Just as certain foods are highly inflammatory (and therefore can increase pain); there are many foods that work with the body to restore balance and reduce inflammation (thereby decreasing pain). If you suffer from chronic pain, these anti-inflammatory foods will aid your body in creating the optimal environment for healing and help reduce chronic inflammation. Here are 10 foods that can help rid your body of inflammation and reduce your pain:
1) Fish (or fish oil)
Fatty or oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in Omega-3 has been proven to reduce inflammation. However, in order to reach an effective amount of omega-3’s you’ll have to consume fish several times a week. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the risks of mercury, and other pollutants likely outweigh the benefits. If you love seafood, it’s safer to eat small fish like sardines, rather than tuna or other large fish; also it’s best to eat wild harvested fish from waters and sources you trust. A safer alternative would be a high quality, natural fish oil supplement. These are taken daily and have a range of benefits, including inflammation reduction.
2) Dark Leafy Greens
Dark green veggies such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and collards are one of the best sourced of vitamin E. The evidence suggests that vitamin E plays a major role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory cytokines; small proteins released by cells that are involved in the initiation and persistence of pathological pain.
Many nuts are another great source of healthy fat. However, when it comes to inflammation reduction, almonds and walnuts top the list. Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, as well as omega 3’s. Walnuts are packed with a specific omega-3 called linolenic acid, which signals cells to decrease the production of pro-inflammatory proteins. Nearly all nuts are packed with antioxidants, which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation.
4) Chili peppers
Generally speaking, having an array of colorful veggies in your diet is healthy bet. Colorful veggies are full of anti-oxidants and you can find peppers in nearly any color in the spectrum. While peppers are nightshade vegetables (which some believe exacerbate inflammation), hot peppers are rich in capsaicin. Capsaicin is a major ingredient in many topical creams used for pain and inflammation, as well as many natural oral remedies.
Beets (and beetroot juice) have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their hearty helping of fiber, vitamin C, plant pigments called betalains, and is packed with anti-oxidants.
6) Ginger and turmeric
Turmeric, the ingredient that gives curry its yellow color, works in the body by helping to turn off a protein called NF-kappa B, which regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation, researchers say. Its relative ginger, meanwhile, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines when taken in supplement form.
7) Garlic and Onions
In lab studies garlic has been shown to have a similar effect to medications like ibupr0fren, by shutting off or affecting the pathways that lead to inflammation. Onions contain similar anti-inflammatory chemicals, including a compound called allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid.
8) Olive oil
A recent Spanish study found that the Mediterranean diet’s myriad health benefits may be largely due to its liberal use of olive oil, especially the extra-virgin kind. The compound oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, has been shown to have a similar effect as NSAID painkillers in the body.
All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in unhealthy fats and calories and high in antioxidants. Berries, especially, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties—possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color.
10) Whole grains…(maybe)
The risks and benefits of a diet high in grain consumption are subjects of great debate lately. However, it is without a doubt that whole grains are far better than the processed grains and flours that are found in the pre-made packaged foods on our grocery store shelves. Whole grains are high in fiber and rich in anti-oxidants, both important ingredients when considering an anti-inflammatory diet.
Modern life is fast and full. It’s challenging for many of us to consider the idea of moving away from the fast “grab and go” convenience we have access to nearly everywhere we look. Unfortunately, these convenience foods are full of pro-inflammatory ingredients. Keep in mind habit changes are difficult, especially when it comes to how we eat. If you’re interested in making a shift in your diet, take it slow. Don’t try to change everything at once, and be gentle with yourself. Having support is important. There are many professional who are experts in this field; consider whether or not working with a health coach, nutritionist, or holistic doctor is right for you.