Is Your Food Fueling Your Pain?


As athletes, we often have aches and pains after our hardcore or intense workouts. This is normal and can be a sign that we pushed ourselves, and the body is repairing itself. When the pain lingers and become chronic, leading to forced recovery workouts, or worse yet, forced rest and time off, you may want to look at what it is you are eating.

Many athletes do not know that foods can cause inflammation, and other foods can decrease inflammation. Inflammation is a natural process the body goes through to recover. Using foods to improve your recovery is key to a lifelong ability to keep training and stay fit.

I have come to know that, generally, food can be your medicine or it can be your poison. Certain foods increase inflammation. Other foods lower it. The key is to find that balance of more anti-inflammatory and less pro-inflammatory foods. You don’t have to become a purist but if you are experiencing more pain than usual, and more stiffness and poor recovery, you want to limit the inflammatory foods and consider even eliminating them.

The 3 most inflammatory foods are wheat, sugar, and hydrogenated fats. As athletes, we eat a lot of wheat products as they are promoted as “athlete fuel.” The challenge with wheat in the U.S. is that it has been genetically modified in a laboratory.  If it were naturally modified, it would take time to cross-pollinate the wheat, and the human body could keep up with the changes. When wheat, or really any genetically modified organism (GMO) food, has been cross-pollinated in a laboratory, the body often treats it like a foreign invader or toxin. Wheat specifically, when GMO’d, increases the gluten content exponentially. This can also be a reason for toxicity and an inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Many people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and GI distress, not realizing that the wheat is the culprit to their GI pain.

Cane, organic, or raw, sugar is inflammatory. In some literature, it is referred to as having a similar effect as cocaine! No wonder we have such a hard time avoiding it. When my hip degenerated several years ago, I discovered how inflammatory sugar is. Even that teaspoon in my coffee in the morning was enough to trigger my joints to ache considerably. Then if I ate dark chocolate M&M’s – oh, it was significantly worse! It wasn’t the sugar in the chocolate; it was the sugar AND the artificial colors in the candy coating. I quickly searched for replacements and offer those to my clients depending on what it is they are eating.

Hydrogenated fats are the trans fats that in the past few years had a lot of press. They are on food labels now, so they’re easier to recognize. But keep in mind that hydrogenated fats are man-made in the laboratory. They added a hydrogen molecule to the fat to increase the shelf life of the fat. This is why you only see hydrogenated fats in shelf-stable foods including peanut butter and baked goods including cookies. They are often in non-dairy creamers, which also have sugar, sometimes corn syrup as well, which then becomes a double whammy of pain.

Several years ago, when pumpkin-spiced creamer came out for the fall season, I bought a bottle. Within 10 days, my hip was SCREAMING at me. I had also noticed that I started putting on weight. I put on some 8 pounds in 2 weeks, and we were only in October. I started furiously writing down everything I ate. The only thing that had actually changed was that I switched from cream to the spiced non-dairy creamer. I was relieved to know it was something I was eating rather than some underlying health condition. When I stopped drinking that, my pain stopped and I was able to lose that weight within another 2-3 weeks. But that was painful physically and emotionally!

Having my hip condition was a great way for me to learn that certain foods increased my pain, while others did not. It was then that I started to explore the anti-inflammatory diet and incorporate it with my clients so they can experience less pain, less stiffness, and more fun in their active life. When I work with athletes, I focus on the foods they are eating and find safe options for those foods. The fun part in my opinion is to explore the safe foods you can eat so you can fuel your body better and improve your recovery and performance at the same time.

Next month I will let you know more about what foods to include that lower inflammation. If you are interested in hearing more about how to implement an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan or whether it would be the right thing for you to try, reach out for a 15-minute chat by going to

Joanna K. Chodorowska is a holistic nutritionist, pain and inflammation expert, author, speaker, ordained minister, founder of Nutrition in Motion, athlete, and lover of life. She guides athletes to relieve their pain and health challenges so they love their body and active life more fully. Joanna incorporates real food and anti-inflammatory and mindfulness principles so you master your body’s own unique needs. She explores your response to stress and emotional injury from childhood (or previous lives), which often contribute to pain and illness. Joanna discovered through her own healing from adrenal exhaustion and a degenerating hip that the body can heal naturally given the right tools. She provides more than hope for you to get back to the active life you love. You learn to love your body, love your food, and love who you are! She can be reached at

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