How can eating protein help people with chronic pain?

Howard S. Smith
Pain Medicine
If pain leaves you feeling fatigued and lifeless, you may want to increase the amount of protein you eat, particularly foods like tuna, chicken, or turkey that are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine. When we eat protein food, this increases tyrosine, which boosts the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, two brain neurotransmitters that increase a feeling of alertness and boost concentration. Protein is also important in repairing body tissue and in fighting infection. Too little protein can lead to symptoms of weakness, apathy, and poor immunity. (The average-size woman needs about 45 to 55 grams of protein each day, but you may need more protein if you have fever or infection.) One ounce of meat, chicken, cheese, or fish provides 7 grams of protein; 1 cup of milk provides 8 grams of protein. Vegetable proteins, such as black beans or tofu, can make a good substitute for animal protein. Make sure you include a protein source several times daily, particularly at times when you feel fatigued and need to clear your mind. High-protein foods rich in tyrosine include: legumes and peas, beef, cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products, and yogurt.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.