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Fight Pain With Food

10. August 2012

Did you know more than a third of the U.S. population –116 million American adults suffer from some form of chronic pain?  And while pain pills – over-the-counter or prescription reduce suffering, they can be addictive and produce side affects.

I’m having surgery in a few weeks…the start of the breast cancer reconstruction process.  During recovery, I’d like to keep pain medicine to a minimum, so I have been looking for an alternative.  Well, I found it in, of all places, my kitchen!

Certain foods ease aches by fighting inflammation, blocking pain signals and even healing underlying disease.  I love how botanist and author, James A. Duke, Ph.D., put it.  “Almost always,” says the author of ‘The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods,’ “if we find pharmaceuticals doing the trick, we’ll find a plant doing the same trick and doing it more safely.”

So, check out these foods that fight pain and find out if they can help you relieve pain as well as or even better than drugs!

CHERRIES (targets arthritis and muscle pain)

Dose: 45 daily

Compounds in cherries called anthocyanins – the same phytonutrients that give cherries their rich, ruby hue are powerful antioxidants that work in two ways to minimize pain.  They block inflammation and inhibit pain enzymes, just like aspirin, naproxen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (plus, they’re a tasty treat!)

GINGER (targets migraines, arthritis and sore muscles)

Dose: ¼ teaspoon daily

This spicy root is a traditional stomach soother, easing seasickness and nausea.  But ginger is also another natural aspirin impersonator and anti-inflammatory.  It can offer relief from migraines, arthritis and muscle aches.   Just add it grated into Asian dishes, smoothies and juice or treat yourself to a nice, soothing ginger tea – hot or cold!

CRANBERRY JUICE (targets ulcers)

Dose: 1 cup daily

Ulcers are the result of a pathogen called H. pylori, which attacks the protective lining of the stomach or small intestine.  Antibiotics are the usual cure, but you can help prevent ulcers in the first place by drinking cranberry juice thanks to its ability to block H. pylori from adhering to the stomach lining.  Just remember, sugar is an anti-inflammatory, so go for the 100% natural juice.

SALMON (targets achy back, neck, joints)

Dose: two to three 3-oz. servings weekly

Eating fish low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve back pain. According Neal D. Barnard, M.D., author of “Foods That Fight Pain,” omega-3’s help by improving blood flow and minimizing inflammation in blood vessels and nerves.  But for the full effect, you may need supplements.  One major study found 1,200 mg or more of EPA and DHA per day could reduce both back and neck pain. (An added bonus – it’s good for your heart, too!)

YOGURT (target: IBS)

Dose: eight to 16 oz. daily

For the 20% of Americans with irritable bowel syndrome, help may come in the form of a bug – billions of bugs, actually.  Several bacterial strains often in yogurt (especially B. infantis and L. acidophilus) reduce pain, inflammation and bloating.  Just make sure to choose a brand with “live and active cultures.”

COFFEE (Yay!) Target: headaches

Dose: two 4-oz cups

Coffee isn’t just a morning pick-me-up.  It’s good medicine.  Caffeine helps reduce pain by narrowing the dilated blood vessels that develop with headaches.  But for you java junkies, too much caffeine can have the opposite effect.  Coffee works as a headache reliever only if you don’t over-do it.

These are just a few foods the fight pain.  Check out prevention.com/pain-fighting foods and learn how other natural alternatives such as edamame, tumeric, hot peppers, mint and more could replace some of the pills in your medicine chest!


Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.