Food & Pain


The food you eat and your pain…

Food is a major, and enjoyable, part of our lives and eating the right sort of food can have an effect on your general health and even your pain levels. Read below about good nutrition, how food can affect pain levels, some great cooking tips and our recommended books.


When you have pain and/or ill health your diet becomes even more important than normal. Those of us with longstanding pain often have digestive problems, sometimes due to the drugs we may be taking. If the problem is severe or longstanding it’s best to seek the advice of a nutritionist. Always seek advice from your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. For a therapist try the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, 

  •  For optimum function and least strain on your body, try to maintain your ideal weight. For those with arthritis or other joint problems, less strain equals less pain.
  • Avoid too much salt, sugar and alcohol.  Sugar provides little nutrition and contributes to weight gain.  Alcohol is high in calories and can deplete the body of vitamins and minerals.  It also potentially interacts negatively with medications.

Food that may affect pain levels

Some foods may help to decrease pain and inflammation, such as: flax seed, hemp or olive oil, oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel, linseeds and pumpkin seeds, bananas, ginger, chilli pepper, brown rice, cooked vegetables such as broccoli and Swiss chard, orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, and yellow vegetables like summer squash. Some people say they do better with non-citrus fruits. If you avoid citrus fruits, make sure you still include plenty of other fruit in your diet.

Cooking tips

  • As often as you can, use fresh ingredients for the healthiest option but you could substitute ready prepared ingredients if you wanted to. Convenience foods that are useful are frozen prepared and pre-cut vegetables, chopped garlic in a jar, tins of tomatoes, canned soup, ready-prepared sauces, etc.
  • Make double quantities where possible and freeze the unused portions.
  • Have fresh fruit as an easy and healthy pudding option.
  • Try baking vegetables and fruit. Jacket potatoes are very easy and nutritious. Cut other vegetables into chunks and baste with olive oil. Bake fruit in a little water. Sliced apples, peaches, plums, apricots can all be cooked this way.
  • Take great care when lifting pans and taking dishes in and out of the oven. If possible, ask someone else to do the lifting for you. Make sure you don’t over-reach or bend too much when using a bottom oven.
  • To cut down on a last minute rush, and the washing up, one-pot or one-dish recipes are very useful.
  • When preparing a meal collect all the ingredients that you need together before you start.
  • Chop vegetables in stages. Place chopped food in a dish, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge till needed. Don’t store vegetables in water as the vitamins will leach out into the water.

Recommended Recipe Books

Cousins, Barbara, Cooking Without: recipes free from gluten, sugar, dairy, yeast. Also Vegetarian Cooking Without, Thorsons
Barnard, Dr Neil, Foods that Fight Pain, Bantam
Holford, P, Ridgeway, J, The Optimum Nutrition Cookbook, Piatkus
Savill, Antoinette, The Sensitive Gourmet, HarperCollins
Savill, Antoinette More From The Sensitive Gourmet,Thorsons


The Duke University Medical Center Book of Arthritis by David S. Pisetsky, Susan Flamholtz Trien
Arthritis: What Works by Dava Sobel, Arthur C. Klein

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