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Most people know that eating a well-balanced, healthy diet can reduce your risk of health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. However, the foods you eat may also provide relief from chronic pain or keep you from developing certain types of pain, such as low-back pain.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is the best way to maintain a healthy weight, both now and as you grow older. In addition, keeping off those extra pounds can reduce chronic pain from certain health conditions, such as arthritis or back problems.

Eating a well-balanced diet also provides your body with the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that it needs to stay healthy and pain-free. A healthy diet includes eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein sources. Here are some types of pain that can be helped by following a healthy diet:

  • Back pain. Eating foods rich in calcium and obtaining enough vitamin D from the sun or supplements will keep your bones strong. This can help prevent osteoporosis — weakening of the bones — that can lead to bone fractures and back pain.
  • Fibromyalgia. Some people with fibromyalgia feel better when they avoid or eat certain foods. There is no diet that has been proven to work for everyone, but eating healthy will help you avoid other problems that may make your fibromyalgia worse. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, consider keeping a food journal in which you also note your symptoms. If you notice a trend between eating certain foods and the worsening of your symptoms, you can try to cut out that food to see if it helps prevent or alleviate your symptoms.
  • Arthritis. Certain foods may relieve symptoms associated with arthritis, including: fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients. Avoiding excessive alcohol may also improve your symptoms.

Dietary Supplements

Certain dietary supplements may benefit people with chronic pain. Although some medical studies have been done on these, more research is needed to know how well they will work to relieve pain. However, some individuals with the following conditions have benefited from eating foods that contain the following nutrients.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) and gamma-linolenic acid
  • Migraine: coenzyme Q10, riboflavin and the herbs feverfew and butterbur
  • Osteoarthritis: glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, turmeric, ginger and capsaicin
  • Low back pain: omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin, bromelain and turmeric

Before taking any supplements, check with your doctor, chiropractor or other health care provider. Some dietary supplements can cause side effects or may interact with your prescription medication. They may also be harmful if you are pregnant or nursing.