You know when you get a really bad headache, but it's not bad enough to call it a migraine? Or a really bad backache that just won't quit, but it isn't chronic pain? You can try popping a couple of your go-to painkiller. But if in a few hours that ache still hasn't gone away, and you know it isn't a situation that would require medical attention, then what can you do? I mean, before painkillers people had to do something to kick headaches, right?
Once upon a time, a common way to treat pain was through consuming certain foods. Believe it or not, this is still a valid approach, with research demonstrating certain foods' pain-fighting properties. Here are 10 of them:
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A 2013 research study led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) found that sulforaphane, a compound in broccoli, could be key in preventing or slowing the progress of the most common form of arthritis. Now, arthritis pain is a type of pain most young people don't give much thought. But the results from the study showed that sulforaphane slows down the destruction of cartilage in joints and has anti-inflammatory properties, leading to overall joint health. So even though eating a few stalks every time you feel an ache may not give you much immediate relief, it is a good investment toward an arthritis-free future.
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A 2009 study showed caffeine can help reduce pain during exercise. This could be because "caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing," according to a former competitive cyclist, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor, Robert Motl. You can get your caffeine fix from coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda, but I'm sure you knew that.
3. Olive Oil
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There has been increased researcher interest in the anti-inflammatory benefits of olive oil due to the fact that people who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet (which is rich in olive oil) seem to have fewer health conditions related to inflammation, such as degenerative joint diseases and diabetes. In fact, extra-virgin olive oil has a naturally occurring chemical named oleocanthal, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent with a similar pharmacological action to ibuprofen. Just another reason why olive oil is a great option for cooking.
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Salmon, a cold-water fish that is known for its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, already tops a number of "superfoods" lists, so it's no surprise it's also suggested as a remedy for pain. This is because foods with this type of healthy fat are thought to reduce inflammation. Salmon also contains calcitonin, which studies have shown reduces inflammation in joints and could protect against osteoarthritis pain.
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Not everyone may know the spice turmeric by name, but you would know it by the unique yellow color it lends curries and other Indian foods. Turns out turmeric may also have significant health benefits. Studies have shown that it reduces inflammation, and researchers have wondered if turmeric may also help relieve osteoarthritis pain. If you want to try taking it medicinally to treat pain but don't think you can handle cooking with it on a regular basis, it comes in capsules you can swallow. (But always talk to your doctor before taking a supplement of any kind.)
6. Red Grapes
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Resveratrol is a chemical compound found in red grapes that is thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits, as some research has linked it to a reduced risk of inflammation. These benefits can be gained from consuming the grapes whole or from drinking red wine. However, resveratrol's effects only last a short time after drinking red wine, so imbibing is a very short-term pain management solution.
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Thyme gets tossed into many dishes to add flavor, but research suggests that certain compounds in the unassuming herb may interfere with the perception of pain in the body. And despite the fact that researchers don't yet fully understand how the plant accomplishes this, in the lab, thyme was shown to be just as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone in reducing the perception of pain in mice. While the jury may still be out on the actual positive effects of thyme on pain, there is no harm in trying it out when you feel a headache coming on. So go ahead and toss some into tonight's sauce or soup.
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Ginger is used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes, but has also been used in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions for years to treat a myriad of diseases. Even today, health care professionals still recommend it for treating pain. "Ginger relieves pain by blocking an enzyme that's a key component of the inflammatory process," Christopher D. Black, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology at Georgia College and State University, told AARP.org. Try taking two to three teaspoons of ginger extract a day as a new painkiller when you feel aches coming on.
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There are a few interesting ways in which garlic can help relieve your pain. First, garlic has a high selenium content, making it helpful in managing and preventing arthritis. And the antioxidants in garlic also offer up nutrients that may help reduce symptoms associated with inflammatory joint disease. But on top of that, garlic actually works with some traditional pain medications by increasing the potency of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) you may already take to fight pain.
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A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that the bacteria in Greek yogurt, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, significantly decreased C-reactive protein levels in the body, which are a known blood marker for inflammation. In addition, the probiotics in Greek yogurt add to its ability to fight chronic pain. Not to mention it is one of the most readily available foods on this list, next to caffeine.
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