9 Foods that Can Cause Chronic Pain and 9 that Can Alleviate It

Chronic Headaches

Do you suffer from chronic pain? Ouch! But you may be surprised to learn that you can help minimize your pain through your food choices. Yes that’s right, what you may be eating can contribute to chronic pain, and on the flip side, you can choose to incorporate certain foods that may help alleviate pain.

Ready to create a diet that supports you in feeling your best? Here are 10 foods that may cause pain, and 10 that alleviate it.

Painful Food

Gluten free is healthier1. Gluten

We’ve often discussed how gluten intolerance can lead to stomach and intestinal pain, but did you know that eating gluten can also cause all-over pain? A recent study showed that many people had a sensitivity to gluten in which the body saw gluten as a foreign pathogen and released inflammation to fight it. An inflammatory response can be very painful, and if you are gluten intolerant but ingest gluten on a regular basis, you may have chronic inflammation causing widespread pain. Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and some processed oats. It is also in many processed foods. So the happy bi-product of resolving to go gluten-free also means you will also have to give up most of all processed foods! You will feel so much better without them, as you find much better alternatives (see below!)

2. Eggs

Egg yolks contain arachidonic acid, which studies have shown is one of the main fatty acids involved in inflammation. Diets high in arachindonic acid may lead to a constant level of inflammation, and thus, pain.

3. Meat

Meat, particularly red meat, can contribute to chronic pain in a few ways. First, meat is high in purines. When you ingest dietary purines, your body breaks them down into uric acid, which can cause the excruciatingly painful condition, gout. Likewise, meat is also high in fats containing arachindonic acid, which can cause inflammation and pain.

Milk and Diary are bad for you4. Milk/Dairy

Milk products can contribute to pain in a few ways. First, milk contains lactose, a sugar that is very difficult for the human body to digest. For people with lactose intolerance, consumption of dairy products can bring about gastrointestinal pain or discomfort. Milk products can also contribute to all over inflammatory pain because milk contains high levels of the protein casein. Because so many people have difficulty processing casein, it can lead to a painful inflammatory response in the human body.

5. Aspartame

Studies show that this artificial sweetener, also known as NutraSweet, can cause headaches.

6. Trans fats

According to the Mayo Clinic trans fats may increase inflammation in your body, which can cause all-over pain and discomfort.

7. Beer

According to WebMD, research shows that drinking as few as two beers each week can increase your risk of getting the painful condition gout by a quarter. And the more beer you drink, the higher your chances of getting gout are – drinkers who had two beers per day had a 200 percent increased chance of getting the disease. That’s most likely because beer is high in purines, which convert to uric acid in the body.

fried foods bad for you8. Fried foods

Many foods are fried in oils high in omega-6 fatty acids. While your body needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the key word is balance. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet lacks this balance. According to one study, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio should be 1:1; however, in the typical Western diet it is about 1:15 or even more out of whack! Omega-6 fats at this high of a level in the human body are pro-inflammatory, which can lead to inflammation and chronic pain.

9. Processed foods

These foods (those that come in a bag, box, package, or can) may cause chronic pain and inflammation for a number of reasons. Some of the pain causing ingredients you may find in processed foods include gluten, trans fats, high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and artificial chemicals.

Pain Relieving Foods

leafy green foods are healthy1. Dark leafy greens

Greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are high in antioxidants and nutrients that fight oxidative stress. According to Arthritis Today, eating greens can also help prevent the painful condition, osteoporosis. This is because greens create a state of alkalinity in your body, which helps to balance out acidity without demineralizing your bones, and helps your body maintain these minerals.

Raw Walnuts are best for you2. Raw walnuts

Walnuts are high in omega-3 fats, which can help to balance your omega-3 vs omega-6 ratio, which fights inflammation and pain. Try pulsing them in the blender or food processor with some fresh basil and other herbs for a yummy nut pate that you can top salads with.

 3. Avocado

These fruits are high in vitamin K. In their book, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James and Phyllis Balch describe how vitamin K reduces pain and other arthritis symptoms.

 4. Sea Vegetables

Sea vegetables like kelp and dulse contain fucoidans – polysaccharides that studies have shown to reduce pain. Sea veggies are also great for providing lots of trace minerals, as well as B vitamins and iron.

Acai berries are high in antioxidants 5. Acai

These delicious berries are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are powerful pain fighters. Antioxidants fight free radicals, which can damage cells and cause pain, while omega-3 fats fight inflammation. At Glow Bio we have a smoothie called Rainforest Acai Beauty, which pays homage to this amazing berry.

6. Ginger

A recent study showed that ginger decreased muscle pain by 25 percent. Ginger can also soothe stomach pain, and evidence also exists showing ginger may be effective at relieving the pain of osteoarthritis. Try making my Detox Tea!

cherries relieve pain7. Cherries

Studies have shown that tart cherry juice is high in anti-oxidants and may relieve the pain of osteoarthritis. Since they aren’t in season right now, you could try getting some organic, frozen cherries and making a simple smoothie out of them.

8. Turmeric

According to the National Institutes of Health, turmeric may be effective for relieving stomach upset, as well as the pain of osteoarthritis. I love the taste of turmeric. Try working it into your dishes, or try my Curry-Turmeric Veggie Quinoa dish.

Flax Seeds are high in Omega-3s9. Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation, and therefore pain. Try grinding 1 Tbs. fresh and topping soups and salads with it.

I hope these tips have been helpful for you, and that you can start eating your way to feeling better and better!



Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2015
  • http://omshesaid.wordpress.com rani

    Love this detailed list of good and bad! I really had no idea about the eggs…I have steadily working to eat right with a couple of bad now and then…but I do feel and realize that when I eat better…everything in my life seems to be better too!

  • http://www.wordpress.com Erika Fiore

    Gosh, I love cherries! *-*

    I can consider myself blessed. Living in Belem, Brazil, the city a.k.a. Amazon portal, we have plenty açaí, and I consume it on a daily basis!

    I guess the only thing on this list I will propably never like is avocado, unfortunately. It’s the color, makes me sick just looking at it. I have no idea why *specially because I love green so much that my bedroom walls are in this color.

    Or maybe it’s the smell. Who knows?

  • Carolina

    Dear Kimberly, once I bought casein (as a suplement) and I drinked solved in some water and I felt a big pain in my stomach, it was like contractions. Why this pain? Do you think that I have dairy intolerance?
    I love your posts, but I have to confess that i’m trying to start your program, but I have to have corage to make so many changes in my life!
    Actually, I’m from Brazil…I love açaí, and here we used to eat the frozen pulp blended with some honey, bananas and strawberries. It looks like an ice cream! It’s delicious!
    Thank you!!

  • Lina

    GREAT ARTICLE!! Keep up the good work!

  • sheri

    The title says 10 that alleviate it, but there are only 9 listed. What is #10?

  • Katie

    Hi Kim, i have been following your blossoming beauty phase for 2 weeks now and before that avoided most of the food on the list above anyways and yet still i experience so much pain, constipation and bloating etc etc. It seems when it comes to my tummy i does not matter what i eat i i still experience painful symptoms. Do you have any advise? i have seen so many doctors health practitioners yet I’m just told its IBS. which i feel is a bit of a cop out for a diagnoses. Thanks so much

  • Sonja

    Thank you so much for this info, Kimberly. I have learned so much since discovering your blog, and me and my husband have made radical changes to our lifestyle and diet.
    In regards to the mention of flaxseed being a good addition to a diet however, I recently read that flaxseed has been identified as a possible risk factor for prostate cancer.
    What are your thoughts on this?
    Thanks so much for this great resource!

  • Laura

    Hi Kimberly! Great article! Love your posts! :) I recently found out that I am pregnant. I eat mostly vegetarian, no dairy, seafood once per week. I am wondering what sources of amino acids or protein you would recommend? I know that amino acids are available in raw vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, I just want to make sure I am getting enough and good array of all of the amino acids. Thanks so much!

  • Dan

    I trust all you say , but I live in western Oklahoma and some of the things you recommend the grocers won’t get or can’t I’m stuck !!!! Please help

  • Aimee

    Actually there are only 9 things that you have listed to alleviate something.

  • Julia

    Hi Kimberly! Great post! I’ve been following your book for almost 18 months now.. It has been so helpful for me and I’m very grateful to you! I enjoy reading all your posts, and keeping up with the new info. I have noticed recently that you are cutting back on fat, like avocados. How much avocado would you recommend per day now? Also, how often would you have your power protein smoothie, and what quantity of raw protein powder & chia seeds would you recommend? I have been using the ‘garden of life’ brand protein powder. Is this something you would have daily? I still get a bit stuck on how much protein is necessary. I have your GGS most mornings, a kale salad with avo etc or a green salad with veggies/ avo sandwich for lunch, and green/kale salad for dinner, with chicken/eggs/quinoa/millet & veggies for dinner. Also, do you have your own yoga DVD or recommend one? Thank you very much Kimberly!

    Julia xx

  • christine storey

    Congratulations honey….so proud of what you have accomplished….I hope to see you real soon….lets try and get together….

  • http://www.professionalpersonaltrainers.com Simon

    Hi Kimberley – I was hoping you would have a suggestion here for a dull headache – I seem to suffer from this most days all the time?

    Also I tried reading 27 tups to beat that headache for an answer but the link wont work. Thanks.

    • http://www.dyop.org Allan Hytowitz

      You may have migraine headaches or your glasses (if you wear glasses) may not have the proper refraction.
      Visual acuity dissonance (the difference from your correct refraction and your current glasses’ refraction, if you wear glasses) may cause exhaustion and headaches. That dissonance may induce symptoms of dyslexia. Go to http://www.dyop.org to take the free on-line acuity test. Then go see your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
      Migraines are frequently a result of our eyes having a hyper-sensitivity to infrared light (which we supposedly can’t see!). That hypersensitivity frequently leads to a photoreceptor neurological storm which can result in both migraines and epileptic seizures.
      Try finding lenses that block IR light and see what your response is.

    • S. Marie

      A dull headache could be a migraine. Migraines can have many different symptoms and I’ve had them for years. One Imitrex usually knocks them out for me.

  • Elodie Picard

    Hello, a year ago I read your book and it changed my life, and all my family diet. Long story short in October 2011, I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer. I had it surgically removed and unfortunately suffer now from severe permanent hypoparathyroidism. I used to take a lot of calcium supplement to survive (12 doses a day), but since I changed my nutrition (because of your book) I don’t have to take any calcium supplement at all! In 6 months I was able to go from 12 supplements a day to none. As long as I eat right (no dairy, no meat, lots of leafy green vegetables, no gluten, no sugar, no soy products) I don’t need to take any calcium anymore, which is a real miracle and saved my kidneys who were working way to hard to filter all that chemical calcium doses. Thank you so much!!!!! All my family members health improved too( one wonderful husband and 3 children). But I do have a little problem, I lost a lot of weight, and I am now down to 45 kg, and I measure 1,65 meters. How can I keep this diet but gain back a little weight? Thanks for your help.

  • barbara

    Thanks for the Information Kim, but here we go again, For Americans Gluten is bad , which is not the case in Europe, in Germany we recommend eaten Bread ,Pasta etc.in moderation,Wheat in the US is mostly GMO(GMO is banned mostly in Europe).Chemicals like Potassium bromate and Azodicarbonamide are added to US Breads ,Processed Foods etc.,these additives are linked to kidney and nervous system disorders as well as gastrointestinal discomfort

    all these Chemicals are illegal to use in Europe,this includes my Home Country.

    You would have less of an Issue with Gluten here, if you leave the Chemistry out

  • http://www.brianbarr.co.uk/chronic_pain_syndrome.htm Chronic Pain Disorder

    Hi Kimberly. There’s some fantastic advice in this post. Extremely useful for anyone who’s suffering from issues with chronic pain.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes, Alex

  • Lindsey

    This is a little off topic, but what are your thoughts on fasting? I specifically mean a juice or water only fast. I watched a BBC documentary about it and they said that fasting would decrease growth hormones that contribute to causing cancer. However, it seems likely that it could help with chronic pain and other health issues.

  • kashi


    I have an eye condition called Stargardt’s disease and I am supposed to avoid foods high in vitamin A. So things like leagy greens and papaya, which I love are not for me. Do you have any other ideas for the glowing green smoothie in my case?? Thanks and your book was a great read!

  • Arailym

    Hello, dear Kimberly! Thank you for all you do. My question is about my diet. I stopped eating meat 3 weeks ago. But I started eating lots of bread because I can’t eat meals which are made only of carrot, potatoes and beet. I would buy more vegetables and fruits but I don’t want to ask my parents to do it. I’m 16. I want my diet to be well-balanced and don’t want to overeat.
    Blessings, Arailym.

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  • vishakha

    I am having a migriane ……today I had a very severe migraine headache ……how can I prevent it????? Does eating papaya causes severe migraine headache??

    • http://www.skinoholist.com Skinoholist

      It can cause headaches if you react to histamine. Enzymes in papaya release histamine in the body….look if you react badly to cheese and wine too.

  • http://www.victoryoverpain.com Victory

    Great advice! I love your site its very complete.!

    • bethy

      all great advice but there is then nothing left then to eat really…soybean (dangerous phyto-estrogen) is in
      everything cant eat kale and broccoli all the time what a drag.. also flaxseed can be fattening isnt it a phyto estrogen too always seemed to gain weight taking that unfortunately

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  • Sacdude

    Growing up, I used to have headaches, wake up to lowerback aches, and painful spasms in my groin area. Used to take painkillers weekly. I drank milk daily before bed. Wife mentioned milk allergies so i stopped drinking milk…..and viola…no more pain and pain killers! Have been pain free for several months now.
    I get my calcium from green veges and occasionally soy milk.
    Also regarding milk, I would get chest congestion too. Not anymore.

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Birendra chand

    Is that any meat eating causes pain in head and eye problems

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    • Kathleene Parker

      My grandmother, mother, myself and a sister endured devastating headaches for years. I gave up a multitude of foods, especially as heavy digestive problems–with NO cause ever found–also set into play. Finally, I encountered a website that said, “Give up gluten and you’ll get rid of your headaches,” exactly what happened, although because gluten also destroys the parts of the gut that digest lactose and soy and kicks off biochemical imbalances affecting the digestion of red meats, poultry, eggs and even legumes, for me it wasn’t as simple as just gluten. But, I urge everyone to also research a secondary part of this, copper overload of the liver!!! Finally, an explanation as to why eating anything the least bit toxic (or high in copper) would send me, twice in an ambulance, to the emergency room. I think my problems were two fold: inflammation set into play by gluten and a chronic, lifelong mineral deficiency, quite common in the horrible malnourished United States of today! My case is extreme, but I urge everyone to research and understand why the above diet is so wise!

  • http://www.slbmi.com/all-services/pain-management St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute

    Thank you for including a list that also helps! Far too often people exclude what can help. The list was simple and easy to follow. Thanks for sharing!