Eat to beat pain
There are a number of primary factors that can cause or worsen pain. These can include poor posture, injury, too little (or too much) activity, and specific conditions such as arthritis. Studies have shown that what you eat can also help to manage or relieve pain, or even prevent injuries occurring in the first place.
From eating magnesium-rich foods and fishy oils to staying away from processed foods, consuming fishy oils, adding anti-inflammatory spices, local Chiropractor Simon Coad from Falmouth Chiropractic Clinic explains some of our top nutrition tips for managing pain.
Processed foods may worsen inflammation and pain because they contain higher levels of unhealthy fats – in particular, processed omega-6 fats and ‘trans’ fats, which have pro-inflammatory properties. They often contain quickly absorbed sugars or refined carbohydrates too, which may exacerbate inflammation when consumed in excess. In contrast, ‘real’ foods such as fruit, nuts, meat and eggs are as close as possible to how they are found in nature and contain higher levels of nutrients that can help reduce inflammation and pain, such as those we’re going to look at in more detail below.
One of the nutrients that may help to manage pain and inflammation is magnesium. Magnesium helps our muscles to work normally, including helping them to relax, which in turn helps to avoid or relieve muscle tension that can contribute to pain. This mineral is also important for the nerves. Magnesium is found primarily in whole unprocessed plant foods – especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, seeds and nuts, and whole grains including rye and buckwheat.
Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies are high in omega-3 fats which anti-inflammatory properties and therefore may help to manage pain. Aim to eat a serving of oily fish around three times a week.
Vitamin C is often known for its role in the immune system but its primary role is in making collagen, a protein that forms the basic structure of most of the body’s tissues, including the bones, joints and muscles. If your body can’t make collagen properly, these tissues will lose strength and function, contributing to not only day-to-day pain but also potentially painful conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis. Some of the best sources of vitamin C include peppers, kale, broccoli, kiwi fruits, Brussels sprouts, watercress and red cabbage.
The spices ginger and turmeric in particular can have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Use fresh ginger and powdered turmeric in your cooking whenever you can, make fresh ginger tea with a grated thumb-sized piece of ginger. If you have a good vegetable juicer you can even make fresh ginger juice to sip on – but watch out, it’s strong!