Inflammation: The Key To Manage Your Pain

June 15, 2020 - by Dr. Katherine Chung, ND - in Uncategorized

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Inflammation is the wood that keeps the fire of pain burning strong. But how? Why does inflammation worsen pain? Well, first we have to know how pain is transmitted throughout the body first and what inflammation is – this is key to understanding the pain-inflammation relationship. 

How is pain transmitted?

There are 2 ways for your body to feel/transmit pain:

1. Fast-sharp pain signals

  • Using specific nerve fibres (alpha-delta fibres) to send pain signal for acute pain (from limbs/muscles to brain)
  • Associated with “classical” inflammation

2. Slow-chronic type pain signals

  • Using specific nerve fibres (C fibres) to slowly transmit pain signals over a longer period of time (from limbs/muscles to brain)
  • This type is associated with inflammatory proteins and neurotransmitters
  • Associated with “silent” inflammation

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is a part of your immune system that signals to the body to repair damaged tissue. It is important to have temporary/low level of inflammation for healing, but chronic inflammation is the biggest problem.

There is 2 types of inflammation:

1. “Classical” inflammation  

  • Inflammation causing acute pain
  • Example: a cut that is red and painful during healing


2. “Silent” inflammation

  • Chronic, low level inflammation below the threshold of pain
  • Example: old knee injury that constantly feels “uncomfortable”
Both types of inflammation are driven by pro-inflammatory proteins which are derived from arachidonic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) ⬅︎ VERY important to remember!

How do we tackle inflammation to reduce pain? - Tackle the inflammatory storm

Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We’ve all heard the fact that omega-3 fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatories, BUT that’s not the only way they reduce inflammation.

Research has shown that at least 2g per day of omega-3 will decrease the release of arachidonic acid (AA)(remember, we talked about that up there ⬆︎?) Omega-3 will actually inhibit the production of AA and dilute out existing AA which will reduce the production of pro-inflammatory proteins.

GREAT sources of omega-3

  1. Cold water fatty fish – salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines
  2. Nuts and seeds – chia, flaxseed, walnuts
  3. Plant oils – flaxseed oil, avocado oil, coconut oil
  4. Dairy – Ghee, butter
Decrease Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 is PRO-inflammatory and naturally very high in the standard western diet – which means that extra supplementation of omega-6 is absolutely unnecessary! So skip the Omega 3-6-9 supplements – the more is NOT merrier in this case.

Most common omega-6 fatty acids are linolenic acid and gamma linolenic acid (which from here ➡︎ you can see that these 2 create arachidonic acid). So to decrease AA (and thus inflammation and pain) we have to reduce consumption of omega-6 – it’s still useful and we need it just not as high as we’re intaking right now. General rule – you want the consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 to be a 1:1 ratio, currently in the standard western diet it is 6:1. 

Foods HIGH in omega-6

  1. Vegetable oils – corn, sunflower, safflower, sunflower, canola (replace with omega-3 oils (as above))
  2. Peanut butter (replace with another nut butter)
  3. Margarine (replace with butter/ghee)
Decrease Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates is a fancy way of saying processed carbohydrates. What exactly are they processing? 

The refining process removes the fiber rich protective outer layer (containing b-vitamins and trace minerals)  and inner nutrient rich core (containing healthy fats, vitamin E, and b-vitamins) to leave the left over grain which is just carbohydrates and a little protein.  

Why are all these important nutrient stripped out if they’re so important? It reduces cook time, removes “unwanted” textures, and makes it easier to sell. Unfortunately when you remove everything but the carbohydrates, it makes it easy access for your body to break it down into sugar – and when I say easy I mean blood sugar spikes within 15 minutes of consumption. This is compared to a small increase in blood sugar within 30 minutes of consuming complex carbohydrates (carbohydrates that have the nutrient rich core and fiber rich outer layer). 

From the image above, you can see that insulin (released when blood sugar spikes) activates the conversion of omega-6 fatty acids to arachidonic acid (i.e. fuels the inflammatory fire and worsen pain). 

Examples of Refined Carbohydrates

  1. White rice – replace with brown or wild rice
  2. White bread – replace with brown/whole grain bread
  3. Pasta – replace with brown  pasta (generally gluten free pasta are made non-refined carbohydrates)
  4. White flour – bake with coconut flour or brown flour 


Do you see a pattern? The thing that gives these products the “brown” colour is that fiber rich outer layer! 

All 3 must be done!

Research has shown that only tackling one of the 3 factors of the inflammatory storm will not do much for reducing inflammation and pain. All 3 must be done to be able to make an impact. 

Are you ready to be pain free and get back to your life before all this pain? Give these changes a try!

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Dr. Katherine Chung, ND

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