Anti-inflammatory Foods That Fight Pain

Guest Post from Brad and Kelli Shepherd, Fooduciary

The suggestion that certain foods can help manage pain may surprise some people, but it is nothing new. Humans have been seeking relief from pain for centuries—long before there were pills to pop. These foods are still around today, and they can really help manage pain.

How Painkillers Work

When you take a prescription or over-the-counter painkiller, it relieves your pain. It does so by various mechanisms.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen sodium, work by blocking certain enzymes, particularly cyclooxygenase (COX), in the body. These enzymes are operative in the production of prostaglandins—hormones that increase pain, swelling and inflammation.
  • Narcotic painkillers like morphine work by blocking pain receptors in the brain, or blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.

There are foods that are strongly anti-inflammatory, and since reducing inflammation is a key component of NSAIDs, it stands to reason that anti-inflammatory foods would reduce pain.

Here is a list of foods considered effective at managing and reducing pain, and how they do so.

  • Oranges: These sweet citrus fruits are considered anti-inflammatory and are recommended in anti-arthritis diets. Oranges contain beta-cryptoxanthin, a phytochemical that has been shown to decrease the development of inflammatory joint conditions. Some other foods that have beta-cryptoxanthin are apricots, plums, watermelons, peaches and papaya.
  • Red Grapes: Red grapes (and, to a lesser extent, green grapes) have resveratrol in their skins. Resveratrol inhibits the COX enzyme, which is what NSAIDs do. Resveratrol is also found in mulberries.
  • Seeds and Nuts: Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts and hazelnuts contain tryptophan. This chemical helps reduce pain sensitivity.
  • Beans and Whole Grains: Beans, whole grains and lentils also contain tryptophan. A good pain-fighting dish would be beans over brown rice with some nuts on the side.
  • Fatty Fish: Fish like salmon and mackerel contain large amounts of essential fatty acids (omega-3s), which are anti-inflammatory.
  • Cherries: Recent studies have shown the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries. Cherry juice works well too.
  • Blackberries, Strawberries and Blueberries: These berries have antioxidants, which help prevent cell damage. This can inhibit or prevent painful conditions like arthritis. Other studies have also found these berries to be anti-inflammatory as well.
  • Chickweed: You may not recognize this as a food, but it is an edible plant that you can probably find in your yard. Chickweed helps reduce swelling and helps ease internal pain. It can be eaten as a salad green or brewed into a tea.
  • Ginger: Ginger is a tasty anti-inflammatory that reduces those pesky prostaglandins. It seems to work especially well for muscular pain.
  • Celery Seeds: The anti-inflammatory chemical in celery and its seeds is apigenin. Celery seed is recommended for managing gout pain and preventing attacks of gout.

Take a look at some of these foods and enjoy creating pain-fighting meals and dishes.

Kelli was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease as a child and has always paid close attention to her health. But when that disease went beyond the care of traditional medicine, she found answers, and healing, through lifestyle improvements and working with a functional-medicine doctor.

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Raised on an all-American diet consisting of canned, boxed and frozen dinners, Shepherd discovered the benefits of natural food when he watched a loved one go from poor health to full well-being after adapting a clean-food diet. Shepherd’s career took a turn toward the nutrition and natural foods realm when he saw traditional practitioners shrug their shoulders when asked tough questions. With his wife, Kelli, Shepherd created as a way to share knowledge he had gained and to associate with others who both seek and provide answers to frustrating health concerns–or who just want to eat some good food.

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