5 Nutrients that May Ease Chronic Pain

November 13, 2016




Meghan Gilmour

Irritation, discomfort, soreness, aching; whatever you call it, chronic pain is an unpleasant experience. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the treatment of chronic pain costs $34.3 billion annually, an average of $11,000 per sufferer!

Chronic pain is defined as any discomfort lasting more than three months and common treatments for pain include medications (such as paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), and opioid analgesics, which are associated with an increased risk of adverse reactions, dependence, and mortality), corrective surgery, acupuncture, electrical stimulation therapies (such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, therapy), and nerve blocks.

All these treatments are costly and may result in adverse side effects. Additionally, less risky forms of pain therapy (such as psychotherapy, biofeedback, and massage), may reduce pain, but are extremely costly.

While it is crucial to seek the advice of a qualified medical professional when experiencing pain, certain nutrients may also assist in pain management:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Found in: fatty fish (such as tuna, mackerel, trout, salmon, and sardines), nuts (particularly walnuts), vegetable oils, flaxseed, flaxseed oils, leafy vegetables, and omega-3 supplements. 

Why It Works: Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection that occurs when the body sends white blood cells, fluids, and other healing substances to a damaged area. This causes dilation of the blood vessels and increased blood flow, leading to localized warmth, pain, redness, and swelling. Though inflammation is a crucial component of immunity, chronic inflammation is painful and harmful to the body.

Numerous studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acid consumption can help reduce inflammation and pain. It is recommended that adult males (over the age of 19) consume 160 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids daily, while adult females (over the age of 19) require 90 milligrams daily.

2. Anthocyanin

Found in: avocadoes, berries (such as black currants, strawberries, elderberries, and blackberries), eggplant, cherries, black plums, blood oranges, red cabbage, red and purple grapes, red wine, and OTC supplements.

Hint: Look for bright orange, blue, and purple-colored foods, as anthocyanins produce this color in fruits and vegetables.

Why It Works: Anthocyanins are antioxidants that reduce inflammation, resulting less pain, swelling, and soreness in the body. The best way to promote adequate anthocyanin consumption is to consume five bright orange, purple, or blue-colored vegetables each day.

3. Soy

Found in: soybeans, soy sauce, soy meat alternatives, tofu, miso, soymilk, soy supplements, and any product made with soy protein.

Why It Works: Many studies indicate that soy is anti-inflammatory. It negates inflammatory agents in the body, including c-reactive proteins (proteins produced by the liver in response to inflammation). It should be noted that the typical Australian diet is abundant in soy, as this food is used in a host of processed food products.

4. Turmeric

Found in: the spice aisle and turmeric/curcumin supplements. Turmeric is a yellow spice harvested and grounded from the root of the turmeric plant.

Why it Works: Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance that reduces inflammation by blocking inflammatory enzymes and cytokines (small proteins that contribute to the inflammatory response by enabling cellular communication). Recommended dosage for pain relief is typically 400 to 600 milligrams (in pill form) or .5 to 1 gram of powdered root, three times daily.

*It is important to note that high doses of this spice can act as a blood thinner and produce an upset stomach. Please do not take turmeric if you are taking blood thinners, such as coumadin.*

5. Melatonin

Found in: tart cherries, grape skins, walnuts, tomatoes, and melatonin supplements.

Why it Works: Melatonin is a hormone produced primarily by the pineal gland of the brain, but it is also present in some plant foods (see above). This hormone plays a key role in regulating sleep patterns, but research also shows that it may help manage pain by reducing inflammation. For pain relief, a dosage of approximately 5 to 10 milligrams nightly for six months may help relieve pain.9Nutrient therapy can be helpful in the reduction of chronic pain.

Those interested in nutrient therapy should seek the advice of an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. It is important to note that supplements may interfere with medications and over-supplementation may cause an imbalance in the body, leading to more problems. Therefore, an accredited professional is imperative to the pain sufferer’s safety.

Nature has provided an abundance of resources to reduce chronic pain. Please remember that the best way to consume nutrients is as Mother Nature intended: in the form of natural, whole foods.

Get Your Blend On

A great way to get some of these potentially anti-inflammatory & pain relieving foods into your diet is by kick starting your day with a healthy smoothie with ingredients such as turmeric, pineapple, cherries and avocado.

*Please note* It is extremely important that the pain sufferer inform their doctor about every supplement they are taking. Supplements can interfere with certain medications and medical treatments. 


  1. Characteristics of bodily pain in Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics Website. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4841.0Chapter12011. Updated July 24, 2012. Accessed April 9, 2016.
  2. Non-opioid medicines for chronic pain. NPS MedicineWise Website. Accessed April 9, 2016.
  3. Chronic pain: Limited evidence for opioids. NPS MedicineWise Website. Accessed April 9, 2016.
  4. Overview of Inflammation. Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center Website. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/inflammation. Accessed April 9, 2016.
  5. Fats: Total fat & fatty acids. National Health and Medical Research Council Website. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/fats-total-fat-fatty-acids. Updated September 4, 2014. Accessed April 9, 2016.
  6. Webb D. Anthocyanins. Today’s Dietitian. Mar 2014;16(3):20-20.
  7. Turmeric. Arthritis Foundation Website. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/turmeric.php. Accessed April 9, 2016.
  8. Wilhemsen M, Amirian I, Reiter RJ, Rosenberg J, Gogenur I. Analgesic effects of melatonin: a review of current evidence from experimental and clinical studies. J Pineal Res. 2011;51:270-277.
  9. Melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). Mayo Clinic Website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/melatonin/dosing/hrb-20059770. Accessed April 9, 2016.
Meghan Gilmour

ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Nutrition Coach, Blogger. Qualified with Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Science & Master of Science in Applied Nutrition (Concentration in Fitness and Nutrition).


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