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Can you get rid of pain caused by inflammation by changing your diet? Is that possible? TV chef Johann Lafer says: Yes, it is possible. He has experienced it himself.

Munich – 20 million Germans suffer from chronic pain. The celebrity chef Johann Lafer, who was born in Styria, has also had a long ordeal: “I had a torn meniscus, arthritis and then an operation and suffered from severe pain in my knee for years.” Only when he met the nutritional doctor Petra Bracht and her husband, the pain specialist Roland Liebscher-Bracht, did his suffering come to an end.

Relieve chronic pain: TV chef Lafer relies on a vegan diet to combat inflammation in the body

Diet plays a key role in inflammation. Not only acidic foods, but also substances in ready-made foods trigger inflammation. This causes excessive tension in muscles and fascia – and this in turn causes pain.

Austrian TV chef and author Johann Lafer got his knee pain under control through diet.
Austrian TV chef and author Johann Lafer has got his knee pain under control through diet. © Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa

The right foods, on the other hand, support the healing of inflammatory processes in the body. This allows the muscles to relax again, the fascia becomes more elastic, and the pain can disappear. “Everyone can take their health into their own hands with every meal,” says Lafer. Reason enough for the trio to write a cookbook together (“Eating against pain”, Gräfe und Unzer Verlag, 34 euros) for everyone who suffers from pain. And for everyone who wants to try a vegan diet without giving up pleasure. Lafer gives our newspaper 24 nutritional tips for pain relief.

Food for pain

Together with the pain experts from Liebscher & Bracht, Johann Lafer has worked on a special cookbook. When the celebrity chef suffered from severe arthritis pain, a change in diet helped him. The result of his findings can be found in the book “Eating against pain” (advertising link) as well as lots of simple and delicious recipes from Johann Lafer and tips from Liebscher & Bracht.

TV chef Lafer is concerned with moving away from pleasure through animal products only

More greens please: Enjoyment or greens? Many people think it’s just one or the other. That’s not true. It’s more about moving away from enjoying exclusively animal products and towards more plant-based foods.

Perfect coverage: A diet based on vegetables, salad and herbs, pulses, fruit, berries, grains, nuts and mushrooms optimally covers our daily requirement for nutrients and vital substances. Secondary plant substances, fiber, antioxidants, minerals and trace elements, as well as important amino acids and vitamins, are not found in this abundance and combination in any other food group.

Fast effect: Scientists have discovered that when people switch from a meat-rich diet to a plant-based diet, the number of bacteria with repair and anti-inflammatory properties increases after just 24 hours.

Omega 3 fatty acids: Omega 3 fatty acids counteract inflammation, promote bone mineralization and prevent severe bone loss. People with arthritis and osteoporosis particularly benefit from this. However, our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids themselves. It is therefore important to eat a diet rich in vegetable oils with a high content of anti-inflammatory fatty acids, such as those found in linseed, hemp or walnut oil. But be careful: their valuable ingredients are quickly lost in heat. Cold-pressed rapeseed oil and olive oil are recommended for cooking, steaming and frying.

Where can I get oils with omega-3 fatty acids?

Many well-stocked large supermarkets or organic markets sell high-quality “specialty oils”. You can certainly get rapeseed oil and olive oil in your local supermarket, but if you want something special like linseed oil from Germany, organic hemp oil or walnut oil from France (advertising links) online shopping is still the first choice.

Chronic pain: Plant-based diet soothes blood sugar

Caress blood sugar: Plant protein triggers a much lower insulin reaction than fish, meat and dairy products. This is because plant protein sources are often very high in fiber, like pulses. They are considered protein bombs in a whole-food, plant-based diet – and soothe blood sugar. The regulating effect can also be seen in the following meal, even if you don’t eat any pulses at all.

Don’t be angry: Many industrially produced foods and meat are metabolized in an acidic rather than an alkaline way. In order to bring the acid-base balance back into balance, a change in diet is necessary. This means reducing foods that produce acids and focusing on foods that are metabolized in an alkaline way and promote the alkaline content in the body. Fruit and vegetables are unbeatable here. But not everything that tastes sour is metabolized in an alkaline way – the best example is citrus fruits such as lemons and grapefruit.

Please no industry: Instant noodles, frozen pizzas, microwave meals, etc. often contain large amounts of foreign substances such as preservatives, colorants, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, or chemical substitutes. Our body has a problem with this. It cannot always immediately assess the unknown substances that affect biochemical processes, sees them as a threat, and switches to a kind of “survival mode.” As a result, the muscles of the musculoskeletal system tense up – as in other stressful situations – while other bodily functions such as the digestive process are shut down.

Lafer: Industrial foods are often heavily contaminated

Vicious circle of pollutants: Industrial foods are often heavily contaminated: pesticides, drugs from factory farming, pollutants from the environment such as heavy metals or mercury. These substances pose a real challenge to the immune system. In addition, the foreign substances can destroy the natural protective barrier in the intestine. In order to repair this, inflammation occurs, which can further increase the permeability of the intestinal mucosa and thus further strain the immune system.

Omega 6 fatty acids: They are needed for growth and repair processes, but too much is harmful: the body produces more inflammatory substances. The content of omega 6 fatty acids is much higher in animal foods than in plant foods. Fats such as sunflower, safflower and corn germ oil also contain mainly omega 6 fatty acids and are not recommended in large quantities for people with inflammatory complaints.

Beans with reverberation: The trick to avoid flatulence is to soak chickpeas and the like before cooking (preferably overnight), cook them for a long enough time and allow them to swell after cooking. Shelled peas and lentils do not need to be soaked.

TV chef Lafer: Sprouts and sprouts are real powerhouses

The spice trick: If you don’t (yet) tolerate pulses very well, you can combine them with digestive spices such as cumin, caraway, fennel or anise. Chewing them intensively also makes them easier to digest. This will reduce the amount of rumbling in your intestines.

Healthy snacking fun: Almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts are among the best sources of protein. Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are just as valuable. Peanuts are at the top in terms of protein content – which is because, botanically speaking, they are not nuts at all, but legumes. Important for all nuts: Do not salt, sugar or treat them in any other way, always pure!

There you have the salad: Sprinkle a few sprouts and germinating seeds over your salad every now and then, because they are real powerhouses. Their high concentration of vitamins and minerals – including vitamins B1, B2, C and E as well as minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc – usually exceeds that of fully grown plants by several times. Since they can usually be eaten raw, sprouts retain their nutrient density, which would be destroyed when cooked.

Small powerhouses: Grains, especially quinoa, but also buckwheat, corn, oats, millet, rye and spelt are not only full of complex carbohydrates, but are also high-quality sources of protein.

Better whole grain products: Only whole grains contain healthy vitamins, minerals, fiber and secondary plant substances. White flour products contain two thirds less because the germ and the edges are removed during production and only the inside of the grain is used.

The right choice of rice: Wholegrain rice is better than white rice. It has an extremely high protein content and is rich in minerals such as magnesium and potassium and vitamins such as B6, which is needed to produce the cartilage building material glucosamine, or the antioxidant vitamin E to combat chronic inflammatory processes. The reason: the healthy micronutrients are mainly found in the silver skin of the rice grain, which is removed in white rice.

Alternative to wheat: Spelt, kamut, einkorn and emmer are considered a healthy alternative to wheat because they contain more protein and minerals, such as magnesium for muscle relaxation and zinc for cell growth and wound healing.

Superweapon potato: The healthy tubers are full of complex carbohydrates and healthy vital substances. In addition to fiber, potatoes also contain vitamin C for an intact immune system, vitamin B3 (niacin), which improves joint mobility, vitamin B6 for protein utilization, and vitamin B1, magnesium and potassium, which can help relieve pain, among other things. And: potatoes are alkaline and therefore highly effective in counteracting chronic latent hyperacidity and thus also inflammation.

Clever plant ingredients: Many secondary plant substances appear to have an anti-inflammatory effect. These include resveratrol in dark grapes, beta-carotene in carrots, red peppers, apricots and mangos, and lycopene in tomatoes.

Better to cook tomatoes: In cooked tomatoes, the bioavailability of lycopene, which not only protects against inflammation but also against osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes, is much higher than in raw tomatoes.

Oat bran instead of oat flakes: Beta-glucan has a sugar-stabilizing effect, lowers cholesterol levels and is good for the immune system. The content in oat bran is twice as high as in whole grains or oat flakes.

Food for the intestines: Nuts and seeds not only provide valuable fatty acids, but also food for the intestinal bacteria. So feel free to chop a few of them up as a topping on soups, stews, salads, pasta and casseroles. Pulses such as peas, beans and especially lentils and peanuts occupy a special position among the high-fiber foods. With a fiber content of 15 to 23 percent, they ensure good satiety and, ideally, a variety of bacteria in the intestine and thus a strong microbiome, a healthy intestinal mucosa and optimal digestion.

Processing flax seeds: Because the shell of the seeds is so hard that the body can hardly access the valuable ingredients and would therefore excrete them unused, it is recommended to grind them fresh or to germinate them.

Let the water flow! The best drink is pure, low-mineral water, spring water, but also osmosis water. If that tastes too boring, you can add fresh mint leaves, lemon balm, basil, fresh ginger slices, cucumber or lemon to the water. The peels of oranges, limes and lemons have a very intense flavor. Make sure you use untreated peels. (YVONNE WALBRUN)