Chronic muscular, joint or bone pains can be caused by a number of different factors besides injury. Whether increased exercise, high levels of stress, bad sleep, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, hormonal changes, dehydration or autoimmune disorders, these can all lead to muscular aches and pain.
At one point or another, especially during older age, almost everybody experiences some degree of discomfort. It’s not a surprise considering we put our muscle tissues, ligaments, joints and bones through a lot every single day. Chronic pain can come on slowly and last for years and lead to a poor night’s sleep, inactivity or lack of leisurely walks. Pain like this can be felt anywhere, but it’s the most common in the neck, back, trapezius, feet and hamstrings.
Luckily some foods support your body in the recovery process better than others. Whole foods (think fruits, vegetables and healthy sources of fat and protein) provide the nutrients we need to repair broken-down tissue fibers and to prevent reoccurring pains from worsening and lingering. Also importantly, they block or lower inflammation. Implementing an anti-inflammatory diet, muscle, joint and bone pain caused from swelling can decrease and pain will then start to ease away.
Certain vitamins and minerals also help keep our energy levels up and prevent deficiencies, fatigue or dehydration that can all contribute to an increased risk for developing inflammatory disorders, weak bones that lead to falls or exercise/sports-related injuries. These include a few vital electrolytes, vitamins and trace minerals, especially:
- Magnesium (an electrolyte essential for fluid balance and pain reduction)
- Potassium (another electrolyte that helps your heart to function properly and increases circulation)
- Calcium (important for keeping bones strong and building bone mineral density, so you don’t suffer from falls, fractures and pains)
- Zinc, selenium, copper (trace minerals that help with nerve signaling and prevent exhaustion)
- B vitamins (help your body turn food into useable energy)
- Iron (helps with blood flow and carrying oxygen to muscles)
- Iodine (helps with thyroid function and balances hormones so you cope with physical stress better)
- Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Vegetables and fruits are the keys to reduce inflammation fastest because they’re loaded with antioxidants. Inflammation is the underlying cause of chronic pain, swelling, heat, redness and really all disease. It’s caused over time as the immune system works on overdrive to “attack” what it perceives to be a threat to the body. The problem is that while your immune system fires off white blood cells and protective protein enzymes to try and protect itself, it begins attacking healthy tissue in the process which leads to disease and pain development.
So first and foremost, eat your greens and vegetables! All kinds are great, but leafy greens (like romaine, kale and spinach for example) and berries are easy to find and chock full of nutrients. Not eating enough veggies? Add some to a green smoothie; roast them with some olive oil and garlic; make a big salad daily for lunch; throw some into sauces; or disguise some greens and add a bit to homemade pesto or guacamole
Starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, squash, taro, yucca, yams) also provide an array of the important nutrients discussed above, in addition to complex carbs. These provide your body with glucose that it needs to restore energy and repair tissues after you’ve used up a lot during a workout or physical activity. These are perfect to have prior to working out, just after finishing exercising, or really any time of day if you’re pretty active. About 1/2 to 1 cup cooked at a time is a good serving size to keep calories in check, but you can add some vegetables and fruit to increase the volume even more.
- Foods High In Magnesium
It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of all adults are deficient in magnesium!
Magnesium can be found in foods like: spinach, black beans, almonds, avocadoes, broccoli, Swiss chard, potatoes and cashews. Some of the major functions of magnesium include: helping to digest foods and turn nutrients into energy that repair bodily tissue, controlling muscle contractions and spasms, helping to balance your mood and energy levels by regulating hormones, and soothing the gut lining/digestive tract which helps prevent inflammation.
Magnesium deficiency can cause a range of noticeable painful symptoms—such as muscle aches, leg spasms, abdominal pains or digestive distress, trouble sleeping due to pain, and migraines or headaches. In fact magnesium is actually involved in over 300 biochemical functions in the body, so not having enough is almost guaranteed to form pain in one way or another!
- Healthy Fats
Fats lubricate joints and help keep the gut environment balanced, which is important for controlling immune functions that govern pain, swelling and inflammation. They’re also needed for us to absorb and metabolize fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D and E. When we don’t include them in our meals we miss out on valuable vitamins that can help fight free radical damage, and therefore signs of aging and pain.
Olive oil, coconut oil and coconut products, omega-3 containing fish like salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds are all good healthy fats to eat often. Coconut oil is one of the most healing fats since its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial too, meaning it’s really great for your immune and central nervous system! Avocados and nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, walnuts and chia seeds are also high sources of various trace minerals including B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and magnesium.
- Quality Sources of Protein
Organic and grass-fed animal products (or pasture-raised or wild-caught depending on the type) provide plenty of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), energizing B vitamins, choline, magnesium and iron. They are a great source of trace minerals that help your body use food in order to build back fatigued muscles and tissue.
The complete set of essential amino acids they provide is important for muscle recovery and keeping bones strong, but you won’t find all essential amino acids in plant foods like beans or legumes. This means you run the risk of deficiencies, hormonal issues and potentially your body using its own muscle tissue for energy. Avoid factory farm-raised meats and farm-raised fish; instead look for quality products, since these are much less inflammatory and provide higher levels of nutrients too. Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like cold-water fish (chia seeds and walnuts too) really help reduce inflammation in the body and therefore pain.
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