We often forget how important what we eat is for how we feel, not just for how we look. Stress and pain affect how we feel both mentally and physically. They cause our body to release excess cortisol, raise blood pressure, anxiety, addiction, etc. On top of that, these harmful responses often lead us to unwanted weight gain since we often turn to food and stop exercising to accommodate. There is good news though!  Research has shown that including certain foods in your diet you can help your body fight these negative effects of pain and stress – in fact, these foods can often be just as helpful as pain pills.

These foods contain active compounds that have been shown to reduce pain, often to the extent of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Many of these foods reduce excess inflammation, a common cause of pain.

  • Ginger is effective to reduce inflammation caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even taking a supplement of 250g – 500g powdered ginger has been revealed to be as effective as taking ibuprofen. Ginger is also great to relieve nausea and motion sickness.
  • Tart cherries (tart cherry juice) not only reduce arthritic pains, such as gout, but is also beneficial to reduce muscle soreness from intense exercise.
  • Hot Peppers contain capsaicin, which dulls pain. Hot peppers can be eaten, but are also often applied topically via creams and rubs.
  • Cranberries, red grapes, and peanuts contain resveratrol to help fight pain.
  • Curcumin, found in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Antioxidants found in foods such as pomegranates, green tea, oranges, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as avocado, nuts, chia seeds, tuna, and salmon, are great for reducing inflammation, especially with arthritis. You can also supplement with high quality fish oil daily to make sure you get plenty omega-3s in your diet.

We often turn to food to help us deal with stress in our life, but this frequently leads us to weight gain and obesity. While these foods will not necessarily help you reduce your stress, they can reduce the damaging effects of stress, such as depression, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, and anxiety.

  • Turkey, shrimp, dairy, pumpkin seeds, and soy boost your serotonin levels with tryptophan; serotonin is known as the “happiness hormone”.
  • Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus are high in folic acid, which tells your brain to produce more of that happy serotonin.
  • Dairy and Sunshine (okay, maybe sunshine is not a food…) provide you with vitamin D which also increases your levels of serotonin! In addition, you could look for other foods that have extra vitamin D added.
  • Complex Carbs such as oatmeal and beans digest slowly causing you to produce more serotonin.
  • Strawberries, red and green peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus,  pineapple, kiwi, papaya, and mango are all high in vitamin C and can help lower your levels of stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.
  • Crunchy foods provide you with a form of mechanical stress relief; try carrots, celery, and cucumbers, or any other crunchy vegetable and fruit you desire.

Food is your medicine!


Sharon Hudd, Pn1

References:  IDEA Fitness Journal, April 2015; http://greatist.com/health/foods-pain-relief

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