What foods can you eat to improve gut health for chronic pain

In recent years, the intricate relationship between gut health and inflammation has come to the forefront of scientific research and wellness discussions. Our gut, often referred to as the “second brain,” plays a pivotal role not only in digestion but also in our overall well-being. The connection between gut health and inflammation offers a promising avenue for enhancing our body’s natural defense mechanisms and promoting optimal health. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the fascinating world of gut health and explore effective strategies to utilise it as a powerful tool to fight inflammation.

What is gut health?

Gut health refers to the well-being of your gastrointestinal tract. It plays a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall immune function. A balanced and diverse gut microbiome, composed of trillions of microorganisms, is essential for maintaining optimal health. Research indicates that a healthy gut is linked to improved digestion and enhanced nutrient absorption. More recently, gut health has been linked to better mental well-being and a bolstered immune system. Factors such as a balanced diet rich in fibre, fermented foods, and prebiotics contribute to fostering a thriving gut environment. Non-dietary factors such as regular physical activity and stress management also play a role. Prioritising gut health offers far-reaching benefits, influencing not only digestion but also various aspects of overall wellness.

Is gut health related to chronic pain?

Gut health has emerged as a significant factor in the realm of chronic pain. Research suggests a strong connection between the gut and the central nervous system, known as the gut-brain axis. Imbalances in the gut microbiome, inflammation, and disruptions in the gut barrier function have been linked to various chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and even certain musculoskeletal disorders. This intricate interplay highlights the potential impact of gut health on pain perception and management. By nurturing a balanced gut environment through a combination of dietary choices, probiotics, and lifestyle modifications, individuals may potentially experience a reduction in chronic pain symptoms. Exploring the multifaceted relationship between gut health and chronic pain opens up new avenues for comprehensive approaches to pain management that address both physical and physiological aspects of well-being.

What does a chiropractor has to do with gut health?

jesse cai, chiropractor singaporeAs chiropractors, we work with patients with various types of pain. This can include spinal issues such as neck pain, back pain, and sciatica. We also treat sports injuries and other pain issues such as frozen shoulder, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.

Inflammation and chronic pain share a complex and interwoven relationship that significantly impacts a person’s well-being. Inflammation, typically a natural response to injury or illness, can become chronic when it persists over an extended period. Persistent low grade inflammation can contribute to a range of health issues. In the context of chronic pain, recurrent inflammation can sensitise nerves, amplify pain signals, and even contribute to the development of certain conditions. This intricate interplay underscores the importance of addressing inflammation as a key factor in the management of chronic pain. By adopting holistic approaches that encompass lifestyle modifications, dietary choices, and targeted therapies, individuals can potentially mitigate inflammation and its subsequent effects on pain perception. Understanding the dynamics between inflammation and chronic pain opens the door to innovative and integrative strategies that offer not only symptom relief but also the potential for enhanced overall well-being.

Gut health as part of your pain management

Working on gut health has emerged as a promising and multifaceted component of a comprehensive treatment plan for chronic pain. By nurturing a balanced gut microbiome through the consumption of fibre-rich foods, fermented products, and prebiotics, individuals can potentially reduce inflammation and positively influence pain perception. Probiotics, which promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, have shown potential in modulating the body’s response to pain signals and enhancing overall well-being.

Integrating gut health strategies into a comprehensive treatment plan for chronic pain acknowledges the intricate connections between the gut, inflammation, and pain pathways. By addressing both physical and physiological factors, this approach offers a promising avenue for enhancing pain management outcomes and improving the overall quality of life for individuals living with chronic pain.

Whole foods diet to improve gut health

zhanna samsonova vegan influencer dies
Vegan influencer Zhanna Samsonova died last month from starvation and exhaustion. A vegan diet is notably high in natural, whole foods. This means lots of colourful vegetables that are packed with phytonutrients from carotenoids to flavonoids. However, a balanced diet is still key to a healthy life.

Prioritising a diet rich in whole foods that promote a diverse gut microbiome can be a transformative step towards enhancing overall well-being. The choices we make regarding our diet play a pivotal role in nurturing a balanced and thriving gut environment. Diet has far-reaching effects on digestion, immunity, and even mental health. By incorporating a variety of fibre-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, we provide essential sustenance for beneficial gut bacteria. These microorganisms, in turn, produce compounds that foster a healthy gut lining, reduce inflammation, and support optimal digestion.

Eating fermented food and probiotic-rich foods can contribute to our gut microbiota

Integrating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha introduces live probiotic cultures into our digestive system. This can promote microbial diversity and aid the breakdown of nutrients. These probiotics contribute to a harmonious gut ecosystem, influencing functions beyond digestion, including immune response and inflammation modulation.

Equally important are prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas. These non-digestible fibre serve as nourishment for beneficial bacteria, encouraging their growth and activity. This intricate dance between prebiotics and probiotics creates a dynamic environment within our gut, where diverse microbial populations collaborate to maintain a balanced and resilient gut microbiome.

Is kimchi good for gut health?

kimchi, anti-inflammatory food
Kimchi does have an anti-inflammatory effect. While the effect may be small, it is most readily observed in dermatitis, colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Kimchi, a traditional side dish originating in Korea and beloved throughout East Asia, stands as one of the most renowned commercially available fermented vegetables. With its roots tracing back to ancient Korean literature in 1145 A.D. (“Samkuksaki”), kimchi’s evolution has given rise to various adaptations over time. In its contemporary culinary form, kimchi predominantly features Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa) and radish, fermented alongside a medley of seasonings like red pepper, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, scallion, salt-pickled seafood, and soybean or fish sauce (jeotgal).

The potential health benefits attributed to kimchi are substantial and diverse. Kimchi’s profound nutraceutical potential as a functional food, encompassing an array of attributes including antibacterial, antioxidative, cholesterol-lowering, immunomodulatory, and even neuroprotective properties. Notably, the probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB) derived from kimchi appear to play a pivotal role in combating several inflammatory diseases.

The traditional process of fermenting kimchi historically involved substantial salt usage, raising concerns about potential adverse effects when consumed excessively. Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that modern kimchi preparations exhibit negligible salt and nitrate content. To make informed choices, it’s advisable to scrutinise the nutrition label for sodium levels when purchasing kimchi. Some brands have introduced low-sodium kimchi options to cater to individuals of varying dietary needs.

When venturing into homemade kimchi, it’s crucial to acknowledge the safety risks associated with food contamination. Instances of foodborne illnesses resulting from bacteria and even parasite eggs have been documented. Mitigating these risks involves rigorous pre-fermentation ingredient cleaning and adherence to hygienic food handling practices. Safeguarding your well-being through prudent preparation methods is of paramount importance.

Don’t forget fibre

singapore dietary guidelines, food groups servings
I am not entirely sure why Singapore Dietary Guidelines recommends a meagre two serving of vegetables per day. For perspective, World Health Organisation, Australia and the United Kingdom all recommend five servings of vegetables. Japan went beyond and recommends five to six servings of vegetable dishes.

Fibre is a cornerstone of gut health. It wields a profound influence on the intricate world of the gut microbiota. This indigestible component of plant-based foods serves as a vital source of sustenance for the trillions of microbes residing within our gastrointestinal tract. Its importance lies not only in promoting regularity but also in fostering a thriving and diverse microbial community that underpins various aspects of our well-being.

As fibre reaches the gut, it becomes a feast for beneficial bacteria, fueling their growth and activity. This symbiotic relationship between fibre and microbes leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are compounds that contribute to a fortified gut barrier, reducing inflammation, enhancing nutrient absorption, and even influencing metabolic processes.

What are short-chain fatty acids?

short chain fatty acids, gut health
Most people are not familiar with short fatty acids. They are molecules that can help with inflammation, diabetes, and even weight loss!

Previously we talked about how omega-3 fatty acids can be part of an anti-inflammatory diet to fight chronic pain. The fatty acids of interest when discussing gut health are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are compounds produced by the fermentation of dietary fibre by gut bacteria. These molecules have been found to have a potential influence on chronic pain. SCFAs, such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate, play a multifaceted role in maintaining gut health and modulating immune responses.

SCFAs have anti-inflammatory properties and can help regulate the immune system’s activity. Chronic pain often involves an inflammatory component, and the interaction between SCFAs and the immune system may contribute to pain modulation. By reducing systemic inflammation and supporting a balanced immune response, SCFAs may help alleviate chronic pain symptoms.

Moreover, SCFAs are known to interact with the gut-brain axis, the communication network between the gut and the central nervous system. This interaction can influence pain perception and the transmission of pain signals. By positively affecting the gut-brain axis, SCFAs may contribute to the management of chronic pain conditions.

There is growing evidence suggesting that SCFAs derived from a fibre-rich diet could potentially mitigate chronic pain. However, the effect size is likely small and not enough to be a standalone treatment. As with all treatments, individual responses may vary. A holistic approach that includes dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, and appropriate medical guidance remains essential in addressing chronic pain effectively.

How does processed food affect gut microbiome?

Reducing the intake of sugary, highly processed, and artificial foods is a crucial step in maintaining a balanced and thriving gut environment. These types of foods can disrupt the delicate equilibrium of the gut microbiota. They have also been associated to a cascade of negative effects on digestion, immunity, and overall well-being.

Sugary and processed foods often lack the nutrients and fibre necessary to nourish beneficial gut bacteria. This can lead to an overgrowth of harmful microbes, upsetting the balance between different microbial species. This imbalance, known as dysbiosis, can contribute to inflammation, digestive issues, and a compromised gut barrier.

Diets high in sugar can impact the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are produced by beneficial gut bacteria during the fermentation of dietary fibre. Reduced fibre intake from processed foods can lead to decreased SCFA production, affecting gut barrier function and inflammation regulation.

Understanding NSAID–Gut Microbiota Interactions

Limiting the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is important for gut health. One of the side effects of NSAIDs is their potential to cause gastrointestinal (GI) complications. In doing so, they can disrupt the delicate balance of our gut ecosystem. NSAIDs are commonly used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and manage various conditions, but their prolonged or excessive use can lead to several adverse effects on the gut.

NSAIDs can irritate the lining of the stomach and small intestine, potentially leading to the development of ulcers. These ulcers can cause discomfort, pain, and even bleeding, compromising the integrity of the gut lining and promoting inflammation.

Emerging research suggests that NSAID use may disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota. This may potentially affect the diversity and composition of beneficial bacteria. An imbalanced gut microbiome is associated with various gut-related disorders and systemic health issues.

Paradoxically, while NSAIDs are used to reduce inflammation, their long-term use can contribute to inflammation within the gut. Chronic inflammation can lead to a range of health problems. Examples include gut-related issues such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and leaky gut.

How to use NSAIDs safely

To safeguard gut health, it’s advisable to use NSAIDs sparingly and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Alternative pain management strategies, such as exercise should be considered to minimise the need for NSAIDs. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole are medications that help reduce stomach acid production. They help  to protect the stomach lining and decrease the risk of NSAID-induced ulcers. However, their long-term use should be carefully considered and discussed with a healthcare professional due to potential side effects.

If NSAID use is necessary, discussing the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provide. If possible, opt for using the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration possible to mitigate their impact on gut health.

Don’t forget gut health in your journey towards freedom from pain

jesse cai, chiropractor singapore
At Square One Active Recovery, we use a multipronged approach to help our clients find long-term results. This is aligns with the research-backed biopsychosocial approach.

The profound connection between gut health and chronic pain should not be neglected in the pursuit of good health. The symbiotic dance between our gut microbiota and inflammatory responses holds the potential to shape our pain experiences. While emerging research highlights the role of dietary factors in modulating inflammation, its impact on chronic pain is still considerably limited. We must recognise that a comprehensive approach is essential for achieving long-term results. Beyond nutrition, exercise, lifestyle adjustments, and holistic care constitutes a multi-pronged strategy that promises the most favorable outcomes.

We invite pain sufferers to explore the intricate interplay between gut health, inflammation, and well-being. To learn more about how we can guide you towards a comprehensive path to freedom from pain, drop us a message. Your journey to freedom from pain awaits.


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.