According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 11% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, meaning they experience ongoing, noticeable pain that is not fully relieved with medical treatments. In addition, about 17% of Americans experience severe pain, such terrible pain that it is debilitating. Imagine your ten best friends: at least one of them is likely dealing with chronic pain that could be severe.
Pain is caused by injury that inspires inflammation. Even when we cannot see an injury our bodies will still send nourishment and greater immune activity to support healing, causing inflammation. When we reduce inflammation, we reduce pain. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications are often advised or prescribed to help reduce chronic pain. However, instead of relying solely on pharmaceuticals, we can additionally reduce inflammation through a whole food plant based or healthy vegan diet. By removing foods that are known inflammation causers and increasing foods that are known inflammation reducers, such as vegetables high in quercetin (found in capers, onions, apple skins, cauliflower, lettuce, and chili peppers), we can naturally support our own pain reduction.
I experience chronic severe pain due to endometriosis. If unfamiliar, it is a condition that impacts at least 10% of women worldwide. Many are unaware they have it until they try to get pregnant. Others, like myself, know as soon as they begin menstruating. There is not enough research on the condition or knowledge of its causes, but some endometrium, or lining of the uterus that is shed each month, lives outside the uterus and in the abdominal cavity, often adhering to other organs. During menstruation, endometrial cells expand to be shed, even those outside the uterus. With nowhere to go, they can cause pain until the cycle ends and they contract, leaving behind scar tissue. Over time, the pain can become debilitating.
Debilitating pain forces people not to fully participate in life. Plans get cancelled, sick days are used at work, and loved ones worry. Utilizing diet to support the management of chronic pain can help people feel more like they did before the pain. Diet changes can even allow severe pain sufferers to reduce or completely stop taking pain medication. Reducing pain brings back the possibility of returning to activities once shunned, such as exercise and spending time with friends.
I have been able to manage my chronic pain, in part, through a whole food plant based diet. When I stray from this approach and eat vegan junk food, I can always feel the consequences later when my body starts to hurt again. Luckil,y our bodies are great at healing themselves and I can feel better after returning to my healthy diet. In addition to managing pain, my diet helps protect me from heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes — all worthy reasons to be thoughtful about the foods I eat.
Deanna Meyler, PhD seeks to make the world a better place one meal at a time. She is a MSVA Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator who has been a vegan activist for over two decades. With a doctorate in sociology, and emphasis in environment, Deanna brings a deep understanding of the cultural impacts and implications on diet and the environment. She is passionate about helping people manage chronic pain and improve their lives through diet. Deanna provides individual health and lifestyle coaching, as well as vegan marketing strategic planning, at An Everyday Vegan. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Deanna can also be reached via email.