I have had chronic pain in my knee for a very long time. I tore my ACL playing basketball in college and have had other minor tears, sprains and even a medial meniscal cyst over the last ten years. All of this has left a tremendous amount of scar tissue, arthritis and pain in my knee. I have been advised that I need a total knee replacement but have been doing as many natural things as possible to postpone or possibly forego this all together.
I am a firm believer in food as being my first stop for relief and because of this, I have experimented with a number of foods in my diet searching for those that bring the most relief. It is amazing how much just adjusting your diet slightly can have an impact on pain levels. After many years of experimenting, here are the five foods and spices that have brought me the most relief.
Tart Cherries: Eating tart cherries or drinking cherry juice is a well-known remedy for pain and inflammation. Science is just now catching up to what many have known for years, cherries do, in fact, relieve pain associated with such conditions as arthritis. In one study it was found that eating as few as ten tart cherries per day protects against gout, a painful form of inflammatory arthritis.
Other studies seem promising with regards to tart cherry juice and osteoarthritis. Research published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage found that patients who drank 16 ounces of tart cherry juice per day for six weeks had marked improvement in joint pain, stiffness, and flexibility. I myself enjoy a small bowl of cherries at least 3 days a week and notice an improvement in both pain and flexibility of my injured knee.
Ginger: Ginger has been used a natural inflammatory for thousands of years. A study from the University of Miami found that a highly concentrated ginger extract significantly reduced pain and stiffness in knees joints when compared to a placebo. They concluded that ginger extract might one day be a substitute for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. I drink a couple cups of tea with fresh ginger root and can really notice a difference in my knee pain and swelling.
Turmeric: This ancient spice is loaded with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Its ability to reduce inflammation and fight pain come from the main ingredient, curcumin. Turmeric has been proven to be effective against all kinds of inflammatory pain such as muscle sprains, injuries, and arthritis. There are a number of ways to get a turmeric fix but the one I found most effective for me was to just add ground turmeric to many of my dishes. It is especially delicious on eggs, in soup, stews and even on salads. I also enjoyed turmeric tea and a turmeric topical rub for my knee.
Coffee: I was excited to see that coffee made my list for helping with my pain. Caffeine is a powerful pain reducer. It blocks receptors in the brain known as ‘adenosines.’ which cause the body to relax and activate dopamine chemicals that reduce pain and improve energy. I found that if I drink a cup of coffee prior to working out helped me to recover without pain after working out and allowed my joints to recover faster. A study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign shows that small doses of caffeine before working out may prolong the duration of a person’s exercise.
Oranges: Oranges contain beta-cryptoxanthin, a phytochemical that can decrease the development of inflammatory joint conditions. I eat one orange a day as part of my anti-inflammatory diet. If you struggle with insulin resistance, be sure to eat your fruit before noon.
In addition to including anti-inflammatory foods and spices in your diet be sure that you are getting daily exercise, sleeping at least 7 hours a night and managing stress. All of these things will go a long ways towards helping reduce pain and swelling.