Nutrition: Six Alternatives to Pain Medication

Pain medication can offer fast pain relief, but there are other options available for people who experience chronic pain, including proper nutrition.

There are several benefits that come along with using pain medication, whether they are over-the-counter or prescription. Pain medication is easy to use and in general deliver quick results. However, there are several disadvantages as well. For example, people taking pain medication over the course of several years may build up a tolerance to the medication – causing the medication to be needed in higher doses to achieve the same effectiveness. Prescription pain medication can be addictive and have several unwanted side effects, such as nausea and drowsiness.

Although medication can be an appropriate choice for pain relief, people with pain should be aware that there are a number of other options available to them. One easy option is proper nutrition. It has been known for many years that nutrition can affect health, and eating certain foods can aid in pain relief.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A common cause for chronic pain, in particular in the joints, is inflammation. With that said, foods with anti-inlammatory properties are great to ease pain. A balanced diet with omega-3 fatty acids is one way to reduce pain naturally. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, and can provide pain relief for patients with chronic pain, osteoporosis, and arthritis.

It’s very easy to add omega-3 fatty acids into a diet program. Seafood, in particular fish, and nuts – almonds and walnuts – are great, healthy, tasty sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements are another natural way to consume omega-3 fatty acids.  (link)

2. Garlic and Ginger

Spices can have anti-inflammatory powers as well, such as garlic and ginger (which taste great when cooked together, too!).  (link)

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another great addition to a balanced diet that can provide natural pain relief and prevent bone loss. A study published in the online journal PLOS One found that vitamin C prevents bone degeneration. There are several fruits and vegetables packed with vitamin C. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, and berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, are prime vitamin C fruits. Green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, also contain high levels vitamin C. Similar to omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C can be consumed as a supplement as well.

4. Quercetin

In addition, most fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that also reduce inflammation. Berries, for example, contain the biofalovoids anthocyanidin and quercetin, which have anti-inflamatory properties.  Researchers are now looking at the effectiveness of quercetin for chronic prostatitis (link) and fibromyalgia (link).

5. Oleocanthal

The naturally occurring chemical compound oleocanthal has been found to be as effective for pain relief as anti-inflamtory pain medication. A 2010 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism reported that oleocanthal can be applied in the treatment of inflammatory degenerative joint diseases. This compound is found in extra virgin olive oil, which is why olive oil is an excelled substitute for vegetable oil and butter. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, which as said above have properties that can reduce inflammation. (link).

6. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is another naturally occurring chemical compound that can keep chronic pain at bay. Researchers from Chicago’s Rush Univeristy Medical Center found that this compound can block the enzymes that are a key factor in the cartilage damage that causes back pain (link). Red wine and red grapes (but make sure the skin is eaten) contain high amounts of resveratrol – adding to the list of  red wine’s health benefits. In addition, the compound is found in dark choclate, penuts, and bluberries.

[box type=”note”]For more nutritional tips for treating inflammatory conditions including arthritis click here ([/box]

Proper nutrition can be a tasty, simple, and fun way to pain relief. In addition to a balanced diet, it is important to exercise routinely, as weight gain is a common cause of chronic pain. Exercise will certainly enhance the benefits experienced along with proper nutrition, and vice versa.

After all, you are what you eat – and if you eat heathy, you will be healthy!

Jeana Brookes

Jeana is an aspiring lawyer whose interests in health, nutrition, and staying fit. She enjoys informing and engaging others on ways to exercise both the body and mind. In her spare time, when she is not training for marathons or leading her crossfit classes, she studies environmental law and policy with a life-long goal of working in the non-profit sector. She currently is an intern at an environmental law firm in Washington D.C., and has already recruited a few of her co-workers to join her running club.

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