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You Are What You Eat: Pain and Diet

You Are What You Eat: Pain and Diet

There are many systems in our body that can amplify or diminish our pain.

However, we rarely consider the gastrointestinal tract (which includes the entire tract where our food runs including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines) to contribute to pain. Your pain does not live in a vacuum and if it is not solely caused by specific movements or positions, consider other sources than muscles, bones, joints, etc. Especially if you experience sensitivities to certain foods, this one is for you…

Our gastrointestinal tract hosts most of the immune cells in our body. The immune system is responsible for patrolling the body, finding, and killing foreign invaders such as bacteria, poisons, and even specific foods. Now this can be confusing because food should be safe to ingest, but sometimes our immune system will launch an attack on certain foods because it has developed allergies or sensitivities over time.

You probably remember that antibodies are important players in the immune system which help launch a quick and efficient attack on previous invaders they recognize. Well, they can remember previous foods as well and trigger an inflammatory response to begin the attack. Inflammation is the start of the healing process when tissues are damaged. This is what makes recent injuries so painful. Our bodies are purposefully sensitizing the area to protect us from further injury. However, this useful process can get out of hand when we place our bodies under other types of stress that amplifies the inflammatory response including lack of sleep, emotional stress, and foods that launch the immune response.

Find Your Foes

The easiest and most effective way to identify your triggering foods is to get tested.  A gastroenterologist can perform this if they believe you are affected by food allergies or sensitivities.  You can then eliminate these foods from your diet.

However, if you would like to discover some of the food foes on your own:


Pay close attention to how certain foods make you feel.  Try to identify your triggers.  Journaling is especially helpful.


Once you have identified potential triggers, eliminate one food item at a time and see if there is an effect on your body’s response.  This can include improvement on:

  1. Joint-type stiffness & achiness
  2. Sleeping
  3. Headaches
  4. Bowel Movement Consistency

It all depends on your body’s particular immune response to these foods.


These are some of the most common:

  1. Corn
  2. Eggs
  3. Dairy
  4. Soy
  5. Sugar
  6. Wheat
  7. Yeast/mold
  8. Alcohol
  9. Apples
  10. Beans
  11. Beef
  12. Berries
  13. Carrots
  14. Chocolate.

There are many factors which contribute to our pain.  Consider what you eat and the inflammatory response it can produce to amplify the pain experience in our entire body.  Even when we have an injury or chronic pain due to a problem with our muscles, bones, etc., we can benefit from eliminating our “food foes” to reduce the occurrence of inflammation in our body.  Add one more bucket of water to the fire.


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Faith Crary, PT, DPT
During her free time, Faith enjoys exercise and weight training, visiting friends/family, reading, hiking, and seeking unique and delicious restaurants.
Faith Crary, PT, DPT

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