Numerous papers have been published that describe how diet can promote or reduce inflammation, but very few studies have specifically looked at how diet can impact pain syndromes
Recently, it has been shown that patients are more likely to suffer with musculoskeletal pains and tendinopathy if they also have metabolic syndrome—which is, in part, treated by adopting anti-inflammatory dietary changes
In one animal study, a high-fat paste was fed to rats and within 3 weeks there was a significant reduction in pain and inflammation markers in the animals. Multiple anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory mechanisms have been proposed to explain this outcome
Taken together, these studies support the hypothesis that an anti-inflammatory diet should be applied in pain patients. This article will briefly review the chemistry of pain and inflammation and examine various components of the diet, which reduce the expression of pain/inflammation chemistry.
Low-grade chronic inflammation manifests itself both locally and systemically due to the increased cellular release of a variety of inflammatory mediators.
These mediators are found to be elevated in seemingly distinct chronic disease such as atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis. This finding suggests that we should begin to look at chronic diseases as having similar chemical conditions (pro-inflammatory state), which manifest with symptoms that affect particular organs and systems.30
Nerve cells, especially group IV afferents (sensory C-fibers) and postganglionic sympathetic fibers (motor C-fibers) dominate the innervation of somatic tissues and play an important role in the inflammatory process and tissue homeostasis.
Pain researchers describe group IV afferents as having the ability to “taste” the local tissue chemistry, which then, from an operational perspective, leads to their subsequent activation (if the “flavor” is inflammatory), or inhibition, modulation, and/or healing (if the tissue chemistry “flavor” is anti-inflammatory)
An interesting fact, as mentioned above, is that cells have the ability to release both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators and in doing so, determine the “flavor” of the tissue chemistry that is “tasted” by group IV afferents. Germane to the topic of this paper, it appears that nutrition is likely a key determining factor that generates the tissue “flavor” of inflammation and, thus, pain expression.
Diet-induced Pro-inflammatory Mediator Release
Multiple factors contribute to chronic “dietary injury,” a term that may be helpful to appreciate how diet can cause chronic inflammation and pain. Dietary injury should be viewed as a cumulative and chronic event, such that monotherapies with nutritional supplements or medications are unable to counteract the multiple “hits” delivered by a pro-inflammatory diet. Table 2 lists the primary sources of dietary injury and their inflammatory consequences.
How Diet Perpetuates Inflammation and Pain