Chronic Pain Series: Part 3 - Nutritional Therapies

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Read on below on to see how your daily cup of java and love for dark chocolate could be helping your chronic pain. Of course, turmeric and ginger - the king of anti-inflammatory spices, will be mentioned here! Also, we can't forget about fish oil. Continue reading to see what the research says for these pain-busting powerhouses. 

1)  Food Rich in Polyphenols (Coffee and Dark Chocolate)

A study found that women with fibromyalgia who consumed food rich in polyphenols improved quality of life. The number of tender points was reduced by coffee intake (a very high source of polyphenols, and pain-busting caffeine),  and overall quality of life was improved by red fruits (cherries, raspberries, cranberries, pomegranate, red grapes) and red wine (1). Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in many foods. 

2)  Traditional anti-inflammatory spices (Turmeric, Ginger)

Research shows that members of the Zingiberaceae family (including turmeric, ginger and galangal) are clinical effective hypoalgesic (pain-reducing) with a better safety profile than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin) (2). Both NSAID’s and Zingiberaceae have been associated with the risk of increased bleeding though, so should be cautioned with blood thinners until further research is conducted.

3)  Anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids  (Fish oil)

A human study found that daily fish oil doses from 1200mg – 2400mg EFA (essential fatty acids) reduced chronic arthritis pain at an equal level as NSAIDs (ex. aspirin). Some participants even stopped taking their NSAID and continued on with fish oil (3). Of course, pain reduction is higher by taking a concentrated dose of fish oil, but anti-inflammatory effects can still be gained through dietary intake of fish. Another study using a diet consisting of low omega-6 fatty acid intake (think processed foods) and high omega-3 fatty acid intake lead to major improvements in headaches in those with chronic daily headache (4).

Although this is not an extensive list, some of the top foods/supplements for chronic pain conditions are coffee, dark chocolate, berries, ginger, turmeric and fish products. So yes, your morning cup of joy may actually be helping your body to dull the way your body responds to pain – although do watch out if coffee causes you digestive issues, anxiety or insomnia. I am also in support of that daily square of dark chocolate, with perhaps a side of berries? Can’t complain with that. If you want to get super healthy with this, try this turmeric ginger tea recipe that I tried from a friend – see below!

Pain-fighting Turmeric Ginger Elixir

  •  A 1 inch knob of both fresh turmeric and ginger
  • Lemon
  • Honey
  • A pinch of black pepper

Bring the turmeric and ginger to a boil in a medium pot of water. Once a boil is reached, leave the solution on low for 20-30 minutes (depending on how much of a ginger taste you want). Mix in a desired amount of honey and lemon, and add a pinch of black pepper. Black pepper is supposed to amplify the body’s absorption of turmeric.

Remover the turmeric and ginger, then enjoy!

This recipe can be made with turmeric or ginger powder, however you will have small amounts of the powder in your drink.

I hope that everyone enjoyed this chronic pain series, and if you missed the other articles, here are the links for herbal medicine and chronic pain, and well as mind-body approaches for chronic pain.

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