We all experience pain at some time, whether it be short term or chronic. Most pain is a physical response to inflammation somewhere in our body.
How Pain Works
Inflammation is a process where our body’s immune system works to protect us from injury, infection and irritation. A lot of pain is related to the consequences of lifestyle choices, such as overeating and inactivity, which lead to joint and muscle pain and digestive issues.
The usual approach for many of us when we’re in pain is to head to the medicine cabinet to take an over-the-counter or prescription pain reliever.
Natural Ways to Combat Pain
What else can we do to combat pain and inflammation? Here are some things we can do to fight pain naturally through diet and lifestyle:
- Eat at least 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. In this category, more is better and if you can eat 10 servings daily, you get great benefits. Don’t be scared by that number of servings – remember a serving is 1 cup of leafy greens, ½ cup juice, cooked fruit or vegetable, or 1 medium fruit. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds. Those with the brightest colors offer maximum nutritional value. Choose those rich in vitamin C, like red peppers, oranges and broccoli.
- Choose whole-grain, fiber-rich cereals and whole grains – like quinoa, oats, and brown or wild rice. Avoid processed grains.
- Eat fatty fish like salmon 2-3 times per week to get plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds and walnuts are good plant sources of Omega-3 as well.
- Cook with virgin olive oil, eat more nuts and avocados, and think Mediterranean Diet.
- Eat more beans and lentils – they’re great sources of protein, low in fat and high in fiber.
- Maintain a healthy weight – extra fat fuels an inflammation response in people.
- Exercise regularly – studies show people who exercise regularly have a lower level of inflammation, as well as the added benefit of helping maintain a healthy weight.
Check out the June issue of Organic & Natural Magazine for more information on natural pain fighters!
By Janice Cox, RDN, LD, Lunds and Byerly’s registered dietitian/nutritionist