Healing Meals: Foods That May Fight Pain

"There are always miracle cures," said Toussaint, "but there aren't any when you're talking about chronic pain…I think people get better because of the placebo effect."

Toussaint said that she's been plied by companies to try their pain-fixing diets -- like drinking noni juice, a concoction made from the tropical noni fruit.

"They claim it's a cure-all," Toussaint says. "It tastes awful … like vomit. I took it for as long as they asked me to … and it did nothing for me."

Dr. Doris Cope, professor and vice chairman of pain medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Pain Medicine Program, says that there's no direct dietary answer to chronic pain and notes that many chronic pain diseases are changeable.

"The natural course of [the disease] is to come and go and get better and worse with time," she said. "You might get better and you would attribute to something you've done."

However, Cope says that certain diets, like vegan or vegetarian, may help people indirectly through losing weight.

"One of the biggest contributors to pain is weight, so anything that causes weight loss is going to help," she said.

Finding a Balance

However, taking any diet to the extreme can be dangerous. One of Cope's pain disorder patients developed anorexia while trying to control her condition.

"She was a type-A person and she was just going take control of her disease," said Cope. "She didn't realize she was a skeleton. … She was trying to gain control."

In general, most doctors recommend a typical healthy diet for chronic pain sufferers, with an emphasis on fish oils.

"I personally suggest getting Alaskan salmon," said Sherman. "I always tell my patients that fish don't have back pain. … Bottom line is, get your weight down, eat a healthy, fish-vegetarian-type diet. It's just a basic cardiac diet."

However, people like Guerriere still stand out as a mysterious example of a food-based treatment for pain.

"I still have flares every now and then -- I am not cured by any means," Guerriere said. "I have my ups and downs. But I'm on no medication. I found my own way."

While changing your diet may help your health, doctors emphasize that moderation is better than anything extreme.

"So much in our lives is time driven, we're constantly setting these goals for ourselves -- putting ourselves into type-A diet is just adding more stress," said Dr. Cope. "You get as much benefit from a balanced diet and meditation and exercise."

"A moderate approach to good nutrition, good sleep habits -- things like that are much better than how many grams of fish oil you take."

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