With scary studies linking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)–pain relievers like ibuprofen–to higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from cardiovascular causes–as well as GI problems–you are probably wondering if there’s a safer way to sooth your aches.
The wonderful news is that some scrumptious, healthy foods actually pack as much pain-fighting power as some pain relieving drugs–without the worrisome side effects, according to recent studies. Here’s a look at some of the tastiest ways to get fast, natural relief for what ails you…
- Ginger. Popular as both a spice and medicine for thousands of years, ginger fights both inflammation and various types of pain. In a randomized study of young women with painful periods, those who took capsules with powdered ginger root three times daily for five days had significant drops in both the duration and intensity of their menstrual cramps. In another study, ginger extract is as effective as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac in treating patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Ginger was “much safer,” the researchers concluded, since it didn’t have adverse effects on the stomach lining.
- Salmon and fish oil. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish like salmon, halibut, and tuna, or fish oil supplements, could be just what your aching back needs for relief. In a study of 250 patients with neck or back pain, 59 percent were able to stop taking prescription pain medication after being treated with fish oil and 60 percent reported significant reductions in pain. The scientists reported that omega-3 fish oil supplements “appear to be a safer alternative to NSAIDs” for non-surgical neck and back pain. Earlier trials also found fish oil as effective as ibuprofen for quelling arthritis pain. For easy ways to add more fish to your menus, try Pomegranate Pepita Salad with Salmon or Creamy Pesto Halibut.
- Peppermint. Soothing to the digestive system, peppermint oil (taken in capsule form) has proven effective in several studies for reducing such symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as cramps, pain and bloating with success rates of up to 75 percent. Additionally, dabbing the oil on your temples helps quell tension headaches. One small study that compared applying 10 percent peppermint oil topically with acetaminophen found no significant differences in effectiveness between the two treatments, according to a review article in American Family Physician.
- Coffee. Among the many health perks linked to coffee drinking are weight loss and reduced risk for diabetes, stroke and prostate cancer. One of the most surprising benefits of a cup of joe is reduced physical pain, a study found. The researchers asked volunteers to perform uncomfortable tasks that put strain on the neck, shoulders, forearms and wrists. Those who drank a cup of coffee beforehand experienced significantly less pain in these areas. Coffee in moderate amounts also helps ward off gallstones.
- Extra virgin olive oil. EVOO contains several potent antioxidants, including a recently discovered one called oleocanthal. It has similar anti-inflammatory and pain-reliving effects as ibuprofen, aspirin and other NSAIDs, inhibiting production of the pro-inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center report. New research published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience also suggests that this compound may also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-robbing disorders. One of my favorite ways to use EVOO is in Antiox Detox Chopped Salad and I like to pair it with Shrimp Scampi, one of my favorite brain-healthy recipes.