G‑d said, “I have given to you all herbage yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed yielding fruit; it shall be to you for food.”

(Genesis 1:29)

One of the most common problems I address with patients involves the treatment of chronic pain. The day-to-day aches and pains that make life sometimes unbearable. Many people feel that being given drugs for the pain is not the answer, and they seek natural remedies instead.

What Causes Pain

One of the most common causes of pain is chronic inflammation. Inflammation can be described as a condition whereby our tissues become irritated due to injury or infection. The symptoms of inflammation include pain, swelling, red discoloration, heat, stiffness, and/or limited range of motion. There are several conditions that can cause chronic inflammation, including autoimmune conditions like Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic inflammation has also been thought to be a contributing factor to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of heart disease.

Avoid Foods that Cause Inflammation

One of the first things you can do to reduce chronic inflammation is to consider removing foods from your diet that are thought to cause inflammation. The most inflammatory foods are the foods with the highest risk of sensitivity and allergy. The most common food allergies and pro-inflammatory foods are mentioned below.

1. Milk and all dairy products (yogurt, cheese, butter, etc.) not only contain lactose, a sugar many people cannot digest, but a substance called casein. Casein is a protein found in dairy products, and can be pro-inflammatory in many people.

2. Wheat and all wheat products (pasta, bread, cookies, cake, etc.) can be very inflammatory in many people. This is because many people are sensitive to products that contain gluten. If you have not been tested for gluten sensitivity or allergy, try giving up wheat products for 6 to 8 weeks and then reintroducing them. If you feel better off without wheat products and worse on them, this might be a sign of gluten sensitivity. (Please note today that there are many kosher products available on the market that are gluten-free.)

3. Eggs, which can also be found in cakes, sauces, protein powders and many baked goods. Some people are allergic to either the egg whites, the egg yolks, or both. Again, if you have not been tested for food sensitivities, try giving this food up for 6 to 8 weeks and reintroducing it to see if you have a reaction.

4. Meat that is not organic but advertised as corn-fed or vegetarian-fed. If you are looking for kosher organic meat, it does exist, and can be found in some health food stores—try first checking online, or going to your local health food store to find out if they can start carrying it. The reason inorganic meat is pro-inflammatory is because it contains high amounts of a substance called arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is a substance found in our cells that initiates something called the PGE2 pathway. This is the process by which a cell undergoes inflammation. Thus, it is believed that too much arachidonic acid in the diet can trigger inflammation.

5. All overly processed foods that contain corn syrup and sugar, like candy bars and soda pops, and processed and cured meats, like hot dogs and sausages.

6. Nightshade vegetables, which include potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. These foods contain a substance called solanine, which has been found to cause pain and inflammation in some people.

7. Some people may also be sensitive to citrus fruits like oranges, as well as some tropical fruits like papayas, mangos and pineapples.

What Can I Eat on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

1. Try to eat fruits and vegetables that are locally grown, organic and in season. You may want to start looking into buying your produce from local farmers’ markets, where produce is often the freshest.

2. Eat meat sparingly, and whenever possible choose meat that is organic. Many companies are now producing organic kosher meats. Lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish are best.

3. Try to eat cold-water fish and smaller fish. They tend to contain the least amount of mercury and the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory benefits.

4. Begin to add spices found to decrease inflammation like turmeric. Other spices that decrease inflammation include ginger and rosemary.

5. Begin incorporating whole organic beans and whole grains into your diet. There are many delicious stews and soups with which you can begin to experiment, that use many grains with which you might not be familiar. These include quinoa, brown rice, millet, and unbleached barley, to name a few. Whole grains and beans also offer us a wide variety of nutrients and fiber. Fiber has the added benefit of aiding in healthy digestion. Fiber can also be helpful in lowering cholesterol.

6. Try to choose oils that are cold pressed, like olive oil. These oils are less processed and, unlike margarine, are not solid at room temperature. They are less inflammatory then the hydrogenated oils, like margarine, and are better for the health of the heart.

While some of these changes may be challenging to incorporate into your diet at first, you will find that they can be quite helpful in reducing inflammation and chronic pain, and can help improve your overall health as well. Like every suggestion we recommend on this site, make sure to check with your doctor to see if these dietary changes are right for you.