If you are suffering from chronic pain, chances are good you have tried many different things to manage it, including exercise, prescription medicine, and (maybe) a natural remedy or two. But what if you could greatly reduce the intensity, duration, and frequency of chronic pain by changing your diet? Or eliminate your chronic pain altogether? There is mounting evidence that a vegan diet (completely plant-based) can help with chronic pain symptoms while offering substantial benefits in other areas such as weight loss and a lower chance of heart and other developed diseases such as Type-2 diabetes.

A purely vegan diet eliminates any type of food that comes from any type of animal.

This includes meat, eggs, milk, and anything that is made from any of those ingredients (no, ice cream is not vegan! Nor is butter, cheese, fish, or shellfish). Vegans meet all of their daily nutritional recommendations consuming vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and grains. Some supplement their diet with a B vitamin, but most insist that they can meet their nutritional needs without supplementation. Because most processed foods utilize some form of animal product, vegans tend to eat fewer processed foods, but make no mistake. There is plenty of junk food that accidentally meets vegan requirements (like chips, some prepared meals, candy, and soft drinks). Most people choose a vegan diet to get away from processed foods, though, and try to steer clear of these.

So what are the benefits? Most people switching to this type of diet experience dramatic weight loss and an increase in energy immediately, but there are even more dramatic benefits.  A vegan diet can help significantly decrease chronic pain symptoms. Many studies show that dairy products trigger an overall inflammatory response in the body (which causes pain), and a vegan diet eliminates dairy completely. A meat-based diet also makes the body more acidic, and this can also trigger an inflammatory response. The dramatic weight loss lessens stress and pressure on joints, thus helping those with chronic joint and back pain, and many fibromyalgia sufferers report less pain or an elimination of pain altogether. In addition to helping manage pain, a vegan diet that is rich in whole foods that include leafy greens and antioxidant fruits like cherries and blueberries provide other heart-healthy and cancer-fighting benefits.

Make no mistake: it ain’t easy being green.

A body used to a standard Western diet of meat, starch, and dairy (think a fat steak and a baked potato with sour cream) will need time to adjust to a vegan diet, and some people may experience withdrawal-type symptoms, especially if they are also eliminating sugar. It is important to have good resources for recipe and snack ideas as well as some basic nutrition information regarding daily requirements. Try a 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, look for recipes and ideas on vegan recipe blogs like Oh She Glows, and find a supportive community that has “been there, done that.”

Above all, it is very important that you do research and talk with your doctor before beginning any type of radical diet change. Even if you don’t become fully vegan, what part of a vegan diet could you implement to help manage chronic pain symptoms?

Image by SweetOnVeg via Flickr

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