Chronic pain is a pervasive problem that affects an estimated 116 million American adults. Defined as nerve or muscle pain, chronic pain can occur in the back, shoulders, pelvis, knees, head and other parts of the body. Inflammation is the main reason for chronic pain. Symptoms include muscle and tissue pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Chronic pain can interfere with doing even routine activities and give rise to secondary health conditions, particularly depression. People usually seek advice from medical specialists, perform some kind of specialized exercises and take medication to reduce symptoms.
What you eat can also play a key role in reducing your symptoms. Several studies have shown that certain foods may help reduce inflammation, block pain signals in your body and increase brain chemicals that make you feel good.
Here are the top 10 superfoods to reduce chronic pain.
Ginger is the best natural painkiller. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols that reduce chronic pain by reducing inflammation. It also has other substances like paradols, shogaols and zingerone that have analgesic qualities similar to aspirin or ibuprofen.
A 2005 study found that ginger can reduce pain and inflammation more effectively than nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. In fact, ginger is reported to work like ibuprofen, but without the side effects.
- You can chew some raw ginger to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Another option is to drink two to three cups of ginger tea daily.
Another ingredient from your kitchen that can help reduce chronic pain is turmeric. It contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory element that helps fight pain. Turmeric can also protect the body from tissue destruction and joint inflammation and promote improved functioning of nerve cells.
- Just take one tablespoon of turmeric powder with a glass of warm milk daily.
- You can opt for turmeric capsules after consulting your doctor.
According to Arthritis Today, onions are rich in components that can fight inflammation in the joints. Particularly, onions are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant that helps fight enzymes that cause inflammation.
A few extra health benefits of quercetin are that it helps lower bad cholesterol levels, reduce heart disease and prevent the progression of cancer. You can use onions in your salad or as a spice in any of your favorite dishes.
Garlic has anti-inflammatory as well as antibiotic properties that can alleviate chronic pain. Rich in sulfur compounds, garlic also stimulates the production of T helper cells, which can boost the immune system and help reduce swelling and pain in the body.
- Eat two or three cloves of fresh garlic every morning.
- You can also regularly apply garlic oil as a topical analgesic on the affected area.
Salmon is rich in pain-relieving omega-3 fatty acids and is a good source of vitamin D. Several studies have pointed out a link between vitamin D deficiency and chronic pain.
Also, studies have suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon may protect against developing rheumatoid arthritis and could mitigate the severity of the disease.
When buying salmon, choose organic as commercially raised salmon contains toxins that can be harmful to your body. You can eat salmon in baked, grilled or roasted form.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil works like an aspirin or ibuprofen when it comes to fighting chronic pain. It is rich in antioxidant polyphenols that help reduce common pain-causing mechanisms in the body. It also contains a compound called oleocanthal that has strong anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce painful joint inflammation.
Regular consumption of olive oil also enhances physical functionality and vitality. You can use this oil in your regular cooking or as a massage oil to apply on the affected area. For best results, use extra virgin olive oil.
Juicy and delicious strawberries help lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood, a signal of inflammation in the body. High CRP levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Strawberries also are full of vitamin C, an antioxidant with powerful pain-reducing properties. The health benefits of strawberries can be enjoyed either from the fresh or frozen versions. You can add strawberries to your cereal or yogurt, or enjoy them plain as a snack or dessert.
8. Fenugreek Leaves
These green leaves have high iron content as well as vitamin K that help maintain strong bones and healthy joints. A study has shown that older people who have adequate amounts of vitamin K are less likely to develop osteoarthritis compared with those who have vitamin K deficiency.
Due to its antioxidant properties, fenugreek can also reduce chronic inflammation and swelling. Chronic inflammation is often associated with joint pain, heart disease, dementia and sometimes cancer. By reducing inflammation, fenugreek may reduce the risk of various chronic illnesses and cancers.
9. Hot Peppers
Hot peppers contain an active ingredient called capsaicin that stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, thereby helping reduce chronic pain.
Capsaicin can also block the transmission of pain signals in the body, and inhibit an enzyme that causes the release of prostaglandins and other substances that increase pain. If you suffer from some kind of chronic pain daily, take one-half teaspoon of hot pepper powder every day.
You may not believe it, but regular intake of dairy products like yogurt can help reduce chronic pain. Yogurt contains two bone-building nutrients – calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D can reduce chronic pain, while calcium strengthens the bones and muscles.
Choose yogurt with probiotics or beneficial microorganisms. These microorganisms help control inflammation, and therefore pain. When buying yogurt, choose one with ‘live and active cultures.’
What you eat is crucial for many health problems and by including the right foods in your diet, you can ease chronic pain and enjoy life more.