Chronic pain affects 116 million American adults. That’s more than a third of the US population. And while pain pills reduce suffering, they can be addictive and produce side effects. Worse, they often fail to eliminate the true cause of the pain.
“No matter how well you prescribe medication, chronic sufferers don’t get complete relief,” says James N. Dillard, MD, author of The Chronic Pain Solution. “It’s an enormous problem, and the medical community is doing a bad job solving it.” But there is an alternative, and it’s right in your kitchen. Certain foods ease aches by fighting inflammation, blocking pain signals, and even healing underlying disease.
“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. But before you can reap these rewards, you have to quit the junk food that riles up your body’s pain system. The typical Western-style diet is heavy on foods that promote inflammation, including highly processed foods and refined carbs. No fruit, vegetable, or herb by itself can alleviate your pain if you don’t change the pattern of your diet to reduce processed food and increase whole foods.
This may not be easy, says Peter Abaci, MD, medical director of the Bay Area Pain and Wellness Center in Los Gatos, CA. “But if you stay committed to a good nutrition plan, you may be able to say good-bye to pain.” Click through these 10 pain-fighting foods.
The Target: Arthritis, muscle pain
The Dose: 45 daily
Compounds in cherries called anthocyanins—the same phytonutrients that give cherries their rich ruby hue—are powerful antioxidants that work in two ways to tamp down pain. 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%.