My guess is that you’ve landed here because you’ve either Googled “anti-inflammatory foods”, or you’ve been hearing me talk about the risks of popping over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers on social media, and wondering what your alternatives are.
Either way, welcome!
I’ve got great information to share on both accounts, so come on in!
Picture this…maybe you can relate,
You have a meeting in an hour and you feel another headache brewing… “ugh”.
You reach into your bag, hoping you’ll find that bottle of Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Advil…
Anything if it works!
You know they aren’t great for you, but you’re in a pinch…again (sigh).
You’re a rockstar at work, and you run a tight ship at home too, but when it comes to taking care of your own health… it feels all you have energy for is the quick fix.
Trust me, I get it, because I lived that life for years! In fact, I share about it in my book Corporate Dropouts if you want the full messy story.
But today, I’m offering you two things:
- Some natural (but effective) alternatives to consider for pain relief
- A bigger question I want you to start thinking about, which is: why are you experiencing this pain in the first place? This question applies when it comes to pain of any kind… period cramps, joint pain, and even anxiety!
But before we dive into the bigger question, let’s start with some quick wins – my top recommendations for natural relief.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods Can Help
Pharmaceuticals are relatively new to us; pain is not. For centuries, natural pain relievers have been tried and tested. Our earth is wise and gives us many natural anti-inflammatories to choose from.
Inflammation arises when there is damage to our body’s tissues, whether from injury or prolonged exposure to stimuli that have activated the immune response. Adding in the following foods may prevent additional inflammation and some, like white willow bark, can even be used as a fast acting natural pain reliever.⁴
Anti-Inflammatory Foods #1 | White Willow Bark
White willow bark is an ancient remedy that has an ibuprofen-like quality with incredible anti-inflammatory properties. It contains salicin, polyphenols, and flavonoids that all support basic body functions and can significantly decrease inflammation. Research concludes that the combination of materials in willow bark make it a superfood against inflammation, which eases headaches, and releases muscle tension.³
Reach for white willow bark as a powerful natural ibuprofen alternative in a capsule or tincture form.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods #2 | Turmeric
There is tons of research to support the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric!
Its compound, curcumin, is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals that cause damage to our cells. It is also effective in reducing swelling and inflammation.²
You can add turmeric as a supplement to your daily routine as well as add it to different food dishes and drinks to help reduce inflammation.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods #3 | Boswellia
Boswellia is better known as frankincense. Yes, the same one you use as an essential oil to add that delicious earthy smell to your home blend! It’s effective in treating inflammation and even brain swelling, along with asthma and arthritis.²
You can use it as an essential oil, in a tincture, or as a pill.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods #4 | Cloves
Cloves offer more than a delicious smell! They are a wonder herb that help with headaches, toothaches, arthritic inflammation, and can even be found in some over-the-counter topical creams!²
Take cloves in a powder or capsule for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods #5 | Ginger
Ginger is a lovely addition to your tea or stir-fry, but it’s also one of the most effective natural anti-inflammatories available. It lowers prostaglandin levels making it excellent at reducing inflammation.²
Add some ginger to your next grocery delivery and freshly grate when cooking. Traditional Medicinals makes an organic tea that is widely available at most grocery stores.
While these make great options for a natural ibuprofen alternative, they don’t get to the bottom of the issue.
In fact, to be entirely honest… I see them as band-aids that mask a larger and deeper issue. Don’t get me wrong… they are better than over-the-counter options, but I don’t want you to stop there.
Pain As A Fire Alarm
Pain plays a very important role in our lives.
Despite the discomfort, pain alerts us to sometimes life-threatening situations. What would happen if our bodies didn’t alert us to the hot stove that we are touching?
One of the first things that happens when I work with someone is we take a Medical Symptoms Questionnaire to see what is going on with their bodies… combined then with a series of cutting-edge labs. These two data points help us get to the underlying cause of your symptoms, whether that’s physical pain, or something like anxiety or depression.
If however you work with a practitioner or primary care provider who simply says to continue taking medication without an end date in sight, then it’s time to look deeper. Because your pain is there to alert you to an imbalance. Period pain is a sign that of an imbalance of estrogen. Bloating and discomfort after eating is a sign you’re not breaking down your food properly which could point to all manner of situations.
So… back to your headache. Or perhaps the menstrual pain that brings you to your knees each month. These are not immediately lifesaving, like the response to a burning stove. Instead, they indicate that the body is experiencing inflammation outside the normal limits, and this shouldn’t be masked!
Very few practitioners assess where the input is coming from and why the body’s alarm is sounding, choosing instead to give anti-inflammatories to quiet the alarm 🙅♀️
Drugs (and natural anti-inflammatories) Are Only Silencing The Alarm
When we take anti-inflammatories, natural or pharmaceutical, we are only silencing the alarm. Just as taking anti-anxiety meds may calm you down, but it doesn’t address why you are experiencing the anxiety in the first place.
Eating a diet rich in inflammatory foods certainly helps! But there may be another reason for the pain, stress or food sensitivities, that needs to be addressed from a different angle.
Ultimately, when choosing an anti-inflammatory to stop the pain we are not getting to the root cause of what is causing the pain.
Are the Side Effects of Medications Worth It?
Quick fixes are never as magical as they seem.
That long list of side effects listed on insert of your meds applies to you too… not only a select few.
Is it worth taking medication to stifle anxiety, period pain, or stomach pain, if the result is wiping out your gut flora and harming your nutrient absorption or hormone health? Harm to the gut is only the start of a cascade of other health issues.
Long term use of medications not only harms the gut and liver function, but once those are compromised, you’ll likely experience issues with:
- Hormone balance
- Nutrient absorption, and even
- Mood & mental health
Gut health is at the center of a thriving life – this is a cornerstone of functional medicine.
We have to take care of our gut and address the long term habits that may create a dysfunctional gut environment.
Dr. Daniel Figeys, professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology AT UOttawa states, “Drugs should have two labels—one label for its effect on the host, and another for its effect on the microbiome”.¹
Next time you reach for an anti-inflammatory, pause and consider if:
- It’s worth continued damage to your gut health
- It’s simply covering up something else that deserves investigation
Addressing the Real Problem
The purpose of the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) approach is to uncover the H.I.D.D.E.N. drivers behind your anxiety, headaches, joint paints and other unwanted symptoms. The D.R.E.S.S protocol that I use, is specifically designed to correct imbalances within the body so you can live with ease.
The good news is – you have a choice!
You make decisions every day that can either assist your body to thrive or create harmful and long-lasting side-effects.
Let’s break down the D.R.E.S.S protocol.
A diet rich in nourishing foods gives your body powerful building materials and is absolutely essential in the healing process. We work with clients to determine which diet is best for them because no two people are exactly alike! As a blanket rule, try to buy local and organic whenever possible, and choose foods that are minimally processed.
Rest allows the body to pause, take note of the stressors of the day, and integrate any new information gathered. It allows the body to properly digest & utilize food. Without deep and restful sleep, your body is not able to thrive and function at an optimal level.
Exercise is invaluable for more than just weight loss. Breaking a sweat & getting your body active helps with circulation, detoxification, bone health, mental health, and more! We are not designed to be sedentary. It’s also an incredible stress reliever! The one caveat is that if you’re dealing with a body that is fatigued engaging in strenuous exercise is best avoided until the body has healed.
With all the chaos of life, intentional stress reduction is crucial. It’s impossible to avoid stress entirely, but creating a healthy stress management protocol provides you with tools to use whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation.
Targeted supplementation can also be highly beneficial, even with a healthy diet. When working on resolving underlying stressors, adding very specific supplements (based on lab results) at specific times can really move the needle along in giving the body what it needs to repair itself.
If You’re Ready to Move Beyond Pills & Anti-inflammatory Foods, Let’s Connect
My sole purpose is to help you demystify why you’re experiencing pain, anxiety, discomfort, or fatigue so that you can live the fullest life possible. A life free from the gnawing gurgling in your tummy, or that monthly cycle that keeps you from being at your 100% best, or enjoying adventure-packed weekends with your family.
If you’re ready to finally put yourself first, book a Clarity Coffee with me today! Let’s discuss how we can take you from being dependent on anti-inflammatories to being the CEO of your health!
P.S. If you found this helpful, you may also enjoy my blog post on natural anxiety solutions.