This article first published in the Mendocino Beacon Newspaper on March 21, 2019
Food gives us 3 ways to alleviate body pain. You can remove inflammatory foods like sugar and wheat, rebuild body tissues with minerals like calcium and magnesium and you can add anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric and rosemary.
Remove inflammatory foods
The first and most effective way to alleviate pain is to remove inflammatory foods. Inflammatory foods are different for each person, but the most common suspects are wheat, sugar, dairy, or nightshade vegetables which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers. Ask yourself “is there one food that I crave daily?” It is frequently the food you crave most that is causing the pain. Many people notice a significant improvement of body pain by identifying and strictly removing suspect foods.
Strengthen body tissues with food
The second way to alleviate pain with food is to use specific foods that strengthen specific body tissues. For example, manganese is an important building block for joints and pecans are very high in manganese. If you have knee pain, enjoy a handful of pecans each day and notice if pecans provide the right building blocks to help with your knee pain. Children sometimes suffer from growing pains and a bowl of yogurt at bedtime may alleviate those pains by providing enough calcium to grow bone efficiently. When you make a chicken soup using the bones, then all the good minerals in the chicken are transferred into a soup which is used to fortify your own bones. To strengthen a body in pain you can evaluate where the pain comes, which nutrients make up that tissue and fortify that body tissue with specific high nutrient foods.
Use anti-inflammatory foods
The third way to alleviate body pain is with herbs and spices that reduce inflammation. Turmeric is a mild flavored, bright yellow root that is used in Indian cooking and concentrated into therapeutic supplements for pain. To use in your own kitchen, combine powdered herbs - 2 teaspoons turmeric, ½ teaspoon ginger and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Mix the spices into soups, stews and sauces. Rosemary is an excellent anti-inflammatory and can usually be found in your neighborhood as a shrub. Simply snip a finger length sprig of fresh rosemary and steep it in a cup of hot water for tea. Omega 3 fats in walnuts, flax seeds, salmon and sardines are the raw material your body uses to reduce inflammation. These are just a few examples of how food can be used to reduce inflammation that causes body pain.
If you’re dealing with body pain, ask three questions – Which foods are triggering inflammation and pain? Where is the pain located and what nutrients make up that body tissue? Which anti-inflammatory herbs, spices and foods can you easily add to your meals?
Nutrition is not a replacement for medical care. If you are suffering from body pain ask your medical doctor about nutrition, physical therapy and bodywork approaches to pain management.
Anna Rathbun is a nutrition consultant in Mendocino, CA