There are many benefits to eating a paleo diet, but one of the most impressive of those benefits is a significant reduction in pain. In many cases this stems from the fact that a paleo diet is anti-inflammatory by its very nature. You not only decrease your intake of the standard American foods that can trigger inflammation and pain throughout the body (foods that contain sugars, refined carbohydrates and industrial seed oils, for example) but you also increase your consumption of healthful, tasty foods that have potent anti-inflammatory properties. These foods can literally turn off the genes that make your body think it is under attack by a foreign invader. Moreover, these foods can help repair the damage that has been caused by inflammation.
Weight loss, or more specifically fat loss, which is a primary side effect of eating a paleo diet, can also result in a reduction of pain in several ways. First, the very fact that you now have 20, 30 or 75 fewer pounds to carry around can mean that the continuous load on your joints is significantly lightened. Second, human body fat can secrete compounds that increase inflammation and pain, so by reducing the size and capacity of those fat cells, you can reduce the amount of those inflammatory chemicals secreted.
The first step is to get rid of the most offending foods. This would include foods that contain added sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup or added vegetable oils, like corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Refined food products and grains in particular can really irritate the intestines and lead to a whole host of other maladies like bloating, swelling, IBS, Crohn’s, and even autoimmune diseases and arthritis. By eliminating all these foods, you are literally treating the pain at its source.
The next step is to build a paleo plate. That means a plate that has most of its space occupied with colorful vegetables. My favorites for fighting pain are the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. These contain sulforaphanes, compounds that can block the enzymes that destroy cartilage in the joints. So if osteoarthritis is causing you pain, these veggies are your friends.
Next you should add a palm-sized piece of lean protein (fish, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, etc.). Salmon is my favorite because it contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and the skin is especially rich in them. You could also choose grass-fed meats, other oily cold-water fish or even eggs from pastured hens as a great source of omega-3s.
Then we look to add healthy fats, which are anti-inflammatory by their very nature. This would include avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, real butter or coconut butter as examples. A dollop is all you need. Avocado is my favorite of the oils because it is antioxidant-rich, has healthy monounsaturated fat and is great to promote growth and repair of cartilage, thus great for joint pain and arthritis. It’s also ideal for cooking, since it has a high smoke point.
One great way to add flavor and increase pain-killing benefits of food is through the use of paleo spices. In fact, you may have your most powerful pain-fighting arsenal in your spice rack. Cayenne pepper, clove, cinnamon, rosemary, garlic and turmeric are very high in AOX capacity. The curcumin in turmeric helps boost glutathione, a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant produced by the body.