Got Pain? There's a Food for That

  • Senior couple checking kitchen cupboards
    The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen
    Searching for chronic-pain relief is an ongoing challenge. While traditional painkillers can provide you with a needed break, ongoing use of pain medication can leave you with permanent damage to your stomach and other organs.

    Luckily, there are some foods that act as natural—and stomach-friendly—pain-relieving alternatives. Whether you’re fighting headaches, joint pain or another nagging ailment, consider adding these seven foods into your diet to fight pain naturally.

  • watermelon
    Watermelon for a Headache
    Since some headaches stem from dehydration, replenishing your liquids with watermelon may eliminate that painful throbbing. Your brain is sensitive to any decrease in the ions found in your body’s liquid stores, like potassium and sodium. This means consuming foods with these nutrients can fight a dehydration-related headache. In addition to a glass of water, try rehydrating with watermelon, which not only offers a high water content, but also those essential minerals you lose when dehydrated. 

  • All About Olive Oil
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Joint Pain
    Extra virgin olive oil naturally combats achy joints. Thanks to a compound called oleocanthal, olive oil has similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen. To reap its pain-relieving benefits, look for oils with the highest oleocanthal levels, those that are extra virgin and cold-pressed (never heated). Since about three-fifths tablespoon of oil is equal to 200 mg of ibuprofen, toss a tablespoon onto your salad, or drizzle it on your bread for a tasty and pain-relieving meal addition.

  • Chopped garlic in a plate with garlic bulb and cloves
    Garlic for a Toothache
    Garlic can help ease tooth pain while you’re waiting to get to the dentist. Just after being crushed or chopped, garlic forms allicin, a compound with antibiotic and topical pain-relieving properties. Mix one crushed clove with a sprinkle of salt to form a paste, and rub it directly onto your painful tooth. (Know that this can irritate gums, so rub the mixture only onto the painful tooth area.) Leave it on for several minutes, and then rinse with warm water.

  • Cup of coffee
    Coffee for Muscle Soreness
    In addition to your morning perk-up, caffeine can provide you with relief for exercise-induced muscle soreness. One study monitored people who consumed caffeine 24 and 48 hours after a workout, and they showed a reduction in pain compared to those who went caffeine-free. Other studies have shown that combining caffeine with a standard pain reliever, like ibuprofen, can even further reduce temporary muscle pain. So keep that coffee in your routine following a tough workout or particularly active day.

  • Salmon fish fillet with fresh herbs
    Salmon for Neck and Back Pain
    Salmon packs a hefty dose of pain-fighting omega-3s, which reduce neck and back pain by fighting inflammation. One study had patients with non-surgical pain take 1200 mg of omega-3s every day. After an average of 75 days, 60% of them reported reduced pain, showing similar effectiveness to traditional non-prescription painkillers. Make salmon a regular part of your diet by baking it in the oven, sautéing it on your stovetop, or tossing it flaked into some pasta or on a sandwich. 

  • Ginger
    Ginger for Nausea
    Long used as an herbal medicine, ginger has been shown to decrease queasiness related to motion and morning sickness. Gingerols, the root’s active ingredients, provide its characteristic taste and are suspected to be behind ginger’s stomach-calming properties. If you’re feeling nauseated, swallowing some ginger is worth a try—shave it fresh into some hot water to make a tea, or swallow it in capsule form. (Ginger pills are available at most health food stores.)

Got Pain? There's a Food for That

About The Author

Allison Firestone has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade. She is currently working on her doctorate in education, specializing in disability, learning, and childhood mental health. She has a master’s in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley and a master’s in special education from the University of Oregon.
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  3. Caffeine Attenuates Delayed-onset Muscle Pain and Force Loss Following Eccentric Exercise. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 
  4. Dietary Strategies for Improving Post-Prandial Glucose, Lipids, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 
  5. Efficacy of Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting: A Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials. British Journal of Anaesthesia. 
  6. Ginger. University of Maryland Medical Center. 
  7. Olive Oil Reduces Inflammation. Arthritis Foundation. 
  8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) as an Anti-inflammatory: And Alternative to Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs for Discogenic Pain. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 
  9. TRPV1: On the Road to Pain Relief. U.S. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.