Q: Recently, I’ve been suffering from some severe joint pain, but I’m concerned about becoming dependent on NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin. Are there any foods, herbs or vitamins that will help ease the pain?
A: There are plenty of health-promoting options that ease swelling. “Healthy fats are anti-inflammatory, especially the polyunsaturated fats that can be found in cold-water fish — salmon, cod and anchovies, for example — and raw nuts such as walnuts and almonds, and seeds like pumpkin and sunflower,” says Marie Winters, ND, a naturopathic physician at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at East Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia. “Thai basil, rosemary and the spices in curries (especially ginger, turmeric and cayenne) are also anti-inflammatory.”
Winters recommends checking out the supplement Zyflamend, which combines some of the spices above. She also suggests a digestive enzyme called Wobenzym, which helps mitigate joint inflammation when taken without food.
“There’s strong scientific evidence in favor of vitamin D3, willow bark and chondroitin sulfate for decreasing joint pain,” says Bryan P. Walsh, ND, a naturopath in Ellicott City, Md. “Another promising supplement is S-adenosylmethionine, or SAMe [pronounced ‘sam-EE’].” Work with your health practitioner to figure out appropriate dosages.
But before exploring these options, says Walsh, it’s important to determine why you’re suffering from joint pain in the first place. If it’s wear and tear, it could be osteoarthritis, and the above recommendations will likely be helpful. If, on the other hand, the pain is caused by rheumatoid arthritis (where the immune system attacks the joints), you might require a more detailed treatment program.
A poor diet or food intolerances can also cause a bodywide inflammatory reaction, says Walsh. He recommends doing an elimination diet (no gluten, dairy, soy, corn, sugar or artificial sweeteners) for three weeks, then see how you feel as you reintroduce each potentially inflammatory agent. (For a good elimination-diet protocol, see “The UltraSimple Slimdown”.)