What we eat every day has a profound effect on how we feel. Our foods play a major role in our health and well-being. Scientists and researchers have concluded that a poor diet contributes to a third of all cancers. According to Dr. Neal Barnard, author of Foods That Fight Pain, foods fight pain in four distinct ways:
- They can reduce damage at the site of an injury.
- They work inside the brain to reduce pain sensitivity.
- They act as painkillers on nerves.
- They help our bodies fight inflammation.
Actually, you have been programmed from the time you could walk to use food to ease your pain. Recall that as a child, when you received a minor injury, your parents might have soothed your scraped knee with a treat. In later years, whether it’s an active memory or not, your brain recalls how that treat helped your “boo-boos.” And who can forget ice cream after you had your tonsils taken out? More realistically, there is scant evidence that a simple diet change can drive out your chronic pain. However, there is ample evidence that a healthy diet ultimately adds to the length of your life, and being and feeling healthy helps fight pain sensations. It is also important to understand that a good diet can help fight many chronic diseases that often lead to chronic pain or make it worse. There are even foods that fight swelling and inflammation, and therefore can contribute to pain reduction, for example:
- Tart cherries contain powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants as well as cyanidin, a substance that fights inflammation better than aspirin. Research shows that cherries may also help ease the pain of gout and arthritis.
- Omega-3 fatty acids from fish fight inflammation, as well as heart disease and cholesterol. Studies have shown that participants with rheumatoid arthritis who took omega-3 were able to decrease the amount of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) they took on a regular basis.
- High-protein soybeans are loaded with powerful compounds that slow oxidation and inflammation.
- Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance that has been used in Asia for centuries to fight illness. Modern research shows that the compound fights cancer and inflammation.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be associated with chronic pain. Supplements may decrease pain levels.
More and more people have found that using herbal painkillers for chronic pain treatment has fewer side effects and long-term risks than traditional medicines. Additionally, there is no threat of chemical dependency. Research has shown that some herbal medicines not only help relieve pain, but also can attack some of the underlying causes of the pain. One of the most common herbal medicines is white willow bark. It has been used for centuries to relieve pain. It can help reduce acute or chronic pain in the back, joints, teeth, and head. Other herbs used to fight pain include feverfew, ginger, cat’s claw, cayenne, eucalyptus, aloe vera, lobelia, neem, yellow dock, passion flower, hops, and wood betony. Herbs technically are drugs and should be treated as such. Some can produce side effects and carry risks when not taken responsibly. It is always important to consult with your doctor and pharmacist before taking any herbal preparations since they can have potential reactions with your other medications. Make sure you read labels for warnings and ingredients. This blog post is an excerpt from A Day Without Pain (Revised) by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).