People think of chronic pain as simply an injury caused by working out. While that definitely plays a big role, our diet can also play an even more significant role towards chronic pain.
If we think about what chronic pain is, it’s inflammation. The best way to get rid of inflammation is figuring out what causes the inflammation. So what other than, an injury causes inflammation?
Between your life, work, family, and any other things to add to your plate, the stress can very easily build up. Stress in the short term is totally fine. In fact, it’s good because it’s a short signal your body is being sent to alert you to something and optimize your body towards reacting towards that. In today’s world, we let ourselves build up small amounts of chronic stress from little annoyances day in and day out. This builds up inflammation over time. Certain areas (like your low back) literally start to tense up. This could be because of bad posture sitting all day, but can also be because your body is genuinely reacting to the stress in a way that causes certain muscles to overfire because you are in a heightened state.
I love to sleep so much it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up. We all LOVE sleep yet weirdly enough don’t let ourselves get enough of it. Having a regimented and proper sleep routine sets your entire day up for success or failure. Research shows those who are even mildly sleep deprived have been shown to perceive more pain. Inflammatory markers increase with less sleep (less than 7-9 hours).
Sleep is also a chance for your muscle to repair broken tissue, get rid of unwanted dead cells, and clear out overall inflammation. It’s like having a cleaning crew have an uninterrupted 7-8 hours to clean the house.
Try this: 2 hours before bed, make sure to either turn off all electronics, or wear blue light blocking glasses. Try to keep the rooms dimly lit. Your brain needs to visually take in the night time and having too many bright lights makes it think it is still day which keeps your cortisol high. Make sure to get sunlight during the day so your body can reset it’s circadian rhythm.
Poor sleep also leads to poor eating choices. Your cortisol spikes causing you to crave high sugar items in order to bring your cortisol and stress back down to normal levels. I know processed foods are super tasty, but try to lower your intake of them. They leave you more inflamed, tired, and lethargic. It helps to have healthy meal choices already prepped or just sticking to whole foods. I’m sure you’ve had at least one food that after eating, you feel either more tired, or your joints act up. Start with just removing those foods.
Try This: Eat foods high in Omega 3’s (fish, olive oil, etc) to help bring the inflammation down. You can eliminate all culprits at once (gluten, vegetable oils, lactose, etc) or one by one if you want to see what exactly is causing it. Make sure to have a protein serving the size and thickness of your palm with each meal. This will increase satiety, and provide your body with high quality protein to repair your muscles and enzymes. Meats, poultry, lentils, eggs, and fish are all great sources. Add a 1-2 fistful’s of veggies to your meals to help get the micronutrients the body needs to help you further lower that inflammation.
Bonus: Alternatively you can try a 24 hour fast. Our body is a machine. When was the last time you went a truly long time without eating, so that your body could take a break from constant digesting and assimilating food? It needs time to shut down. A 24 hour fast will not only help give your body a much needed break to run efficiently again, it will clear all waste products from your body, but more importantly, change your relationship with food. Guess what? We don’t need to be eating every 3 hours. You will be just fine.
Hydration and Electrolytes
Make sure you keep yourself properly hydrated. Your cells are made of water, and we want to keep our joints lubricated constantly to support our structure. Well hydrated cells also ensure the cells can do their jobs at 100%. We also need our electrolytes fully stocked so that we have the energy to perform our workouts. When we sleep we sweat out a lot of salt and water. This is part of the reason we can feel groggy in the morning.
Try This: The moment you wake up, try to start your day right by drinking 20oz of water. I know this may sound disgusting, but having ⅛-¼ a teaspoon of sea salt, and some lemon water will help replenish any salt you may have lost. If that sounds unbearable, try getting an electrolyte supplement with a high amount of sodium in it.