Foods that Mediate Pain
By: Dr. Skip Hellen ND, CNC (Health Doctor)
There are many foods and activities that not only help mediate inflammation and pain but
encourage internal biochemical balance restoration balance (optimal health). Below
are some non-steroidal and narcotic pain relief drugs and a list of many foods, herbs and
activities that promote anti-inflammation and pain relief.
How Pain Relief Drugs Work
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory & pain relief drugs (NSAIDs) – (ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium)
These drugs are widely available over the counter in low doses absent a
prescription. They work by blocking prostaglandin production enzyme activity, particularly cyclooxygenase (COX).
These enzymes encourage the production of prostaglandins (hormones that increase swelling, inflammation, and pain).
Narcotic (drug) painkillers – (morphine - methadone)
These opiate type drugs work by blocking pain receptors in the brain which stop pain signals from reaching the brain.
Unfortunately, opioids are strongly addictive and can cause more problems than they are intended to mediate and eliminate.
Natural Pain Mediators
Foods with strong anti-inflammatory properties reduce inflammation which is a key component of NSAIDs, and is why
anti-inflammatory foods reduce pain. The following are goods with anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pain.
- Alfalfa - The leaves of the alfalfa plant are rich in vitamins, protein, and minerals however beyond the high levels of basic
nutrients it is also a natural anti-arthritic due to its high Chlorophyll content.
- Apple - “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” Apples contain boron, a mineral that appears to not only reduce the risk of
developing osteoarthritis but mediate pain as well.
- Avocado - In some countries, avocado is called “alligator pear” because of their shape and the color of the skin. Many
think that avocados are full of. The truth is avocados have very little fat and most of it is healthy monounsaturated.
People who are suffering from osteoarthritis and gout should eat avocados to reduce arthritic pain. Avocados are effective
cures to reduce chronic back and joint pains.
- Beans and Whole Grains - Beans, lentils, and whole grains contain the known pain reliever tryptophan.
- Berries (Blackberries, Strawberries, and Blueberries) especially dark pigmented - These berries have antioxidant
properties, which help prevent cell wall and DNA damage. This can inhibit or prevent painful conditions like arthritis.
Other studies have revealed berries to be anti-inflammatory as well.
- Cayenne pepper - Stimulates endorphin production and is an anti-inflammatory agent.
- Celery Seed - Apigenin is the chemical responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties
of celery and its seeds. Celery seed is well known and recommended for managing gout pain and preventing gout attacks.
- Chamomile - Is widely known as a natural relaxant and is most commonly found in tea. It is also an anti spasmodic
and an anti inflammatory.
- Cherries - Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries. Cherry juice
works well, also – fresh, none processed is best.
- Chia seed - Is nutritionally superior to flax therefore provides more therapeutic benefits.
- Chickweed - Is more recognize as an herb than a food, but it is an edible plant that
you may find in your yard. Chickweed helps reduce swelling and ease internal pain. It can be eaten much like all green
leafy vegetables in a salad green, blended into a green smoothie or brewed in a tea.
- Chile peppers - Chilies contain capsaicin, a chemical responsible for the peppers heat. These vegetables also help block pain by
encouraging certain nerve cells to exhaust their supply of substance P, which is used to transmit pain signals.
- Cinnamon - Contains strong anti inflammatory properties that can help it to act as blood thinner and soothe pain. Cinnamon is
rich in essential nutrients like calcium, iron, fiber and manganese, all of which help relieve pain.
- Cloves - Are good for reducing the pain and swelling. They naturally alleviate pain and act as an anti-inflammatory.
- Corydalis root - A relative of Poppy helps relieve pain from traumatic injury.
- Curry - A combination of spices that often includes turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon etc. Curry contains powerful antioxidants
that relieve inflammation and reduce pain.
- Cramp Bark - Has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and sedative properties.
- Exercise - Is one of the greatest ways to relieve pain. Yoga, Pilates, interval training, and Tai Chi are considered confer
excellent pain relief when performed correctly. Simple stretching and low impact aerobic exercises can also can be an
effective treatment for pain problem. However, caution is paramount to avoid increasing pain.
- Fatty Fish - Salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, krill, and many deep, cold water fish contain large amounts of essential
fatty acids (EFA's) – especially Omega-3s which are anti-inflammatory. Smaller fish tend to represent a lower risk of heavy
metal (mercury, lead etc.) contamination which can be a problem with larger fish (tuna, swordfish etc.)
Caution - Excessive omega-3 can increase the risk of bleeding problems, which may
interfere with arthritis and blood clotting drugs.
- Fenugreek - Is an anti-inflammatory with phytosteroid properties to help rebuild tissues.
- Feverfew - Is an herb that inhibits inflammatory hormones (prostaglandins) and prevents blood platelet aggregation (coagulation).
- Flaxseed & flax oil - Is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which have been studied in depth for their anti inflammatory properties as
well as their ability to help the body heal and regenerate.
- Garlic - An ancient treatment for tuberculosis, lung problems, and other diseases. Garlic also appears to relieve some forms of
arthritis pain. Although never tested in large-scale, double-blind studies, garlic has been found helpful in many case reports. These
helpful benefits may be due to the fact that garlic contains sulfur, which has been known for many years to help relieve certain
- Ginger Is a well known, slightly spicy anti-inflammatory root that reduces inflammatory, pain producing prostaglandins.
It seems to work very well for muscular pain.
- Hops strobiles - Is a relative of hemp (Marijuana), has nervous system sedating properties.
- Kava kava root - Is enjoyed by many tropical island natives as a skeletal and muscle relaxant.
- Licorice root - Is an anti-inflammatory and is rich in phytosteroids.
- Mango - Mangoes are packed with three powerful antioxidants – 90% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for
vitamin C, 75% of the daily dose of beta-carotene, plus vitamin E.
- Meditation - Meditation along with oxycise (deep breathing) properly practiced offers many health benefits including
hypertension, anxiety, stress and pain relief.
- Onions - Have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic and anti-viral properties. They help with inflammation from bronchitis and lung disorders.
- Oranges - Are anti-inflammatory and recommended in anti-arthritis diets. Oranges contain beta-cryptoxanthin, a phytochemical that has
shown to mediate joint inflammation. Other foods that contain beta-cryptoxanthin are apricots, plums, watermelons, peaches, and papaya.
- Papaya - A folk medicine for diarrhea, hay fever, and other problems, a single papaya contains three times the RDA for the antioxidant
vitamin C, plus more than half the daily allotment of beta-carotene.
- Passionflower - This herb slows the breakdown of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine which mediate pain.
- Red Grapes - Red and to a lesser degree, green grapes contain the highly regarded anti-aging compound resveratrol in their skins.
Resveratrol is known to inhibit COX enzyme activity, which is the action of NSAIDs. Resveratrol is also found in dark pigmented mulberries.
- Rosemary - Is an excellent food to treat pain because it naturally eases nerve, muscle tension, and pain. It contains salicin which
is a natural form glycoside – which aspirin is made from.
- Sage - Helps improve aching muscles, inflammation and is great to clear the mind.
- Seeds and Nuts - Cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts contain tryptophan. Almonds and peanuts are
excellent sources of boron. These chemicals help reduce pain.
- Shitake mushrooms - Has been used to treat immune deficiency resulting from chemotherapy, hepatitis, aids, and other chronic infections.
It is a strong cancer fighter and anti viral. It is an excellent treatment to arthritis and chronic joint pain.
- Spinach - Is a powerhouse of nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, and manganese which helps mediate pain.
- Turmeric (curcumin) - Is used to treat inflammation, arthritis pain, headaches, muscular soreness, and ease congestion.
The “magic” behind turmeric is in its active ingredient, curcumin.
- Water - Drinking eight glasses (˝ gallon) of water per day can help mediate gout by flushing uric acid from the body. This
amount of water is what most health experts recommend to keep your body properly
hydrated and healthy. For maximum detoxification and
hydration, 1 ounce of water is recommended for every 2 pounds of body weight
Other powerful anti-inflammatory and arthritis healing foods are walnuts, olive oil, cheese, soy, broccoli, pineapple, and
Avoid deep fried and processed foods and red meats, there
encourage inflammation and seriously disrupt internal biochemical balance
Eating to mediate pain – The anti-inflammatory diet
With morning pain, analgesics are best. Analgesics contain aspirin-like properties. Dark color berries are great
food choices. They are rich with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and anti-oxidants. It is prudent to include whole grains or cereal
to your morning meal. Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, and a high fiber diet has anti-inflammatory properties.
Those experiencing afternoon pain should focus on anti-inflammatory property foods as well. Foods like
avocados, pineapples, legumes, and soy foods such as tofu and soy burgers are anti-inflammatory. In addition, green teas,
and spices such as curry, ginger, turmeric, and rosemary have are excellent choices with anti-inflammatory properties.
The right types of fats in the diet can positively impact pain and inflammation. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are very
powerful anti-inflammatory agents. They are found in cold-water oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Adding
omega-3 fatty acid supplements from flax oil or fish oil may also help reduce inflammation.
Caution – Flax meal and oil are very sensitive to light, heat, and oxidative
damage (rancidity). All oils are very unhealthy when rancid.
Don’t consume damaged (rancid) oils ever!
Olive oil is another type of oil that will reduce inflammation and is less subject to rancidity but not impervious. In
fact, olive oil has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as
will as reduce pain. Other healthy oils include rice bran oil, grape seed oil,
and walnut oil. For cooking the only healthy choice is coconut oil. Coconut oil
is a saturated fat but holds up under heat better than most oils. The biggest
health damaging effects fried foods is the damaged oils. The body has extreme
difficulty dealing with damaged fatty acids. The oxidative free radicals
resulting from consuming damaged oils cause serious cell wall and DNA biological
damage (rapid aging, illness, and disease).
For dinner, a prudent choice is fish (rich in omega-3’s), and/or a salad with walnuts, a variety of green leafy vegetables
like spinach, broccoli and perhaps some dark raisons. Raw, organic fruits and vegetables are excellent anti-inflammatory foods which
will provide the most anti-oxidant and healing benefits. One should consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Green vegetables and whole fruits supply a valuable source of fresh dietary fiber as well. Some sweet deserts can provide
healthy and healing properties. However as a rule sweets should be kept to a minimum. For example:
- Dark chocolate (70+% is best) contains flavonoids, which provide great anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in small portions.
- Many fruits are sweet, provide anti-oxidants and should be consumed in small
portions throughout the day.
Other Anti-inflammatory Consumptive Tips
- Avoid pro inflammatory foods.
- Consume more fish, soy, poultry, and less fatty red meat (red meat promotes inflammation). If you choose to eat meat, lean cuts are best.
- Avoid deep fried foods, if you must cook bake or stir-fry meals instead. Reduce junk and fast food consumption! They all promote inflammation
and ill health.
- Avoid lunchmeats. All processed meats like hot dogs and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are closely associated with increased
inflammation and chronic disease.
- Reduce sweet food consumption as much as possible. High sugar consumption is also associated with inflammation, obesity, and chronic disease
such as diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. Totally eliminate high sugar beverages like sodas and soft drinks as
well as pastries, presweetened cereals and candy.
- Snack on whole foods like fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables instead of cookies and candy.
- Choose colorful vegetables such as green, orange, and yellow for your side dishes and enjoy them with every meal whenever possible.
- Drink lots of water, fresh 100% fruit and vegetable juices, herbal teas and green tea.
- Follow the old adage, "Eat an Apple a day to keep the doctor away”. Apples contain fiber, anti-oxidants, and quercetin that contain
powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Remember the old saying, “let food be your medicine”.
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There are many natural ways to effectively mediate pain and inflammation.
Drugs work to mediate both pain and inflammation but are highly addictive and
seriously compromise health by promoting not curing illness and disease in many
cases. Natural pain and inflammation mediation not only promotes optimal health
it can be more effective in some cases than drugs absent all the negative health
effects. Adopting a predominantly raw, whole food lifestyle is the best way to
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