Still Hurting? Take a Look at Your Plate

Food is no longer thought of simply as fuel. A meal can be art, a comfort blanket, a social experience, even an exotic adventure. While food can bring a lot of joy, certain foods can cause chemical reactions in your body you might not be aware of. Sadly, the foods that provide the most emotional comfort are often the ones prolonging your physical discomfort.


Inflammatory Foods

Harvard researchers raised the alarm on trans fats in the 1990s. Trans fats trigger systemic inflammation and you’ll find plenty of it in fast foods, snack foods, cookies, donuts, and frozen breakfast products. They’re usually listed on ingredient labels as partially hydrogenated oils.

Saturated fats also trigger inflammation. Cheese and pizza are a mainstay of the American diet but should be kept to a minimum after an injury. Other sources include full-fat dairy products, pasta, red meat, and grain-based desserts.

While you may think mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is only found in soy sauce and Asian food, it can be found in deli meats, fast foods, salad dressings and prepared soups. MSG is a chemical that triggers pathways for chronic inflammation.

As reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed sugars have been found to trigger the release of inflammatory messengers known as cytokines. Certain pro-inflammatory cytokines are also involved in the initiation and persistence of pain1. While it may be difficult to resist sodas, chocolate bars, pastries, and desserts, these foods could be prolonging those aches and pains.


Don’t Be Fooled

Biochemists use a specific suffix to label sugars. To be on the safe side, avoid foods with ingredients that end in “-ose” like sucrose, fructose, maltose, and dextrose. Even lactose refers to the sugar found in milk, but it’s the added sugars you want to watch out for.

Food label ingredients are listed in order of quantity, but there’s a loophole. Just because a sugar isn’t listed as one of the first three ingredients, doesn’t mean that food isn’t primarily made up of sugar. Manufacturers get around this rule by listing different types of sugars in smaller amounts so the names appear further down the list.

Don’t be fooled by “natural sugars” either. Technically plain white sugar naturally comes from sugar cane before all the processing. This is another ploy used by manufacturers to seem healthier and avoid using scary science words. Syrups, nectars, juices, agave, honey, and molasses all still count as added sugar. Stevia is not a sugar but it has it’s pitfalls too.


What’s Left to Eat?

Foods without ingredient lists like salmon, spinach, tomatoes, brown rice, almonds, and oranges are your best bet. Greek yogurt is also a good choice, as are other foods with natural probiotics. Determine whether cost, time, or flavor is most important to you and look up recipes to suit your lifestyle.

One of the biggest changes you can make is to stop drinking sugar. Water is free with only good side effects like less pain, while sugary drinks and pain medication cost money and have several negative side effects. By choosing water 10:1 over soda and juices, you’re taking a huge step towards improving your overall wellness.

To learn more about how to balance your diet without eliminating your favorite foods altogether, listen to our podcast featuring Body Gears Founder April Oury and the Rebel Dietitian Kristen Marias here.

1. Zhang, J. M., & An, J. (2007). Cytokines, inflammation and pain. International anesthesiology clinics, 45(2), 27.

Written by: Dr. Julia Melanson, PT, DPT

Edited by: April Oury, PT, MSPT, IOC, CFMT, FAAOMPT, Founder

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