Fighting Stress and Chronic Pain with Foods

Posted 05/27/2015 | By HealthCorps

Mindful meditation is one approach to conquering stress and anxiety.  It can sometimes help with pain management too.  But you can also look to foods as a way to help your body reduce the damaging effects of chronic stress and pain.  It’s important to note that if you’re experiencing chronic stress, you’re also more likely to be susceptible to developing chronic pain.

Certain foods promote serotonin, the feel good, mood-boosting hormone.  Foods with tryptophan, vitamin D, and amino acids like tyrosine, methionine and phenylalanine can influence certain chemical reactions to increase levels of this important neurotransmitter.  Vitamin C-rich foods can help to limit stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.  You also want to avoid highly processed foods which can be high in sugar, since the blood sugar plummet after eating those foods can be rapid and stress provoking.

To fight stress, consider:

  • Tryptophan-rich turkey, shrimp, soy nuts, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Folic acid-rich broccoli can stimulate serotonin production.
  • Dairy products are rich in vitamin D – just limit the full fat versions.
  • Oatmeal and ancient grains can also help to stimulate serotonin, while being digested more slowly than highly processed or “white” grains, like white rice and white bread.
  • Oranges, grapefruits, red and green peppers are rich in vitamin C.
  • Eating crunchy foods like celery, apples and cauliflower can help to reduce stress by their very nature – making you eat slowly and chewing more.

To fight chronic pain, consider eating:

  • Grapes and cranberries which contain resveratrol, a biologic that may help to fight pain.
  • Ginger, a natural anti-inflammatory, can often help with gastric pain.
  • Hot peppers, which contain capsaicin, known to blunt pain.
  • Green tea and pomegranates which are loaded with antioxidants that may help to limit pain.
  • Turmeric, which is considered an anti-inflammatory thanks to curcumin, its active ingredient.

Remember to always check with your doctor to make sure you are not taking any drugs that will interact with these foods.

-Amy Hendel, PA/HealthCoach

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