Scientists are investigating how certain foods and beverages effect chronic pain conditions. Making dietary changes as a way to prevent and treat various common diseases is of great interest. This approach may be more cost effective. Plus, patients avoid the side effects that medicines often cause.

For many decades, researchers explored the effects of a poor quality Western diet on chronic inflammatory diseases. In our published review article entitled “Influence of polyunsaturated fatty acids on urologic inflammation”, International Urology and Nephrology, September 2015, we looked at how diets high in certain polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) may affect various urologic conditions.

There are two types of PUFA—Omega 6 fatty acids (O6FAs) and Omega 3 fatty acids (O3FAs). Our research found that diets high in O6FAs might cause inflammation and damage the bladder. And, that O3FAs may be helpful in negating the action of O6FAs. We also learned that there may be an optimal ratio of O6FAs to O3FAs. What does this mean for those with IC? Given that inflammation is present with IC, eating higher levels of O3FAs and decreasing your intake of foods with O6FAs may help keep symptoms in check.

The Journal of Pain published an article about individuals with unhealthy body weight who are also in chronic pain. Pain is a common complaint among people who are obese. And, most chronic pain sufferers are above normal weight. Some of the pain these patients struggle with is due to the pressure of excess body weight on load bearing joints. For example, knees and hips. But, patients also have significant pain in non-weight bearing joints. So, researchers wondered, was the pain caused by the greater weight, or was it due to poor diet quality?

The authors found many studies linking body inflammation with obesity. They also knew that certain nutrients such as O6FAs may contribute to pain in other chronic conditions. So, the scientists studied two groups of mice. One group had excess fat mass and the other had normal body weights. After feeding all of the mice a poor quality diet, the researchers found that both groups had elevated inflammatory markers and hypersensitivity. Thus, they concluded that poor quality diets (high in simple carbs and saturated fats) might cause chronic inflammation regardless of the presence of obesity.

The researchers also found that a poor diet may lead to a state of altered sensitivity, systematic inflammation, and chronic pain. And, O6FAs have a role in this interaction. These fats may delay recovery from hypersensitivity and increase your risk for chronic pain. On the flip side, animal studies found that fish oil (O3FAs) appears to decrease pain sensitivity.

The takeaway: If you are overweight, lose weight. These extra pounds may be causing inflammation that makes your IC pain worse. If you are not overweight, a poor diet may be increasing the severity of your bladder pain. The good news: There are diet changes that may help you manage chronic pain.


  • Plenty of fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain products.
  • Legumes.
  • Moderate portions of lean meats and poultry.
  • At least two 3-ounce servings per week of cold-water, oily fish (high in O-3FAs).
  • Skim milk products regularly.

  • O-6FAs found in processed foods, bakery products and corn oils.
  • Saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol from animal and processed products.
  • Sugar.
  • Salt.
  • Alcohol (totally restrict if IC trigger).

Revised Friday, January 22nd, 2016