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5 foods for fighting pain

5 foods for fighting pain

Whether it’s lingering aches after a tough workout, a headache or a minor injury, research shows that some foods can help relieve the pain without taking pills. 

While some foods can cause inflammation (think sugar, wheat and meat), evidence shows that others contain anti-inflammatory compounds which can help reduce pain, sometimes as well as  commonly prescribed medicines.

Here are 5 foods to eat to help relieve pain:


This knobbly root has been used for treating pain in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine for at least 2,500 years. Research shows it also contains powerful compounds which fight inflammation. Clinical trials demonstrated that people suffering from osteoarthritis who took highly concentrated ginger pills were able to reduce their pain by almost 40 percent over a placebo. 

Try ginger tea, biscuit, curries, stir-fries and even eating it raw if you’re brave enough!


Adding as much colour to your diet is always good. In lab tests these tart cherries – and other berries such as blueberries, pomegranates and cranberries – impart powerful pain relief.

One study showed that people drinking one fluid ounce of cherry juice daily for 10 days recovered more quickly from intensive workout sessions indicating reduced exercise-induced muscle damage.


Known as ‘holy powder’ in India, turmeric contains curcumin, an active anti-inflammatory ingredient which is prized for its pain-relieving properties in Auyurveda.  Recent clinical trials show that, just like over-the-counter NSAIDs, turmeric blocks the formation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (PGE2).

Try taking a teaspoon in some warm milk, and add liberally to your soups, baking, stews and curries.


Eating omega-3 rich fish is great for your health even if you don’t suffer with pain. But these healthy fats found in oily fish also reduce inflammation, particularly for arthritis sufferers. One US clinical trial showed over half of all participants taking fish oil for 3 months dropped their drug pain relief altogether. 

Aim for two to four portions of oily fish a week, including herring, mackerel, sardines and trout. You should lightly steam or grill fish, as overcooking can destroy over half the omega-3s, and don’t forget tinned salmon is just as healthy.


Caffeine is already an ingredient in many pain-relieving drugs. So that post-workout coffee may not be such a bad idea after all.

One small study found that moderate doses of caffeine (around 250mg – equivalent to two cups of coffee) two days after exercising helped reduce the muscle soreness that many people experience. It is believed to work by blocking the body’s pain receptors to adenosine, a chemical released in response to inflammation.


the author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for Hussle. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.