Healing Meals: Foods That May Fight Pain

Pain eating at you? Maybe it's time to bite back.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 10:22 AM

April 9, 2008 — -- Eleven years ago, Sandy Guerriere of North Carolina was crippled with pain and nearly bedridden from her rheumatoid arthritis.

"I was scared. … I couldn't do anything, I lay in bed," she said. "The disease is horrible."

That was then. Now, Guerriere is up and walking, enjoying her career and looking decades younger than her 61 years.

Her remedy, she claims, is not due to any drug or medical treatment -- but a diet.

Guerriere eats strictly a Mediterranean diet -- rich in olive oil, vegetables and whole grains and avoids dairy, processed flour and sugar. She also swears by juicing -- blending up fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs for a daily, healthful concoction.

Guerriere's regimen is only one of many diets that are rumored to help people combat their pain conditions. The Internet lists diets and foods promising to cure chronic pain, from gluten-free food to gin-soaked raisins. And while our diets can influence our health in myriad ways, the question remains as to how much our daily meals affect how we physically feel.

"There are many foods that are recommended [for pain management] based on small studies," said Dr. Joseph Sherman, chair of pain management at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., "Bottom line, these are just small studies. … We'd like them to be a lot more evidence based."

Sherman lists a series of foods that may help with pain: cherries, soy, oranges, peaches, asparagus, cranberries, cauliflower and kiwi, to name a few.

But these foods won't necessarily help erase pain for those with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the pain and stiffness comes from the body's natural inflammatory response that's gone haywire. Susan Levin, staff dietitian for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, explains that certain chemicals in fats can "fan the flames of inflammation, while others cool them down."

So going fat-free may help avoid the inflammation. Then again, other foods may be the culprit. Levin notes that dairy, chocolate, eggs, citrus, meat, wheat, corn and nuts can exacerbate inflammation, along with beverages such as red wine, coffee, tea and sodas.