Foods to Deal with Pain and Inflammation
by Elizabeth McMillanInflammation is the body’s immune response to illness, toxins and disease and it can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term). Acute inflammation is the body’s first aggressive reaction to external damage from which the body recovers in hours to days. Chronic inflammation happens when the body’s defenses are continuously exposed to harmful stimuli. Without the inflammatory response, the body cannot heal itself; however, when inflammation gets out of control it can damage the body and lead to chronic disease. Chronic inflammation can be caused by autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or Crohn's disease. Additionally, chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to a plethora of illnesses including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Certain foods help fight inflammation and pain at the cellular level, healing the body from the inside out. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that current science advocates good nutrition to help enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is easier than you may think. Fill at least half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, choose plant-based proteins, opt for healthy fats, whole grains and fatty fish and season your meals with spices and herbs.
There are a few of nature’s gems that help to specifically fight inflammation like tart cherry juice, turmeric, bone broth, pineapple and leafy greens. Tart cherry juice can provide the same relief from inflammation and pain relief as over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen, states Oregon Health and Science University. Unlike NSAIDs that can damage the stomach lining, tart cherries contain flavonoids that help protect the stomach. Furthermore, tart cherries contain high levels of antioxidants, including melatonin. These antioxidants destroy free radicals to help decrease inflammation in the body.
The bright, yellow spice turmeric contains an antioxidant called curcumin that provides anti-inflammatory and pain relief. Turmeric also enhances the immune system and contains antioxidants that are stronger than vitamins C and E. This antioxidant is strong enough to destroy hydroxyl free radicals, which are considered some of the most reactive oxidants that lead to inflammation and disease.
Bone broth has been used for thousands of years to help reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and other powerful health benefits. As the bones are simmered, healing compounds including collagen, glutamine, chondroitin, gelatin, glycine and proline are released. Bone broth also contains calcium, magnesium and silicon to help reduce the effects of arthritis and improve joint health. These nutrients cleanse the liver and regenerate the body on a cellular level, which results in a decrease in inflammation and pain.
Pineapples contain a proteolytic enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme reduces inflammation, eases inflammation and helps the body remove harmful toxins, which naturally reduces inflammation throughout the tissues and organs of the body. In addition to bromelain, pineapples contain vitamins C and B1, potassium and manganese which act as antioxidants to help destroy free radicals, reduce inflammation and enhance the immune system.
Green leafy vegetables are often referred to as superfoods because they contain a plethora of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E and K, calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. These powerful antioxidants remove free radicals and enhance the immune system. Additionally, vitamin K helps protect against osteoporosis and inflammatory diseases.
One great way to fight inflammation and pain through diet is to enjoy a smoothie. Blend a handful of green leafy vegetables, a cup of pineapple, a cup of tart cherry juice, one teaspoon of turmeric and a cup of almond milk for a delicious drink to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS, LDN is an integrative nutritionist at Rose Wellness, in Oakton, VA. For more information, visit RoseWellness.com.