Want to Reduce Your Pain? Eat These Foods
Here’s one of my favourite analogies. The chemical makeup of your body is like the soil that we grow plants in. For your body to grow and heal, your chemical makeup needs to be full of balanced nutrients — just as soil has to be full of balanced nutrients for beautiful and healthy plants.
Reduce your inflammation, reduce your pain
Pain is complex. We don’t fully understand what causes it. We do know, however, that inflammation is a large factor and can impact every cell type and organ system. Inflammation is how our body reacts to harmful substances like bacteria, viruses, and damaged cells and is responsible for most of the damaging effects we see as a result of diseases.
However, inflammation is involved in healing us too. It is precisely because both the injury and healing systems overlap that we have to treat inflammation with care. These foods will reduce your pain with their anti-inflammatory properties, without the harmful side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. They also have other great health benefits for a holistic package of nutrients.
To reduce your pain, eat these foods:
Add ginger to your stir-fry and try some ginger lemonade with honey. Ginger reduces inflammation, prevents internal gas from forming, and prevents nausea.
Veggies and fruit
My goal for my patients is to have them eat ten servings (a serving is about a handful) each day of mostly veggies and some fruits. These are some of the toughest negotiations I have ever had — getting people who think they hate veggies to agree to have something green on their plates. Here’s how we do it.
- We start slowly and set a goal they think they can achieve. If they’re only eating an apple once every three days, we start by setting the goal of having one vegetable serving each day.
- We talk specifically about which vegetables. I tell patients that corn and white-flesh potatoes don’t count. Sometimes they want to eat the same choice every day — peas, for example. Other times they want more variety. Both are fine. The most important thing is to start eating greens.
Here’s the good news: on subsequent visits, they admit it was not as terrible as they had feared. Eating vegetables and fruit can be a natural habit you grow to love. I see this happen all the time.
Consuming whole grains instead of refined white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta will help keep harmful inflammation at bay. Whole grains have more fiber which reduces levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. Whole-grain products also usually have less added sugar.
However, food labels are becoming more misleading. Foods labeled as “whole grain” can sometimes be just as unhealthy as their refined grain counterparts. To be sure you’re getting the benefits of whole grains, look for foods with a whole grain as the first ingredient. Also check to make sure the product contains no added sugars.
Looking for ideas to add whole grains to your diet? Try steel-cut oats. They have high water content once cooked and are absorbed slowly into the body, making you feel fuller. Try starting your day off with a bowl and see how you feel.
Dark leafy greens
Studies have suggested that vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines—and one of the best sources of this vitamin is dark green veggies, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens. Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also tend to have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals—like calcium, iron, and disease-fighting phytochemicals—than those with lighter-colored leaves.
My Bottom Line
Your diet is your most important tool for kicking pain to the curb. Focus on an overall healthy diet, stay active, and steer clear of processed foods. Congratulations. You’ve made great strides forward in helping your body.