8 Foods That Reduce Pain (+ What Foods To Avoid)

April 2, 2022

Living with chronic pain but want to avoid prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers and their unwanted side effects? Well, there’s one natural remedy for pain that many people aren’t aware of: There are several foods that reduce pain—and these benefits are backed by years of science!

The truth of the matter is that living with chronic pain is challenging. Fortunately, there are many natural pain remedies available to you. From deep breathing to exercise, there are several options that may help, depending on the source of your pain.

But today we’re going to focus on the little-known area of foods that reduce pain and take a look at which foods are proven most effective by research. And then I’ll share the top six pain-causing foods to avoid.

You don’t have to live with chronic pain, so let’s dive in so you know exactly what you should and shouldn’t be eating for pain relief!


The Top 8 Foods That Reduce Pain

Here are eight of my favorite foods that reduce pain, along with some creative suggestions on how to use them.

1. Ginger

The aromatic and flavorful properties of ginger can bring your cooking to the next level. But that’s not all—it also one of the foods that reduce pain.

In a 2018 study, researchers compared the pain-relieving properties of ginger to Novafen (which contains acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and caffeine).

They split a group of women aged 18 through 26 into two groups. One group received 200 mg of Novafen at the onset of menstrual cramps, while the other received 200 mg of ginger.

Study participants self-reported decreased pain from both Novafen and ginger. As a result of ginger’s effectiveness, the researchers concluded that the primary treatment for menstrual cramps should be herbal therapy. [1]

As you can see, ginger is an effective pain reliever that you may want to keep on hand. In fact, you can put its pain-relieving benefits to the test with my Lemon Ginger Cayenne Detox Shot recipe!

2. Garlic

I don’t think you can add too much garlic to anything! It’s a nutrient-packed addition to just about any delicious meal … and it’s also one of the foods that reduce pain!

So, how effective is it

Studies show that consuming 1,000 mg of garlic tablets reduced knee pain among overweight and obese women. [2]

This is most likely due to decreased levels of resistin, an adipocytokine (a bioactive product produced by adipose tissue) that promotes inflammation in the body.

You can put garlic in almost any dish, but one way I like to make sure I get it on a regular basis is by infusing it in olive oil. You can get that recipe here.

3. Cherries

Cherry pie, a sundae with cherries on top, and fresh cherries as a healthy snack are all so sweet and delicious! But in addition to satisfying your sweet tooth, they may also help you out if you're experiencing pain.

That’s right—cherries are known to be one of the foods that reduce pain!

Evidence shows that tart cherry juice reduces pain in athletes. Not only that, but it also decreases the amount of inflammation and oxidative stress markers in your blood. And if you exercise, tart cherry juice can also help you recover more quickly! [3]

When you plan to consume cherries, just remember to try to limit inflammation-producing sugar you’re eating with them. For example, instead of indulging in a dairy-based milkshake, try adding a cherry to my Healthy Shamrock Shake!

4. Turmeric

Did you know that people have used turmeric to treat pain from arthritis for centuries? It’s among the foods that reduce pain due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in its high levels of curcumin. [4]

In fact, a 2017 study of 36 people with rheumatoid arthritis revealed that those who took curcumin for 90 days reported improvements in their joint pain compared with those who took a placebo. [5]

Turmeric also has positive effects on type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia, as well as other conditions.

If you’re looking for easy, delicious ways to incorporate more turmeric in your diet, try out my Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte and Sweet Potato Curry recipes!

5. Hot Peppers

If you love spicy foods, it turns out you may be onto something! The capsaicin in hot peppers such as cayenne and jalapeños make them some of the best foods that reduce pain.

The analgesic effects of capsaicin are so widely accepted that there are actually clinical treatments that use synthetic capsaicin for pain relief. They come in the form of transdermal patches and injections that can relieve pain for a whole day! [6]

Keep in mind that since these compounds are responsible for spiciness in your food, they usually cause burning at first before pain relief sets in.

If you’re looking for a way to add more hot peppers to your diet, consider trying my Savory Immune-Boosting Soup, which also features a few other foods that reduce pain!

6. Leafy Green Vegetables

If you think back to your childhood, I bet you can remember your parents telling you to eat your greens so you could grow big and strong. Now, you can eat them to help relieve pain from headaches and migraines, too!

In a 2021 case report, doctors reported studying the case of a 60-year-old man with frequent migraines who didn’t get relief from any traditional treatments.

He suffered from up to 24 headaches a month for over 12 years. When everything else failed, his doctor prescribed a plant-based diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables. [7]

Within three months, he stopped taking medication to prevent his debilitating migraines because they were gone!

If your pain stems from migraines, you may want to give a diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables a try. If you need some tips, check out my article on 12 Easy Ways to Eat More Greens.

7. Blueberries

Looking for a versatile ingredient that’s great for almost any meal or snack? Blueberries fit the bill!

These small fruits are great in salads, pancakes, and desserts. Plus, it just so happens that they are among foods that reduce pain!

How effective are they?

A 2019 double-blind clinical trial studied the effects of blueberries on symptomatic osteoarthritis in the knee. The experimental group consumed 40 mg of freeze-dried whole blueberry powder every day for four months, while the control group received a placebo. [8]

Participants in the blueberry group reported decreased pain and stiffness along with improved mobility and quality of life.

Accordingly, you may want to try incorporating more blueberries into your diet if you’re experiencing pain.

For a fun way to enjoy blueberries, check out my recipe for No-Bake Mini Cheesecake Bites with Blueberries.

8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I don’t know about you, but I use extra virgin oil very frequently. It’s great for searing steaks, sautéing vegetables, and it’s a key ingredient for many salad dressings.

But did you know it’s also one of the foods that reduce pain? And you probably already have it in your kitchen!

Here’s what the research has to say: A study measured the pain-reducing properties of extra virgin olive oil among Iranian women with rheumatoid arthritis in their hands and knees.

Researchers separated the women into five groups, which all received different treatment interventions. Three groups rubbed extra virgin olive oil, paraffin oil, and piroxicam gel on the affected areas. Another group used dry massages, and the final group used routine medications. [9]

Surprisingly, all five interventions successfully reduced pain and other symptoms among the women. Given the availability and affordability of extra virgin olive oil, the researchers concluded that it was the preferred treatment method to reduce pain from rheumatoid arthritis.


Foods that reduce pain - Dr. Pingel


6 Pain-Causing Foods To Avoid

Incorporating foods that reduce pain into your diet is easy, but it’s just as important to avoid foods that cause pain, too!

Foods that cause inflammation are common culprits for pain. Many times, foods that are high in sugar and fat or are highly processed are to blame. Avoiding sweets, fast food, and fatty meats can help reduce your pain

If you’re sensitive to gluten, that may also be causing you pain. Discuss it with your doctor if you notice you’re experiencing pain after eating meals that include pasta, bread, crackers, or other foods with gluten. They can test you for celiac disease and other conditions that cause adverse reactions to gluten.


Key Takeaways

  • There are many foods that reduce pain. Incorporating more of them into your diet is easy and convenient since you probably eat most of them already!
  • You don’t always have to eat these foods to glean their pain-relieving benefits. You can apply pain-relieving capsaicin from hot peppers to your skin.
  • Several foods can also induce pain, including those rich in sugar, fats, and gluten. Avoiding these and processed foods can help in addition to eating more foods that reduce pain!
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