Some of you may know that I went through Precision Nutrition’s level 1 coaching program last year – finished in November 2019. One of the reasons I did was to make me a more well-rounded therapist. I approach rehab and health/wellness from a holistic approach – a mix of Eastern and Western medicine approaches – and adding in nutrition coaching just seemed natural.
Many people don’t understand how nutrition can affect their rehab. When I ask a client how they diet/nutrition is, they look taken aback at first, as if to say “What does that have to do with my shoulder pain?”, and then many follow up by saying “It’s fine, I try to eat healthy”. However, this is usually a coverup for “I think I eat healthy, but I don’t actually know”. Nutrition has a HUGE impact on overall wellness as well as rehab. Many foods can perpetuate inflammation – and many of my clients have inflammation due to pain. What we put into our bodies directly affects how our body is able to utilize those resources to repair/recover from stress as well as regulate the systems that keep us alive. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today – food and inflammation/pain.
Processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup: This isn’t about the natural sugars found in fruits, but rather the white, granular sugar found in candies and desserts. Sugar and High fructose corn syrup is found in so many things that we consume these days that we don’t realize just HOW MUCH we’re actually consuming. Increased amounts of consumed table sugar have been linked to inflammation and then chronic illness. High amounts of high fructose corn syrup have been linked to inhibiting the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids. Too much sugar in general can also lead to issues like insulin-resistance, obesity, cancer, fatty liver disease etc…
Artificial trans fats: This is probably the least healthiest fat you can consume. From a chemical make up perspective – hydrogens are added to unsaturated fats (liquid) so that they can have the stability of a solid fat and have increased shelf life. Artificial trans fats are found in foods like fries, packaged cakes, margarines/shortenings etc…. all so that the shelf life of the product improves. These fats were created and utilized not for the sake of the consumer, but rather to improve business. Increased artificial trans fats are linked to an increase in inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein. If you see “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the label of a product, you might want to think twice and put the item back!
Refined carbohydrates: These are carbs with most of the fiber removed from them – fiber is important for regulating satiety, blood sugar levels, and promoting overall gut health. Increased consumption of refined carbs have been shown to increase risk of inflammatory bowel disease as well as obesity. From an embryological perspective, everything started in the center and then branched outwards in development. So your gut (and core!) is important to keep healthy for the sake of the rest of your body and especially the musculoskeletal system.
There are many other food groups in a modern diet that can create inflammation in the body, but the top 3 are listed above. When we have physical pain, it’s usually because the body is trying to get the brain’s attention – it’s requesting a change, and pain is one of the most effective ways for us to take notice and make a change. Our body is constantly give us signals and feedback, it’s up to us to choose whether or not to listen to them. We also have to take care of our bodies. What we put into our bodies becomes the only resources it has to repair any damage from stressors throughout the day, which directly influences how our body can adapt to our ever-changing environment. I always tell my clients that in some cases, the physical symptom is just your body trying to get your attention for something else that is going on inside. Changing your diet can help with a lot of issues that may be brewing in the other systems of the body.
-Dr. James Chen PT, DPT, Pn1