Living in a world where 1 in 5 people get no relief from their painkillers, holistic approaches to pain management are finally coming into the spotlight!
It’s a pretty exciting concept that we can help our bodies to be less sensitive to pain with a variety of natural nutritional methods (Habib et al 2020).
One study found that 71% of people with chronic pain were deficient in vitamin D! That’s a pretty big number suggesting that nutrient deficiencies contribute to worsened pain sensitivity (Kanel et al 2014). Experts estimate that one billion people are living with vitamin D deficiency around the world, yet, testing vitamin D is not part of routine blood tests (Palacios & Gonzalez 2014).
When’s the last time you had your vitamin D levels tested? We’re not considered clinically deficient in vitamin D if our blood levels are above 20ng/mL, yet this is the minimum level to maintain function, and not enough for our bodies to be able to function optimally. Optimal vitamin D levels are between 50-100ng/mL, and when experiencing pain, fatigue, or illness we need to make sure we’re receiving optimal nutrition as this directly impacts our quality of life!
B12 may be beneficial in neuropathic pain, the type of pain that may feel like a burning sensation, as it is very important in nerve regeneration and helps to construct the myelin sheaths which are like protective blankets for our nerves (Thomas et al 2020). Research is in its early stages, but so far, it’s promising that increasing B12 may be helpful, even in cases without deficiency!
This vitamin is essential in tissue repair and acts an antioxidant to help protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation. One study found that vitamin E deficiency seems to be common in people with osteoarthritis, and that vitamin E may have a protective effect and help slow joint degeneration (Chin & Nirwana 2018).
✦ Magnesium and Calcium
Deficiencies have both been linked to worsened pain sensation. One study found that women with fibromyalgia that had less dietary intake of these nutrients had more tender points of pain (Andretta et al 2019). This nutrient combination has also been shown to help people experiencing bad period pain, working better together than calcium alone (Naz et al 2020).
✦ Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Westernised diets and omega-3 deficiencies sadly often go hand-in-hand (Simopoulos 2013). Naturally anti-inflammatory as part of a balanced diet, omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their ability to help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Studies have shown that high quality fish oil may help reduce pain sensitivity with joint pain and nerve pain and can help with recovery from injury.
Eating a nutritionally balanced diet is so important for optimizing our health, especially for people living with pain or illness. It’s exciting to see research into integrative nutrition growing, and I hope in coming years nutritional support joins the ranks of go-to medicine for pain support!