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Ease Chronic Pain

Updated on June 11, 2009
leafy green vege
leafy green vege

Did You Know?

Aspirin comes from the willow tree, which contains salicin, a pain-relieving compound whose use dates to the days of ancient Greece. In the 1800s, chemists created a synthetic version called salicylic acid that is the active ingredient in aspirin.

"The art of life is the art of avoiding pain," Thomas Jefferson once wrote. Unfortunately, pain is as much a reality of life today as it was 200 years ago. It's estimated that more than 100 million North Americans experience pain on a regular basis. It has many causes, from chronic conditions like fibromyalgia to backache and overworked muscles. While pain-relievers, antacids, and a variety of other medications can go a long way toward relieving discomfort. certain foods can also help treat and possibly prevent many types of pain as well.

The Food Factor

A wide range of nutrients can help prevent or ease pain problems that interfere with a healthy, active lifestyle. Protein-rich foods, such as lean meats and eggs, can speed healing after injury or surgery and can shorten the time you're in pain. Vitamin E (in nuts and seeds) and omega-3 fatty acids (in oily fish) may reduce inflammation of cells and dampen pain from muscle overuse and joint diseases like arthritis. Vitamin B12 (in clams and blue crabs) nourishes the protective coating of nerves to combat deterioration that can bring on aches and pains, while vitamin B6 (in bananas and chickpeas) helps fight the depression and moodiness sometimes caused by chronic discomfort.

Mining The Power Of Minerals

To help keep pain in check, it's also important to maintain proper mineral balance. Your nerves conduct impulses, both pleasant and unpleasant, through electrical signals, and minerals help those signals travel more efficiently. Imbalances of these nutritional helpers can disturb nerve signals, which may result in an increased pain response. Researchers have found, for example, that eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods like kale and almonds may keep headaches at bay, while calcium-rich sources like yogurt and milk products help prevent muscle cramps.


roasted potato with onion & garlic
roasted potato with onion & garlic
cayenne pepper
cayenne pepper

Pain-Fighting Foods

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Dairy products: milk and yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Ginger tea
  • Leafy greens: kale and Swiss chard
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seafood: salmon, tuna, and clams

Menus For Minor Pain

Changing the foods we eat every day can control many of the aches and pains we encounter regularly. Sometimes, it's a process of elimination. For example, foods high in saturated fat can boost production of hormonelike fatty acids that may increase the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis, and certain foods can trigger headaches in susceptible people. But what you eat can also help neutralize pain once it strikes. Here are some common discomforts and their easy food remedies:

Sinus Pressure and Pain  To reduce painful sinus pressure, eat spicy foods and onions, garlic, and cayenne pepper, which encourage mucus production and clear up clogged sinuses.

Stomach Upset  A piece of candied ginger, a cup of ginger tea, or a glass of real ginger ale may relieve stomach pain and nausea. Ginger contains compounds that relax the esophagus, which helps to release pain-producing gases from your digestive system. Charcoal supplements have a similar effect.

Muscle Soreness  When soreness occurs in the muscles of your back, neck, or legs, reach for foods like peanut butter and sunflower seeds. The reason: Their vitamin content may speed healing cells to stressed sites, relieving inflammation.

Joint Pain  Several studies indicate that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are anti-inflammatories that may helps ease arthritis. Eating these fish two to three times a week may bring you relief.

Cramps and Cricks  Muscles under stress can end up in knots if you lack magnesium and calcium, which help regulate muscle contraction. Look for magnesium in leafy greens (endive, escarole, and spinach), and calcium in dairy products as well as in fortified juices.

Headaches  Foods such as aged cheeses, cured meats, pickles, and chocolate contain tyramine, an amino acid that may trigger headaches; avoid these foods and you may avoid head pain. Headaches seem to occur more frequently in people who have low magnesium levels, so be sure to eat plenty of leafy greens, a great source of this mineral.


Chronic, severe, or unexplained pain may be a symptom of a serious problem that warrants a doctor's immediate attention and medical treatment. If you experience any painful symptoms that don't respond to your self-care strategies within a few days, don't keep toughing it out-see your self-care strategies within a few days, don't keep toughing it out-see your doctor. For example, cramping may signal a nerve injury or, rarely, phlebitis, inflammation of a vein.



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