Foods That Fight Pain Better Than Medicine

What is the first thing you do when your child complains of pain? Reach for the nearest tablet or medicine box! But, sometimes swapping medicine for food might do wonders.

By Shiny Lizia M  • 8 min read

Foods That Fight Pain Better Than Medicine

Children get hurt all the time. It could be a bruised elbow in the playground or a fall in the floor or a stomach ache. In most cases, you opt for a pain reliever to get rid of your child’s pain.

But, are these pain relievers and other drugs safe to be consumed by your child? Are there any natural alternatives to it?

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food: Hippocrates

What is common between a cup of green tea, a bunch of cherries, and a couple of ibuprofen? All of them reduce pain. Most of the powerful anti-inflammatory tools come not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. Popping a pill could be a quick-fix to relieve your child’s pain, but it isn’t always as safe. In fact, there are many foods that fight pain effectively, relatively inexpensive and with no side effects.

Some potential anti-inflammatory foods:

1. Fruits and vegetables

Are rich in antioxidants and contain certain vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, lycopene and flavonoids. Colourful fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, avocados, beets and berries support the immune system and improve immunity. 

Research indicates the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in cherries and other dark red and purple fruit juices like grape, pomegranate, acai, blueberry and cranberry act as natural NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin), reducing muscle damage.

Raspberries and strawberries also contain pain-fighting anthocyanins. Resveratrol in red grapes has significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Oranges contain vitamin C which helps in fighting infections. It's also rich in an antioxidant called β-cryptoxanthin which has anti-inflammatory properties.

2. Fats

Fats are viewed as unhealthy but not all fats are the same. In humans, there are two essential fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3) and linoleic acid (an omega-6). The term “essential” denotes they are derived from external dietary sources.

While omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory, omega-6 fats can be pro-inflammatory (aggravates inflammation) or anti-inflammatory. Our usual diet tends to be high in omega-6.

Including rich sources of omega-3 – such as leafy greens, walnuts, canola oil and fatty fish along with the regular cooking oils in your child’s diet is important.

3. Fish

Is rich in protein and has anti-asthmatic properties too. Fish such as salmon, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, Pomfret, sardine, etc., are rich in inflammation fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, two inflammatory proteins in the body.

Is a vegetarian diet insufficient for my child? Will the lack of meat cause nutritional deficiency? This article below has the answers.

4. Spices

Are packed with anti-inflammatory properties which fight pain. For instance, Ginger contains gingerols, that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Capsaicin found in red peppers helps reduce pain. Cinnamon helps reduce heartburn and inflammatory conditions. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has long been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines as an anti-inflammatory agent and to enhance wound healing.

5. Probiotics

Are microorganisms that improve gut health. Poor gut health can lead to various infections. Consumption of probiotics leads to the development of healthy immunologic and digestive functions in your child.

Probiotics have strain-specific anti-inflammatory effects and help strengthen your child’s immune system.

6. Nuts and seeds

Are packed with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fats, protein and fibre. Almonds are rich in fibre, calcium and vitamin E. Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts are packed with antioxidants that can help your child fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation.

Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, which calms overexcited nerves and tense muscles that contribute to migraine pain.

7. Soy

Is a high-quality source of protein, contains all essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Studies suggest that isoflavones in soy products mimic the effects of estrogen inhibiting inflammatory responses.

Avoid heavily-processed soy whenever possible and try to get more soy milk and tofu into your child’s regular diet.

8. Whole grains and Beans

Are nutritious, with a low glycemic index (GI), rich in fibre and helps prevent chronic diseases. Whole grains, as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta can help keep harmful inflammation at bay.

Beans have several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Hence, include more of whole grains and beans in your child’s diet to ameliorate inflammation.

What are Pro-inflammatory foods?

Most processed foods are pro-inflammatory, as they tend to be high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, preservatives and refined carbohydrates. Deep-fried foods, pastries, processed cereals, bread and red meat are some examples.

Usage of pain-relieving drugs:

Drugs that relieve symptoms like aches, pains, or fever should only be given to your child when the physician prescribes it. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications is not recommended. In case of an emergency, it is very important to consult your physician first to be sure if an OTC medication is safe for your child.

Diet is not the only factor. Sleep and other lifestyle factors are important as well. Make sure your child indulges in a healthy diet, maintains a healthy weight, gets adequate sleep and exercises regularly.

Tickle your taste buds with these recipes that are made using immune boosting foods.

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