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Nutrition, Pain

Can Chronic Pain be Caused by Nutrition?

By Joe Talarico on Mar 15, 2021 1:30:00 PM
5 Minutes Reading Time


We may not realize this, but our bodies might be in a constant state of inflammation. Let’s think about this for a second. You start the day by not getting enough sleep. This adds stress right off the bat, because your body wasn’t able to repair your muscle tissue, and recycle unwanted materials in the body. You then chug several cups of coffee further jacking up your cortisol as you head to work where you are even more stressed because you have projects due.

You were probably in a rush, so you didn’t have time for breakfast, or even worse, had a cereal, or highly processed carb only source that isn’t nourishing a body that’s already under attack before the day started. Your lunch probably isn’t much better because you ate out at a restaurant using inflammatory oils, or picking up quick food that may have had something you were intolerant to. Then work ends, and you head to the gym undernourished, stressed, and inflamed only to begin a workout whose main function is to cause more inflammation. Except this time, we’ve added muscles to the list.

By the time you get home, you’re tired cause you just worked out, and didn’t get enough sleep, so you once again grab something easy to eat. Maybe you have to take care of your kids or just end up doing nothing but watching TV for 4 hours. Instead of ramping down for the night to get a good night’s rest, you stare at a huge flat screen TV exposing yourself to artificial blue light, probably watching an anxiety inducing Netflix crime documentary until 1am, just in time to jump right into bed to repeat the same day tomorrow. Yikes.

I didn’t plan on typing that entire day out, but I needed to bring awareness on where your chronic pain can be coming from. Inflammation is a sneaky sneaky guy. How do we combat this? By optimizing our day addressing each issue above.

Optimize Sleep

Let’s start here. As you read earlier, if your sleep isn’t optimized, it sets your entire day up for failure. People who are mildly sleep deprived have been shown to perceive more pain. Not only that, but their inflammatory markers go up with less sleep. When you are sleeping it is your body's chance to repair broken down tissue, and clean out any waste products and inflammation you’ve accumulated throughout the day. If you don’t give yourself enough time to do so, you are limiting your recovery.

Poor sleep also leads to poor eating choices. Your cortisol spikes causing you to crave high sugar items in order to bring your cortisol and stress back down to normal levels. Everyone promotes a morning routine, but what about a sleep routine?

Try this: 2 hours before bed, make sure to either turn off all electronics, or wear blue light blocking glasses. This helps tell your brain that it is night time and that your melatonin needs to increase (and cortisol decrease) to get ready for bed. If you have blue light constantly in your face, your body will not get this signal. Make sure to get sunlight during the day so your body can reset it’s circadian rhythm.

Optimize Your Diet

Stay away from processed foods that will light you up or leave you more tired. If you know you are lazy at heart just like me, stay one step ahead by having meal choices prepared ahead of time so if you are in a rush in the morning, it isn’t a problem. I’ve had friends who notice after they eat specific foods, their joints act up the day after and it prevents them from doing the workouts they wanted.

Try This: Eat foods high in Omega 3’s (fish, olive oil, etc) to help bring the inflammation down. You can eliminate all culprits at once (gluten, vegetable oils, lactose, etc) or one by one if you want to see what exactly is causing it. Make sure to have a protein serving the size and thickness of your palm with each meal. This will increase satiety, and provide your body with high quality protein to repair your muscles and enzymes. Meats, poultry, lentils, eggs, and fish are all great sources. Add a 1-2 fistful’s of veggies to your meals to help get the micronutrients the body needs to help you further lower that inflammation.

Bonus: Alternatively you can try a 24 hour fast. Our body is a machine. When was the last time you went a truly long time without eating, so that your body could take a break from constant digesting and assimilating food? It needs time to shut down. A 24 hour fast will not only help give your body a much needed break to run efficiently again, it will clear all waste products from your body, but more importantly, change your relationship with food. Guess what? We don’t need to be eating every 3 hours. You will be just fine.

Stay Hydrated!

Make sure you keep yourself properly hydrated. Your cells are made of water, and we want to keep our joints lubricated constantly to support our structure. We need this to help promote a very productive workout session. Well hydrated cells also ensure the cells can do their jobs at 100%. A dehydrated cell can’t perform optimally.

Try This: The moment you wake up, try to start your day right by drinking 20oz of water. Your body sweats out a lot during sleep, which is partially why we feel groggy and sluggish in the morning. Adding water will help hydrate those cells and get you feeling awake quicker than coffee.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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