Aching joints and sore muscles could be from your own doing -- an overambitious workout or day of vigorous chores -- or they could result from an immune system on overdrive. Inflammation is a natural bodily response to injury, but it sometimes lingers longer than necessary -- acting as if your body is always in a state of distress. What you eat can alleviate, or exacerbate, this inflammation. Avoid foods that contain a lot of trans fats, refined carbohydrates and processed sugars, since these stimulate inflammation. Better choices to alleviate muscle soreness and pain are whole, natural foods containing plenty of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. If you're experiencing muscle and joint pain, consult your doctor -- don't attempt to self-treat with diet.
Antioxidants fight inflammation by ridding your body of free radicals, compounds in pollution and processed foods and that arise during the natural aging process. The most colorful fresh fruits and vegetables are full of these helpful, anti-inflammatory compounds. Examples include blueberries, strawberries, citrus fruit, kale, spinach, red peppers and carrots. Cherries are another antioxidant-rich food to include to fight joint pain and muscle soreness. A study published in a 2013 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition" showed that participants who included cherries at breakfast experienced a 25 percent reduction in markers of inflammation. In 2010, a study in the "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports" found that marathon runners who consumed tart cherry juice reduced inflammation in the athlete's muscles by about 10 percent post-race, aiding in recovery.
The omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, or EPA and DHA, fight joint pain in arthritis patients as well as some over-the-counter pain relievers, researchers confirmed in a 2006 issue of "Surgical Neurology." Fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon or mackerel, is your best choice. Aim to have it twice a week as a baked or broiled entree. Fish oil capsules are an alternative for those who prefer not to eat fish.
Spice It Up
Spices are also sources of antioxidants and other nutritional properties that boost your immune system, reduce inflammation and fight pain. Columbia Health lists nutmeg, ginger, cayenne and oregano among the spices that support good health. The gingerols in ginger help those whose aches are due to osteoarthritis and may reduce soreness in tired muscles. Turmeric, which contains a compound called curcumin, is an ancient, natural treatment used to reduce pain. An analysis published in a 2013 issue of "Biofactors" confirms that curcumin inhibits the spread of inflammatory cells and diminishes their activity.
Trans fats, largely found in commercially fried foods and some processed snack foods, raise your levels of inflammation. So do foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, including vegetable oils, commercial dressings and margarine. Some fats, though, can relieve inflammation and potentially reduce joint and muscle pain. Flax and hemp seeds or oil, walnuts, avocados and olive oil are optimal choices.
- Experience Life: Fighting Inflammation
- Columbia Health: Food for Muscle Regeneration and Healing?
- Journal of Nutrition: Sweet Bing Cherries Lower Circulating Concentrations of Markers for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases in Healthy Humans
- Biofactors: Curcumin in Inflammatory Diseases
- Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports: Influence of Tart Cherry Juice on Indices of Recovery Following Marathon Running
- Surgical Neurology: Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) as an Anti-inflammatory: an Alternative to Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs for Discogenic Pain
- Eating Well: Foods to Soothe Sore Muscles
- Eating Well: Foods That Fight Pain