Dealing with pain is a normal part of life.
We all suffer from neck pain, back pain, or other types of short-term pain due to injuries or just getting older.
However, if you have chronic pain or health conditions that cause inflammation, you likely deal with pain much more often than you’d like.
All types of pain stem from inflammation, a response triggered by your immune system in response to a physical factor.
Making nutritional changes by including foods that fight inflammation is one of the natural ways to fight pain.
Not only can anti-inflammatory foods offer pain relief, but they boast plenty of other health benefits that can boost your overall health and wellness.
10 Foods That Naturally Fight Pain
If you have chronic pain, you’ve probably looked into an anti-inflammatory diet. Fatty fish like salmon is a popular anti-inflammatory food because it’s rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have anti inflammatory properties and may help protect against heart disease.
A study on patients with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory digestive disorder, found that salmon consumption reduced markers of inflammation.
Research shows that people who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon) are less likely to develop inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition that attacks joints and causes swelling and pain.
Salmon is also one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for bone health. Vitamin D also appears to play a role in inflammation.
People with low vitamin D status tend to suffer more from inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and cardiovascular disease.
Three ounces of salmon provides 75% of the daily value of vitamin D for adults under age 70.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is another popular food in an anti-inflammatory diet. Turmeric is a spice with a distinctive rich orange color. Turmeric has been studied to help fight inflammation, such as fighting joint pain and arthritis.
While we need more research to draw definitive conclusions, a review of randomized controlled studies concluded that taking 1,000 milligrams of curcumin daily could help treat arthritis.
If you can’t consume turmeric in spice form consistently, then a supplement can be beneficial to gain the benefits of its pain-fighting properties. Be sure to choose a turmeric supplement with piperine, which boosts the absorption of turmeric by 2000%.
Along with turmeric, ginger is a spice that may help fight chronic aches and pains. Ginger fights inflammation and can offset muscle pain after intense physical activity. Add ginger to your diet by adding it to stir-fries, soups, or tea.
Part of the way ginger can help fight pain is by inhibiting prostaglandins, which can cause pain. Excessive prostaglandin production can cause issues with chronic pain, which is estimated to impact over 20% of American adults.
One of the most convenient anti-inflammatory foods you can add to your diet is blueberries. Blueberries have antioxidants called anthocyanins which are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which both stem from inflammation.
Another study suggests that adding blueberries as a part of an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce pain, stiffness while improving gait performance in people with symptomatic knee pain from arthritis.
Enjoy the benefits of blueberries in your diet by adding them to oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt, salads, or eating them plain as a healthy snack or dessert.
Tomatoes are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene-rich diets may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers thanks to their potential to fight inflammation.
Tomato juice reduced markers of inflammation in obese female test subjects in a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Obesity is associated with inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, so reducing inflammation is an important step in preventing these types of chronic diseases.
Tomato-based products are incredibly versatile and can be included in your diet in pasta sauce, pizza sauce, sandwiches, salads, and many other dishes.
A staple in an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet, nuts are a great source of healthy fats and inflammation-fighting nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
According to cross-sectional studies, people whose diets included nuts had lower markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein.
Walnuts are especially beneficial for their potential anti-inflammatory benefits since they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are higher in omega-3 fats than other nuts, so they’re great to include in a Mediterranean diet.
Enjoy nuts as a part of a healthy diet by adding them to oatmeal, on salads, or eating them plain.
Cherries are packed with antioxidants, which are compounds that fight cell damage and inflammation. A review of studies found that eating cherries consistently reduced inflammation and markers of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress contributes to the aging process and can contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
Tart cherry juice may be beneficial for reducing pain and improving strength in athletes after training. Another study concluded that drinking tart cherry juice for seven days before and during a strenuous running event may help reduce post-run muscle pain.
Foods rich in vitamin K, such as spinach, may help fight inflammation. Vitamin K helps fight against oxidative stress and suppresses nuclear factor κB, a protein that plays a role in conditions like migraine and rheumatoid arthritis.
A diet rich in plant-based foods like spinach is associated with a reduced risk of inflammation-related health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Spinach is a versatile food that you can add to omelets, soups, homemade pizza, sandwiches and wraps, smoothies, or use as a salad base.
9. Olive Oil
Another staple in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a popular cooking oil due to its healthy monounsaturated fat content.
Monounsaturated fats have pain-fighting properties as opposed to pro-inflammatory saturated fats, which are prevalent in the Western diet.
Diets rich in saturated fats are associated with chronic inflammation and an increased risk of developing obesity-related metabolic disorders, including cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
On the other hand, a Mediterranean diet rich in foods like olive oil have a lower risk of pain-related diseases.
10. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a rich source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. This makes them a great choice for people who don’t like fatty fish like salmon.
Chia seeds contain an antioxidant called caffeic acid which fights pain by lowering inflammation levels. Caffeic acid helps prevent DNA damage from free radicals and may play a role in reducing cancer risk as well.
You can easily incorporate chia seeds into your diet by adding them to smoothies, yogurt, and hot cereal.
An anti-inflammatory diet is very similar to the popular heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet is rich in plant-based foods like fatty fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while being low in saturated fat, refined sugar, and red meat. Many of the staple foods in a Mediterranean diet can help provide natural pain relief and fight inflammation.