by Elizabeth McMillan
Joint pain is extremely common, whether it is a result of injuries or simply due to aging. The pain we feel is due to the release of chemical messengers called cytokines in order to fight off bacteria or heal from an injury. This causes an inflammatory state and is part of the body’s natural way to heal itself. Unfortunately, the inflamed state can become chronic, leading to osteoarthritis—also known as chronic inflammation.
Most doctors will prescribe a daily nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin and ibuprofen. Daily use of NSAIDs wreak havoc on the stomach and causes stomach pain, heartburn, ulcers and can lead to liver and kidney problems. Diet and lifestyle choices can have a dramatic effect on chronic pain and lead to less of a reliance such drugs. There are some noteworthy super foods that succeed in halting the inflammatory process such as turmeric, ginger, tart cherry and collagen.
Turmeric is one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatory agents. The active bioflavonoid is curcumin, which contains many antioxidants that eliminate the free radicals that cause swelling. Turmeric has been shown to reduce inflammation, boost cognitive activity, support joint and muscle health and optimize detoxification. Pair turmeric with black pepper to enhance its bioavailability.
Ginger is closely related to turmeric and is also extremely potent in fighting inflammation. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, ginger was found to reduce chronic osteoarthritis of the knee, as noted in a 2001 study found in Arthritis & Rheumatism. The phytochemicals found in ginger have been shown to reduce pain at the cellular level. Reduction in inflammation allows for healthier joint motility and therefore, one feels less pain.
Collagen peptides are a protein that make up the soft tissue surrounding our joints. Adding collagen or a gelatin to the diet has also been shown to reduce pain. The amino acids found in collagen have been suggested to promote the development of healthy tissue between joints, thus improving joint motility as well. Collagen is also important in maintaining youthful skin and supports a healthy digestive system.
Tart cherries contain anthocyanins that promote the natural anti-inflammatory process in the body. They also contain high amounts of potassium that help regulate the nerve processes of pain. According to a 2012 study reported in the Journal of Food Studies, drinking 10 ounces of tart cherry juice a day provided relief from osteoarthritis. This juice also contains many antioxidants that help diminish pain and cancer-cell growth.
Adding some of these pain fighting superfoods to the diet can easily be done. For instance, one could add freshly grated ginger and turmeric with a dash of black pepper to a glass of tart cherry juice. This simple cocktail could be the new nightcap needed to help fight pain and inflammation, all night long. Another favorite way to include these healing ingredients into everyday life is with smoothies and jellies. By implementing an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and including nature’s natural pain reducers one can achieve more joint mobility and be less reliant on medications. This is a key part in energizing your wellness.
Elizabeth McMillan, CNS, LDN is an integrative nutritionist at the Rose Wellness Center, in Oakton, Virginia. To learn more, visit RoseWellness.com.
Recipes for Pain Relief
- 1 cup almond milk
- ½ cup pineapple
- 2 ribs celery
- ½ inch ginger
- ½ tsp turmeric
- water to dilute
- 1 scoop collagen peptides (optional)
Mix to enjoy!
Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Jellies
- 2 c. water
- ½ Tbsp turmeric
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 4 Tbsp unflavored gelatin powder
Procedure: combine water, turmeric, honey and coconut oil in a saucepan on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stir constantly. Check and adjust sweetness. Remove from heat and sprinkle gelatin powder over warm liquid. Whisk vigorously for 1 minute. Pour into a glass, shallow dish. And refrigerate for 2 hours. Once solidified, cut into small portions with a knife and enjoy.