Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could treat all illnesses with food? Rather than popping pills, we could be popping apple slices or blueberries.
The truth is, in many cases, this isn’t too far from reality. Food has the power to prevent illnesses, the power to treat them and the power to alleviate symptoms.
Some people may think that this sounds a little ridiculous, but we cannot forget that many medicines are actually made from components derived from herbs, tubers, plants and even animals. Others that are not derived directly from plants often try to imitate or perfect the effects plant components have naturally by manufacturing chemical blends in the laboratory.
So, when it comes to pain, it isn’t out of the box to think that certain foods could help with pain management. In this post, we will discuss five foods to help with natural pain management.
How Can Foods Help with Pain Management?
Foods, especially plant foods, have components that can help with pain management in a few ways. Most of these elements help to reduce the inflammatory properties of pain by way of antioxidants; these include vitamins and minerals, as well as other phytonutrients.
At the same time, it is important to avoid foods that may increase inflammation, and thus worsen pain. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to foreign substances. However, some diseases, known as auto-immune diseases, trigger the body’s anti-inflammatory response without foreign invaders, causing the body to damage its own tissues and hurt itself. This is often the cause of conditions that cause chronic pain.
Some foods are known to cause or worsen inflammation in the body, including refined sugar, fried foods and ultra-processed foods. Other foods can help fight inflammation, and therefore help to reduce pain.
5 Foods That Help Alleviate Pain
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include: broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage. In addition to antioxidant vitamins like A and C, they also contain a component called sulforaphane, a substance that has anti-inflammatory action, as well as anti-cancer properties.
Salmon and other fatty fish, like tuna, trout and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that promote heart and brain health, but also have anti-inflammatory properties. If you aren’t a seafood person, talk to your dietician about the possibility of taking an Omega-3 supplement.
3. Onions and garlic
While they may not make your breath smell very good, onions and garlic are very important for your health. Onions are related to garlic and leeks, and part of the allium family, all which contain a component called diallyl disulfide. In lab studies, this component demonstrates its ability to reduce inflammation as well as fight tumors, thus protecting our cells from damage. As a result, our pain is reduced.
4. Red berries
Red berries, including tart cherries and strawberries, contain an important component for pain relief: anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is potent antioxidant that can help to reduce pain associated with inflammatory osteoarthritis. A double blind, placebo controlled trial study examined the effects of consuming tart cherry juice on inflammation in people with inflammatory arthritis. It was found that cherry juice did, indeed show a positive difference in inflammation.
Over the past several years, there have been multiple studies that have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin (interesting fact: the main spice in curry is turmeric, and curry is the spice the component curcumin was named after). While there is still much research to be done regarding safety and any potential side effects, initial research shows that consuming turmeric in reasonable quantities could be beneficial for managing joint-related pain.
Taking care of your diet, and making sure to reduce your intake of pro-inflammatory foods, like sugary drinks and fried fast food, and increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like green vegetables, onions and salmon, can significantly help reduce your symptoms of pain. While this may not be a replacement for other forms of treatment, it is important to take care of your diet and physical activity to experience the most benefits and improve your quality of life.