, that is, those cells that directly influence the production of cancer cells in the system! So, including some of these healthy and delicious foods into your diet may well go a long way to keeping you out of the hospital bay:
- Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids
- Flax seed
- Chia seed
- Hemp seed
In fact, eating fewer anti-inflammatory foods may actually be as simple as steering away from the processed foods isle and roaming down the fruit and vegetable isles instead. Eat with vibrancy (think lots of colors!), as the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of foods are highest in those that display the most vivid colours. Try your hand as something new – purple cabbage with butternut squash fritters, anyone?
You don’t need to be vegan to be healthy, but reducing inflammatory foods may well place you in good stead for healthful aging and a happy, mobile, pain free life. Remember, what you put into your body is, ultimately, what you will be able to cash out. Are the yellow arches going to fuel you better than a homemade stew with beans and some grass-fed beef? I don’t think so.
As you start to make healthful decisions for your life, remember to reach out to a physical therapist for some information on what to eat, how to start getting active safely, and how to assess and treat any current aches or pains you’re experiencing. To ascertain whether you’re currently living with inflammation, it’s important to speak to a professional physical therapist for the best advice.
Thankfully, inflammation can be combatted with a healthy lifestyle – and that includes drinking enough water, by the way! Dehydration exacerbates inflammation, so be sure to drink upwards of 64 ounces of water a day.
Tackle pain by taking a closer look at the foods you eat – ditch the pizza for some roasted beetroot and goat cheese, and try your hand at making some anti-inflammatory inspired meals this weekend. The biggest changes are made by changing the smallest things. Avoid pain, live a healthier life, and get active simply by reducing inflammation in your system… one recipe at a time. What are you waiting for?