Wake up this morning with a nagging pain in your head or neck or back? You’re not alone. Chronic pain impacts about 116 million American adults, which is more than a third of the U.S. population.
With more and more folks reluctant to pop pills to make the pain go away, medical experts are offering some alternatives. Cherries or ginger sound good? There are many foods that can help you manage pain. They may not be magic bullets, but there are some potentially pain-relieving foods that are worth giving a try.
“Almost always, if we find pharmaceuticals doing the trick, we’ll find a plant doing the same trick—and doing it more safely,” says botanist James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods, according to Prevention. Of course, he also suggests that you might have to cut back on some beloved foods that may increase inflammation, such as highly processed foods and refined carbs. If you intend to eat your way to better health, you may need to rejigger your diet to focus on whole foods overall.
Here are four options to help fight pain.
Not only are cherries basically candy disguised as fruit, but they are also chock full of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that work to ease pain by reducing inflammation and inhibiting pain enzymes, much like aspirin does. One study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that people who ate a bowl of cherries for breakfast reduced a major marker of inflammation by 25%. Other researchers found less muscle pain in runners who drank 12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for 7 days before distance runs. Of course, you have to eat quite a few (some say 45 daily) to get a dose strong enough to help with arthritis or muscle pain, but that’s still pretty tasty medicine.
Whether you shred some into your stir-fry or sip on it as tea, ginger is more than just a way to add zing to cuisine. It is a traditional cure for helping with nausea, seasickness or morning sickness, making it a pillar of herbal medicine. It can also offer relief from migraines, arthritis pain and muscle aches, although clinical studies haven’t been consistent in the area of treating joint pain, as Everyday Health reports.
Antibiotics are the usual cure for those who suffer from ulcers, but you can help prevent ulcers by drinking cranberry juice, which can block H. pylori from sticking to the stomach lining. One study found that just under a cup a day for 3 weeks eliminated almost 20% of all cases of H. pylori infection, as Prevention reports, without any drugs at all. Sadly the juice becomes inflammatory if it’s loaded with sugar, so go for a bottle of 100% natural cranberry juice.
You keep hearing about probiotics, those good bacteria that cut down on inflammation and bloating in a healthy gut. But did you know that getting enough of them, in something as yummy as yogurt, can also help fight irritable bowel syndrome, some studies have shown? Make sure to run it by your doctor and then grab a brand with “live and active cultures” if you want to try and calm your IBS.
4 foods that fight pain naturally