Raw foods not only nourish the body from the inside out, but also possess curative properties that help alleviate pain and inflammation.
“Diet can be a treatment for pain.” – Dr. James Gruft, board-certified pain specialist
Pain is often believed to be an integral part of life – ideally, it is our body’s way of letting us know when we’re injured, when we’ve strained ourselves or that we need to adjust our posture and even exercise more often. However, numerous other factors, such as genetics, our environment and our diets may also play a role in how we experience pain. While we cannot do anything to change our genetic make-up, and we can do only so much to help our environment, the one area we generally have full control over is what we choose to include in our daily meals.
Various vitamin and mineral deficiencies are known to cause weakness and migraines, joint pain, fatigue and cramping, as well as significantly lower our stress resistance. Optimizing our diets may not only keep us safe from these symptoms, but it may also help us with disease management.
Vitamin D is one of the main nutrients that is closely related to our pain response. Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, senior consultant with the Allina Center for Health Care Innovations in Minnesota, explains that vitamin D is one of the substances that people tend to have a deficiency in, especially in the cold season when natural sunlight exposure decreases.
He explained that “every tissue in our bodies has vitamin D receptors, including all bones, muscles, immune cells, and brain cells”. His 2003 study looking at the relationship between vitamin D levels and chronic pain showed that patients who significantly elevate their vitamin D intake no longer experience chronic pain and fatigue. While sunlight is the best source of natural vitamin D, significant amounts can also be derived from specific raw foods, including mushrooms, yeasts and soy products.
Cinnamon, ginger and turmeric have proven quite effective in keeping different types of cramps and aches at bay. With anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that rival over the counter medication like ibuprofen and aspirin, spices do not attack the stomach lining and non-toxic for the liver and kidneys.
Cherries may well be the new-found raw cure for headaches, according to scientists at Michigan State University. Consuming about a handful of cherries each day can work wonders for migraine-ridden individuals. Romaine lettuce is also a natural source of salicylic acid, which is a compound found in aspirin that has many medicinal properties, including pain relief and fever reduction.
One of the mechanisms that our bodies use to keep us running smoothly on a daily basis is called homeostasis (the regulation of the body’s internal environment) through water-mineral balance. The essential minerals that we require are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, and they are mostly present in our bodily fluids. Since fluid levels in the human body are constantly fluctuating, this environment-regulating mechanism is also continuously struggling to maintain some level of constancy. Mineral imbalances can generate many symptoms, including abdominal cramping, confusion, headaches and muscle weakness.
Drinking lots of water to replace what is lost through sweat and urine, while consuming mineral rich foods is vital to our long-term health. Bananas are a great source of raw, bio-available potassium, and dried herbs (including chives, basil, dill and sage), flax seeds, brazil nuts, almonds and cocoa powder are excellent sources of magnesium. Green leafy vegetables, carrots, wild greens, sprouted lentils, fresh string beans and seaweeds are ideal raw vegan sources of calcium, whereas small amounts of sodium can be derived from most vegetables and, more notably, from seaweeds.
Joint pain and arthritis can be helped by consuming foods rich in Vitamin C, calcium, B-complex vitamins and essential oils. Vitamin C is not only a powerful antioxidant, but also an important factor in collagen production, which is a key component of both cartilage and bone. Calcium and vitamin D help strengthen bones and are especially needed by menopausal women who are at risk of developing osteoarthritis.
B-complex vitamins help reduce joint inflammation, as well as manage pain, while essential oils are known to help ease osteoarthritis pain and leg cramps. Citrus fruits, peppers, cantaloupe and broccoli are exceptional sources of vitamin C; green leafy vegetables and soy specialties are great sources of bio-available calcium, while fermented soy products, soybeans, whole grain cereals, bananas, lentils and sprouted seeds contain many of the B-complex vitamins that are needed for peak health.