In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than “60 million Americans suffer from some form of nonspecific pain as well as the morbidity associated from arthritis including Rheumatoid, Osteoarthritis, Lupus, Gout, and Fibromyalgia.”
These conditions interfere with work productivity, result in extreme costs to the economy, and diminish quality of life for the individual. Although a cure for these diseases remains elusive, controlling the symptoms is possible through a variety of traditional and nontraditional methods.
Traditional or standard approaches to pain alleviation vary from prescription and over the counter medicines, osteopathic interventions, psychotherapy, surgery, physical therapy techniques, chiropractic manipulation, and electrical stimulation.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Concurrent to traditional approaches in pain relief is the increase and variety of anti-inflammatory and bone and joint support compounds, although their efficacy remains a debate.
Supplements for bone and joint health
– Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium: essential minerals needed for bone building and bone strength. Fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are natural sources of these minerals as well as fortified foods such as cereals and bread.
– Chondroitin: a complex carbohydrate that promotes the water retention and shock-absorbing properties of cartilage (the connective tissue that covers the ends of bones) found in animal gristle.
– Fish oils: Omega-3 (DHA, EPA, and ALA) found in fatty fish, is an essential fatty acid the body does not produce naturally that helps reduce stiffness in joints and increases mineral density in bones.
– Glucosamine: an amino acid produced in the body and a building block of cartilage. The major natural source is the exoskeletons (outer shell) of crustaceans.
– Hyaluronic acid (HA): a component of synovial fluid, needed to cushion and lubricate joints available in oral form or through injections by a medical practitioner. The body produces HA naturally, but good sources are meats, leafy greens, and soy.
– Bromelain: an anti-inflammatory enzyme found in plants from the bromeliaceae family (Pineapple), which breaks down fibrins and reduces swelling around joints.
– Herbs: turmeric, green tea, ginger, rosemary, cat’s claw, devil’s claw, ginger, and willow bark may all contribute to reduced inflammation available in supplement or homeopathic outlets.
– Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM): a sulfur containing substance found in many raw vegetables. Sulfur is vital to joints, ligaments, and cartilage health and has analgesic (pain relief) and anti-inflammatory properties.
– S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe): an amino acid derivative synthesized in the body from animal based foods that is used in cartilage repair and may reduce joint pain and inflammation
– Vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin C: three powerful antioxidants that help fight free radicals throughout the body, which are damaging to joints. Vitamin C helps with cell regeneration, Vitamin A and C reduce inflammation, and Vitamin D rebuilds cartilage and other body tissues.
The best sources for these Vitamins are fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish.
How diet contributes to pain and inflammation
Inflammation is not a disease, but the body’s normal immune, defensive response to bacteria and viruses and helps the body recover from injury. Pain is also a warning sign that something is wrong physically and perhaps emotionally.
In the 2012 article, Diet, Inflammation, and Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes: An Integrative Review of the Literature, the authors stated, “Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a growing national health problem affecting 35% of adults ≥20 years of age in the United States.
Recently, diabetes has been categorized as an inflammatory disease, sharing many of the adverse outcomes as those reported from cardiovascular disease and the recommendation of nutrition therapy.”
Reducing inflammation and pain in the body is a combination of many factors, and a balanced diet is an essential ingredient. Nevertheless, foods considered healthy may not promote pain relief or have a healthy response in the body. Even some fresh fruits and vegetable contribute to inflammation and pain for some people.
What to avoid
– In general, foods to avoid are organ meats, hydrogenated oil, fried foods, processed foods, sugar and sugar substitutes, wheat and gluten, dairy products, and alcohol. In addition, foods from the nightshade family exacerbate all types of arthritis.
This nightshade list is extensive and includes all peppers, eggplant, okra, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), paprika, all tomato varieties, soy and soy based foods, and tobacco.
What to include
– Including anti-inflammatory foods will not cure the causes of pain, but they are a powerful tool. Fresh fruits and vegetables that reduce inflammatory responses are broccoli, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, oranges, apples, pineapple, most berries, carrots, avocado, and olives.
The best protein sources include salmon, trout, sardines, and nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pecans.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Arthritis-Related Statistics. Retrieved from:
Nowlin, S.Y., Hammer, M.J., and Melkus, G.D. (2012). Diet, Inflammation, and Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes: An Integrative Review of the Literature. Review Article. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 542698, 21 pages. Retrieved from: