Pain management and diet

Food has an enormous impact on how we feel. It plays a fundamental role in healing, emotions, our sleep patterns, digestion, immune system, and energy. If you are already recovering from ill-health circumstances that involve pain, pain management becomes essential.


It is widely known that long term use of pain relief can lead to other health problems including constipation, increased stress, poor circulation, compromised digestion and even addiction. It is important, therefore, that we find alternative methods of alleviating or controlling our pain.

Anti-inflammatory foods can have a hugely beneficial effect on people who are struggling with pain. Inflammation is a process that is part of our immune system and exists to help protect us. Whilst this is a defence mechanism, part of the inflammation process itself creates the pain and can therefore contribute to making us feel worse. Also, we can even experience pain after the symptoms have resolved. In these cases, it is the body continuing to protect itself.

The pain pathway is very complex and there are pain management clinics through the NHS which can offer help. 

So, which foods are helpful? 

A colourful rainbow of vegetables every day really does contribute to helping reduce inflammation. The antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in vegetables contribute toward boosting our immune system which in turn reduces inflammatory processes. Vegetables such as green leafy veg, kale spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage. Tomatoes, beetroot, radish, watercress, mange tout and peas, bell peppers. (For some the deadly nightshade range of plants such as tomato, potato and aubergine can aggravate their pain). 

Frozen vegetables can be included, and they are easier to prepare especially if you are not feeling that well. 

You may have read in various resources that the Mediterranean diet is particularly good for health. This is partly because it is high in essential fatty acids one of which being olive oil. Olive oil is a fantastic source of antioxidants, and it also contains a compound called oleocanthal which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties leading to pain relief. 

Avocados are particularly useful not only are they delicious, but they contain fibre, vitamin E and monounsaturated fat. 

Having fresh oily fish two to three times a week will also help as you are naturally eating the essential fatty acids. If you are not keen on oily fish, then Omega 3 supplements can contribute to your essential fatty acid intake. Always check with a professional, what the dose should be and that it does not contraindicate with other medications you may be taking. 

The amino acids are the building blocks of health. They contribute towards growth, development, immune system health, repair, and our nervous system. A healthy diet of excellent quality protein such as fish, white meat, beans, lentils, nuts, tofu, and seeds will help reduce inflammation and contribute to moderating pain. 

Vitamin C is very quickly absorbed by the body and it contributes to a healthy immune system and reducing inflammation. 

Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin. This has been shown to aid digestion and relieve pain. It can be added to various dishes and hot drinks. It is complementary with ginger and lemon slices with warm water as a beverage. 

Cherries have also been shown to alleviate pain. Arthritic pain has been very responsive. Melatonin is particularly high in the Montmorency cherry. This can aid in restful sleep. 

Vitamin D deficiency is known to cause skeletal pain, muscular discomfort, and low mood. Lifestyles have led to individuals staying indoors a great deal more. Even exercise in the gym means a lack of exposure to daylight. In the UK, we are particularly prone to a deficiency due to the short days during the winter. It is a good idea to supplement if you do not have natural daylight on your hands and face for 40 minutes a day. Individuals who are convalescing should bake a Vitamin D supplement. 

Magnesium has been used to help relieve headaches, migraines, and muscle pain. It can be obtained in the diet via leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Magnesium is required to convert Vitamin D so it is active in the body, and it also helps restful sleep, loosens the bowels, reduces anxiety and stress. 

If you are unsure about the suitability, always check with a health professional. They can recommend the correct dose and advise on possible interactions with existing medications.

It is advisable to notify your prescribing medical professional of added supplements.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19
Written by Victoria Shorland, Nutritionist, Allergy Testing, Phlebotomist, Faversham, Kent
Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19

Victoria runs her clinic from Faversham and Hythe Kent, and also works with Spire Hospitals.
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