One of the first things I suggest when someone is suffering from chronic illness is an elimination diet. We do this for various reasons. Certain foods are known for causing certain symptoms just as some are known for aiding in healing symptoms. (Check out this video for natural solutions to pain) I constantly see people who are dealing with chronic pain and these same people are trying to “eat healthy” but it is clear to me that they don’t know what that means for their body, especially when every time they are in pain they just posted a picture of their food on Facebook. It doesn’t take long for me to see that every time they are in pain, they have just posted a picture of a plate with the same food. But they are not putting it together. This is very common. Some “healthy” foods may be great foods in general but if you are dealing with chronic pain or inflammation (and if you are in chronic pain then you have chronic inflammation on some level, whether systemic or local).
So what are the foods that may be causing pain?
Potatoes, Peppers, and Tomatoes.
These foods are part of what is called the “nightshade” family of foods. Related to the infamous belladonna plant, these are notorious for causing pain associated with arthritic conditions. For a complete explanation of how these foods are connected to chronic pain and inflammation, click here. Potaotes are especially problematic as they are also have a high glycemic index and a high glycemic load. (see below for more information on this)
High glycemic foods like sugar, potatoes and grains (grains include foods like wheat and corn and rice).
When something has a high glycemic index it is metabolized fast and effects the blood sugar quickly. this number is calculated by how many carbs are in the food versus its fat and fiber content, which slow down the release of the glucose into the blood stream. A potato is lower in fiber so it goes into the bloodstream quickly, as does sugar or flours.
The glycemic load is how much the food impacts the blood sugar after it gets into the blood stream. For example. A sweet potato and shredded wheat are only slightly different in how fast they go into the blood stream but vastly different in how much they spike the blood sugar when they get there. This difference is why a sweet potato is metabolized differently than shredded wheat and why a sweet potato will not cause the inflammation that shredded wheat will cause. ( Source 1, source 2)
Dairy is notorious for causing inflammation for in the nuerological system. But its effects don’t stop there. Dairy has been tied to causing acne, mood disorders, and joint pain. While the research both supports and diffuses the argument against dairy as a cause of basic inflammation, it has been linked to specific inflammatory conditions and this controversy may be supported by the theory of bio individuality. For this reason, I suggest that the only way to know how your body reacts to any food that may or may not be causing inflammation is to remove it and observe the reaction. Then upon reintroduction, you may observe again to see if there was a change nnot observed in step one (omission) . This bio individuality is why omitting a food may be a “cure” for one person but create a deficiency in another. (3 , 4 )
Legumes- including peanuts
Legumes are always touted as a healthy food. And for some, they are healthy. But for many people they cause inflammation (6). One of the reasons for this is that traditionally, cultures have soaked and sprouted legumes to get rid of lectins. Lectins are in all foods but there are ones that are harmful and ones that are not. In legumes (and grains) there are a large amount of harmful ones, especially for those with autoimmune disease (5). Depending on the individual, you nay need to avoid this group of foods or you may be able to consume them provided you return the traditional practice of soaking and sprouting. (6) This would mean avoiding canned or frozen beans and instead buying fresh or dried beans that could then be soaked or sprouted to remove these lectins. You would then cook these beans to further reduce these toxins before consuming. I suggest omitting the food until you are pain free and then reintroducing then this way when you can observe how you respond to the food.
At the same time, beans can reduce inflammation in some people. (7)Confusing huh? For this reason, I suggest experimenting with how your body reacts to this food and soaking and sprouting the beans to get the benefits with the least amount of negatives. I also suggesting reading the links provided, as they suggest that beans are good for inflammation in the joints but may be aggravating for those with gut issues. This could be a decision to be made with a trusted healthcare advisor if you have a complex situation such as RA (gut issues and arthritic conditions) , as you would concerned about both issues.
Additional notes about the inflammatory properties of grains- and how to make it better.
Grains contain phytates and lectins. These antinutrients steal minerals from your body by preventing absorption of the very minerals you may need to reduce inflammation. Again, soaking and sprouting grains can reduce these but you will need to experiment or seek guidance to see if they are right for you. Since they are low in nutrients to begin with compared to other whole foods, I am inclined to discourage their consumption generally speaking. (5,8)
Toxins coming from food- pesticides, antibiotics, hormones
Toxins come in many forms, including food intolerances and chemicals involved in producing foods. A build up of toxins (when you have taken in more toxins than your body has been able to neutralize and dispel) can cause inflammation and pain. For this reason, I suggest that everyone buy as much organic foods as possible. If this is a stress on your finances, then I suggest taking a look at the EWG’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen, which lists the foods that contain the highest and lowest tested amounts of pesticide residue. Starting with these two list, you can start with the dirtiest foods as the ones to definitely buy organic. You can save on the clean list until if and when you are ready to take the plunge and embrace a fully organic foods diet.
GMO’s in particular, should especially be avoided as the pesticide has been engineered to be a part of the plant. This can cause an inflammatory response in the body. (5 )
Hormones and hormone like substances can also cause inflammation in those who are sensitive to the effects of these on their own endocrine system. Excess hormones or an inbalance of hormones can put a burden on our own detoxification pathways as our bodies are constantly cleaning out hormones and similar compounds as they are utilized by our body.
Food intolerances (much more common than you think).
Another form of toxins are food intolerances. This may be to some of the foods listed here and I include allergies with intolerances in this group. (see difference here). Certain foods may cause an inflammatory response in your body that are not on this list (but its a good place to start). The best way to test for this is to get a food intolerance test and/or a food allergy test. You will need to see a functional medicine doctor for these tests as they are new and I have found allopathic or traditional doctors are often unaware of recent developments in this field of medicine, as it is not taught in medical school but in continued education such as fellowships or other additional learning opportunities. Either one can cause an inflammatory response from the immune system, just in different ways. If the food that irritates your body is eaten occasionally, it may cause a “flare” while if it is a constant food source (such as wheat, corn or soy on a standard American diet) it could be causing constant pain or inflammation.
The good news is that if the food is an intolerance, omitting the food while you follow a gut healing protocol can often reverse the intolerance. Some of these foods are responsible for causing what is called “leaky gut” which can be a cause of food intolerances (a gluten intolerance, as opposed to a gluten allergy or celiac disease for example) as well as a cause for both leaky gut and the intolerance itself. So depending on the intolerance, you may be able to enjoy the food again regularly or it may be suggested to be only an occasional food after healing.
If this information is overwhelming or intimidating to you, don’t fret.
Let me simplify this for you.
Eat organic or pastured meats from trusted sources/farms.
Eating from local farms is a great way to know what you are eating. Getting to know your butcher from local markets is a great way to ensure that you can ask questions from someone who knows where their product comes from and they will often be able to contact the farmer to ask any questions to which they don’t already know the answers. Things you may want to ask are: Do you feed the animals antibiotics, hormones or pesticides? You are hoping the answer is that no unneccesary use of any of antibiotics or hormones are used and that no pesticides are used in the feed. Ideal is that the “feed” is grass (for cows) or plants and bugs (for chickens) with maybe some supplemental pesticide free feed when needed. Fish should be wild caught and pork pastured from a clean field and free of feed where pesticides are used.
Eat the best quality of fruits and vegetables you can afford- and LOTs of them- except for the ones listed above.
If you can afford all organic, then do that. If you cannot, at least “splurge” on organic for greens (readily available), tomatoes, peppers and anything where the skin will be consumed. Use the EWG’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen as a guide for when to splurge and when to save on organic. Look for sales, grow your own or barter for pesticide free brands. Some conventional brands are pesticide free but you don’t know unless you ask the farmer. This may mean something as simple as making a phone call asking a question on their Facebook page. So ask questions. ( Especially if you see the PLU code begins in a “9” but they are not officially organic!)
Try avoiding the foods that may cause pain until you see an improvement in how you feel. Then, one at a time reintroduce a food and see how you feel as you eat it. You may tolerate it fine, you may experience a flare. A flare can show up quickly or it may show up only after the food is eaten in excess or after a few days, depending on the person and how fast their body reacts to that food at that time. Keep the foods that do no harm and avoid the foods that hurt. Even if you choose to eat the foods that cause you pain, at least you are making an informed decision, choosing the bagel at the cost of a flare. This will help you gain control over your health.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions by commenting below or shoot me an email if I can answer any questions, I love hearing from my readers.
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