Remember when your mother told you to eat your vegetables so you would get all the vitamins your body needs? Well soon you may have your pain physician telling you the same thing!  Recent evidence is revealing the importance of specific vitamins in certain health conditions such as chronic pain.

Vitamins contribute to overall health by nourishing bones, muscles, nerves, and discs.  Eating a balanced diet that includes the right amount and variety of vitamins and nutrients will help reduce your chronic pain.  So you don’t really need to “pop” a vitamin.  Just be conscious of what you are eating and how it might affect your medical condition. 

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that can boost your immune system and assists in the repair of tissues and the formation of bone.  Vitamin A can be found in dairy products like cheese, eggs and butter and in fruits like apricots and nectarines as well as vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach.

There are three vitamins from the B group:  B1, B6, and B12 that can help reduce pain.  A combination of all 3 is important.  B vitamins provide nourishment to the nerves and promote healing of damaged nerves.  B12 is also necessary for healthy bone marrow.  Whole grains, meats, legumes, eggs and most vegetable contain B vitamins.

Collagen is important in the healing of injured tendons, ligaments and vertebral discs.  Vitamin C is required in the formation of collagen.  Fruits like strawberries, kiwi, citrus fruits and tomatoes contain vitamin C.  Many vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and potatoes are sources of vitamin C as well.

Vitamin K is needed for bone development and the body’s use of calcium.  We all know that calcium is necessary for strong bones.  Leafy green vegetables such as collards, kale, and spinach contain vitamin K.

Minerals such as Iron and Magnesium are also important in maintaining good physical health.  Iron helps cells receive oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.  Iron is found in meat products and leafy green vegetables.  Magnesium is required in muscle contraction and relaxation.  It also is necessary for muscle tone and bone density.  Whole grains, potatoes, bananas and shrimp are good sources of magnesium.

Because pain is caused by or results in inflammation, avoiding pro-inflammatory foods should be part of a diet for patients with chronic pain.  Junk foods, sugar and high fat meats may increase inflammation in the body.  While meats, dairy products and eggs are good sources of minerals and vitamins many of these foods are high in saturated fat.  They contain arachidonic acid which is one of the mediators of inflammation.  Diets high in pre-sweetened sugars from soft drinks, pastries and candies have been associated with inflammation as well.

The right types of fats have anti-inflammatory effects.  These fats are those contained in cold water fish, walnuts, canola oil, olive oil and pumpkin seeds.  

So the answer is not to just “pop” a vitamin.  We should be conscious of our diets and how it affects medical conditions such as chronic pain.  Some helpful hints to get all the vitamins and minerals you need and promote anti-inflammation include:

 1) Try oatmeal, berries and soy or almond milk for breakfast

2) Snack on fresh vegetables and fruits throughout the day instead of cookies and candy

3) Eat less fatty red meat and more fish

4) Avoid deep fried foods and opt for baked or stir fried meals

5) Eat colorful vegetables as your side dishes

6) Drink teas (green and herbal), fruit and vegetable juices and plenty of water

This “lifestyle” change is not easy but most patients are willing to try anything that will help their pain!  All of the other health benefits of a healthy diet are just an added bonus.

Thanks for reading.  The next article will be out in two weeks.  I will try to cover some of the benefits of yoga, meditation and Pilates.

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