Chronic pain plagues more that 116 million American adults and diet may be contributing to this staggering statistic. Did you know that if you look around your kitchen you could find foods that fight inflammation, block pain signals and can even heal underlying disease? Moreover, did you know that a typical Western-style diet is rich with foods that promote inflammation, which include highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates?
“Eating more fruits and vegetables alone will not alleviate your pain,” says Advanced Pain Management (APM) physician Michael Jung. “But if you commit to a healthy eating plan that includes less processed foods and more fresh foods, you will likely see positive results.”
What does he suggest? Take a look at a few tasty tips below.
The power-packed cherry has the ability to help with muscle pain and general inflammation. Why? The compounds in cherries that give them a bright red color, called anthocyanins, pack a heavy punch of antioxidants. These compounds block inflammation and inhibit pain enzymes in the same way that aspirin and other NSAIDS work, says Jung. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition confirms that cherry consumption can in fact help healthy adults reduce inflammation.
If you experience headaches and are not a regular coffee drinker, you might see some benefit from having a cup or two when a headache strikes. Caffeine helps narrow the dilated blood vessels that often cause headache pain, says Jung. But beware; too much coffee can exacerbate headache pain.
Typically reserved for expectant mothers and sea travelers, the ginger root can do much more than ease nausea. Much like the cherry, ginger can be beneficial in reducing inflammation, particularly offering relief from migraines, muscle pain and arthritis.
According to Foods that Fight Pain author Dr. Neal D. Barnard, eating fish low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve back pain. Omega-3s help improve blood flow by reducing inflammation in blood vessels and nerves. A study published in Pain, the Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, suggests that omega-3s provide benefit as an alternative therapy for joint pain and inflammation.
Try making mint tea to help with headaches and general aches and pain. Wintergreen leaves in particular contain a compound called methyl salicylate that has been shown to block the enzymes that cause inflammation and pain.
Capsaicin, an ingredient in hot peppers, can help reduce pain. In fact, you may notice that many topical creams contain this as a pain-fighting ingredient.
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 Kelley DS et al.(2013) Sweet bing cherries lower circulating concentrations of markers for chronic inflammatory diseases in healthy humans. Journal of Nutrition. March; 143(3):340-4.
 Grzanna et al. (2005) Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Journal of Medicinal Food. Volume: 8 Issue 2.
N. (2010). Foods that Fight Pain: Revolutionary New Strategies for Maximum Pain Relief. Harmony.
 Goldberg, Robert J; Katz, Joel. (2007) A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Volume 129, Issue 1 , Pages 210-223.