The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are numerous and varied. They include repetitive movements, genetic predisposition, hormonal changes, wrist injuries and other medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis. Although their role is not fully understood, these risk factors are well established among health professionals and the population.

A lesser-known contributor to the development and severity of CTS is diet. A lot  of patients don’t realize that poor eating habits can lead to inflammation which in turn increases swelling, aggravating pressure on the median nerve.

How can you adapt your diet?

Certain foods are known to promote inflammation, and while they may not directly cause a person to develop conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, they can exacerbate symptoms and cause flare-ups. So how do you know what to eat and what to avoid?


Foods to Avoid

  • Sugar

    • Reducing your sugar intake will reduce inflammation
  • Omega-6 fatty acids

    • Omega-6 is necessary for growth and proper development, but overconsumption can lead to more harm than good. Foods that contain Omega-6 fatty acids includes:
      • Corn
      • Soy
      • Peanuts
      • Mayonnaise
      • Certain salad dressings
      • Grapeseed
  • Gluten

    • Foods containing gluten are one of the leading causes of inflammation in the body. Pasta, bread, etc. are common examples of foods that contain gluten. Many people opt to go gluten-free and experience positive results. However, limiting gluten can be just as effective.
  • Refined Carbohydrates

    • White bread, white rice, and pasta are examples of refined grains. They are known to trigger an inflammatory response in the body.
  • Excessive Alcohol

    • Alcohol disrupts normal gut functions, which can lead to inflammation. Diets which limit alcohol consumption are best for everyone.
  • Saturated Fats

    • Diets that have high levels of saturated fats not only may experience inflammation and joint pain, but they are at a higher risk of heart disease. Cheese and dairy products top that list. Limiting these products in your diet and opting for low-fat options can greatly reduce inflammation.


Foods to Help Reduce Inflammation

Just as certain foods can hurt our body and trigger/worsen inflammation, there are others that can actually help combat/reduce it.  

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Fish Oils

    • Aka polyunsaturated fats, these foods not only help reduce inflammation, but they’re known to also improve brain function and lower one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes.
    • These foods include tuna, salmon, trout, and other fish.
  • Whole Grains

    • While refined carbohydrates trigger inflammation, whole grains are thought to help heal the body. They are high in fiber which produces fatty acids to combat inflammation
    • Whole wheat, rye, barley, etc. are great examples of whole grain options.
  • Olive Oil

    • Instead of cooking with vegetable, peanut, or sunflower oil, opt for olive oil. Extra virgin is the best, as it is the least processed. Unlike other oil options, olive oil is considered to be an unsaturated “healthy” fat.
  • Fruit

    • While fruit gets a bad rap because it has a higher sugar content, these sugars are naturally occurring, meaning they do not trigger the same response in the body as refined sugar.
    • Apples, blueberries, tomatoes, and pineapples are great options to fight inflammation.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables

    • Vegetables like kale, spinach, arugula, etc. are full of fiber and enzymes which decrease inflammation
    • Other more popular veggies including broccoli and cauliflower also make the list!
  • Root Vegetables

    • Garlic, turmeric, onions, and ginger all have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Green Tea

    • Green tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages across the globe. Research has shown it changes the body’s inflammatory response. There are also supplements that contain green tea for those who do not like the flavor of it.
  • Dark Chocolate

    • Chocolate can be high in sugar and fat, but dark chocolate does have anti-inflammatory properties. When consumed in moderation, it can be a great treat that won’t trigger a flare up.


Should You Consult a Nutritionist?

Consulting a nutritionist is not necessary, but it can be helpful if you are not seeing the results you desire. If you have an undiagnosed allergy or underlying condition, it may be contributing to why changes in diet are not working.

Before you see a nutritionist, your doctor may request that you get a full blood work panel to determine if you have any abnormalities and pinpoint where you need to change your diet.

Nutritionists will also be able to tailor a diet and supplement plan specifically to your symptoms as well. If you think you want to see a nutritionist, first consult your primary care physician and get a recommendation from them. They may also be able to recommend a nutritionist who specializes in patients with inflammation.


Final Thoughts

Our diet may not be directly responsible for development of chronic pain and related conditions, but they certainly contribute to how our body responds to them. With a proper diet you can actually improve symptoms and decrease flare ups of conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. 

If you are struggling to put together a comprehensive list of foods, consult your doctor about your options.