Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and Alzheimer’s. It can worsen autoimmune diseases, arthritis, food allergies, and more. The good news is, we can do a lot to manage pain and disease through what we eat.
You may not be happy to hear it, but wheat and sugar are big contributors to inflammation and joint pain. They also block the absorption of beneficial nutrients and minerals from other food, as well as lower immunity.
We still want to enjoy our food
Following a diet low in processed foods and refined sugar and high in whole foods will help you prevent, reverse or manage conditions like type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. And they can still taste great.
Simply put, whole food has one ingredient – the food itself. For example, beans, nuts, fish, and any fruit or vegetable is a whole food, whereas anything that comes in a box or package has more than one ingredient and is likely processed. Anything that’s processed is more difficult for our bodies to digest, and can contribute to sore joints and inflammation.
We are what we eat, and food is medicine, so what should we eat? Here are eight foods that help relieve soreness, inflammation, and joint pain:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Eating foods that are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids like wild salmon, wild sardines, tuna, anchovies, and other cold-water fish increases the production of type 3 prostaglandins which act against cellular degeneration and inflammation.
If you don’t like fish, take a fish oil supplement, which has also been shown to reduce joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Hemp seeds, chia seeds, and many nuts are also a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts are a healthy source of fat that flight inflammation and help keep joints lubricated. Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds are especially good.
- Fruits and vegetables
Many fruits and vegetables contain anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to being loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.
Oranges, grapefruits, limes, and pineapples are rich in vitamin C which can decrease pain and swelling in arthritis.
Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale, and cabbage are all rich in vitamin K which reduces inflammation in the blood. Kale is a superfood with vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and flavonoids which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Anthocyanins found in cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries have been proven to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
- Extra virgin olive oil
When it comes to oils, you want to stick with extra virgin olive oil. But what does “extra virgin” actually mean?
Olive oil is made from pressing olives – the extra virgin part means the oil was extracted using a cold-pressed method (no heat or chemicals) so it has the most polyphenols and micronutrients, and that’s the kind you want to be buying as it has the most health benefits.
Cook with it on low to moderate heat, or use it raw as a salad dressing, blended with herbs as a vegetable dip, or overcooked meat.
Studies have shown that the spice turmeric (or more specifically its powerful active ingredient curcumin) significantly reduces pain and swelling because of its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Start cooking more with turmeric, or taking a curcumin extract or supplement.
Research has proven ginger’s medicinal compound gingerol to be a powerful joint-relief remedy. What makes ginger so effective is that it turns off the genes that cause age-related inflammation (much like curcumin), as well as breaks down existing inflammation within the joints.
Unfortunately, drinking ginger ale doesn’t count. Use ginger more in your cooking, or take a gingerol extract or supplement
In addition to being anti-viral and anti-bacterial (which makes garlic a great cold-fighter), garlic has been shown to both protect against inflammation and enhance immune cell activity.
- Bone Broth
Bone broth is another cold-fighter that has a high mineral content and lots of collagen-rich protein. Collagen is highly beneficial for skin, joint health, and any soft muscle like the bladder and digestive organs.
So start saving your chicken bones in the freezer to make a big pot of bone broth!
Improving the quality of what you eat will improve how you feel. Try the following:
- Eat non-GMO foods as much as possible
- Eat organic (at least the Dirty Dozen)
- Buy local (less likely to contain pesticides, preservatives, and antibiotics)
- Cook at home more (try Home Chef or Hello Fresh if you’re always on-the-go)
- Eat more raw, whole foods
- Eat less packaged and processed foods, however convenient – if you don’t recognize an ingredient on the label, your body probably won’t either
If you’ve been struggling with sore and painful joints, consider changing up your diet. Of course, eating healthier will give you the added benefit of losing weight which will also help to decrease your joint pain.
We are all individuals with individual needs, goals, and chemistry, so it can be hard to know what’s right for us. A physiotherapist can evaluate your condition and recommend a personalized physical activity and nutrition plan for you. Book an assessment to see how we can help.