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Natural Medicine: Pain Relieving Foods, Facts or Fiction? E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA   

Pain is a silent epidemic in the United States. An estimated 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by disease, disorder or accident. An additional 25 million people are said to suffer from acute pain resulting from surgery or accident.

The most common types of pain include arthritis; lower back, bone/joint pain, muscle pain and fibromyalgia. With the aging of our society and people living longer, these numbers are likely to increase if left unchecked. Besides the social cost of this growing problem, there are great economic costs as well.

The loss of productivity and daily activity due to pain is substantial. In a study done in 2000 it was reported that 36 million Americans missed work in the previous year due to pain and that 83 million indicated that pain affected their participation in various activities.With the cost of medicine growing exponentially as well as an ever increasing percentage of people becoming interested in more holistic approaches to healing there are an ever increasing number of studies confirming that healthy eating when done wisely can offer pain relieving and even disease healing properties.


Eating to control pain - The anti-inflammatory diet

In the morning, analgesics are needed. Analgesics have aspirin-like properties. Berries are a great food choice, especially blueberries and strawberries that are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and anti-oxidants. Add some whole grain toast or cereal to your morning meal. Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, and a high fiber diet will reduce your inflammation.

Those experiencing afternoon pain should focus on foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Foods such as avocados, pineapples, legumes, and soy foods like tofu and soy burgers are anti-inflammatory. So are green teas, and anti-inflammatory spices such as curry, ginger, tumeric and rosemary are also good choices.

The right types of fats in your diet can impact pain and inflammation in a positive way. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very powerful anti-inflammatory agents. They are found in cold-water oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, canola oil and pumpkin seeds. Adding omega-3 fatty acid supplements from flax oil or fish oil may also help reduce inflammation. Olive oil is another type of oil that will reduce inflammation. In fact, olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and will help to reduce pain. Other healthy oils include rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil.

So, for dinner, choose fish since fish are omega-3 rich, or have a salad with some walnuts. Fruits and vegetables also are important. Choose green leafy vegetables, green and brightly colored vegetables and lots of fresh whole fruits. to get the most anti-oxidant and healing benefits. You should eat at least five and preferably more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Green vegetables and whole fruits are also important as sources of dietary fiber. Even choosing certain deserts can provide healthy and healing properties.  For instance:

  • Dark chocolate contains flavinoids, which provide great anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Many fruits and vegetables provide anti-oxidants and should be eaten throughout the day.
 Other Anti-inflammatory Diet Tips
  • Avoid pro inflammatory foods. Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase your pain from the inflammation and may also raise your risk for chronic disease.
  • Eat more fish, soy, poultry and less fatty red meat (red meat promotes inflammation). If you choose to eat meat, eat lean cuts. Meat high in saturated fat, besides clogging the arties and increasing your waistline, contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid. While some arachidonic acid is essential for your health, too much arachidonic acid in the diet may make your inflammation worse.
  • Stay away from deep fried foods and bake or stir-fry your meals instead.  Use healthy oils like olive oil and MCT oils if you must fry your food. Cut down on the junk! Loading up on junk foods, high-fat meats, sugar and fast foods will increase inflammation in your body. This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans fats and saturated fats.
  • Say no to lunchmeats. Processed meats such as lunchmeats, hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease. 
  • Cut down on the sweets. Diets high in sugar have also been associated with inflammation, obesity and chronic disease such as diabetes. Eliminate high sugar foods such as sodas, soft drinks, pastries, presweetened cereals and candy.
  • Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables throughout the day instead of cookies and candy.
  • Choose colorful vegetables such as green, orange, and yellow vegetables for your side dishes. and enjoy them with every meal 
  • Drink plenty of water, fresh 100% fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas and green tea.
  • Follow the old adage, "Eat an Apple a day to keep the doctor away." Apples contain fiber, anti-oxidants, and quercetin and has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Remember food can be your best medicine, so happy eating!!! 

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