The foods that we eat have an amazing ability to either cause disease or prevent it. They can make us healthy or keep us sick. Joint pain in particular, is becoming an increasing problem in the United States and other parts of the world and is no longer the exclusive domain of elderly arthritis sufferers or weekend warriors with the occasional bout of tennis elbow. Joint pain can make the simplest tasks – from signing your name to walking up a flight of stairs – completely miserable. However, new research is showing that chronic joint pain can be both caused and relieved by the foods that we eat. Inflammation and joint pain Inflammation is the very root cause of joint pain. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury. Think of a tiny cut that temporarily swells and turns red, then in a few days is gone. That is a normal, healthy inflammation response. It sends extra blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the injured area, accelerating healing, hence the redness and swelling. A small cut that quickly heals is altogether different from chronic inflammation. Essentially, chronic inflammation is your body’s immune response that never turns itself off. Chronic inflammation is the leading cause of joint pain, including arthritis. Treatment for joint pain used to consist of physical therapy and medications. Now, research is showing that your diet should also be added to that list. Is there an anti-inflammatory diet? The short answer is yes, there is. While certain foods cause inflammation, there are also foods that prevent or even reverse it. A diet that is heavy in refined carbohydrates, fats, and sugar has been proven to cause chronic inflammation throughout the entire body, including your joints. These substances throw the body into a nearly constant state of defense, keeping the immune response running 24/7 as it attempts to repel what it sees as foreign invaders. Foods to avoid... • Sugary drinks like colas and fruit punch. Also, many juices are little more than sugar water, so read labels for overall sugar content • Heavily refined grains such as white bread and white pasta, plus anything made with enriched white flour • Candy, donuts, chips, French fries • Refined fats such as soybean and corn oil Foods to eat more of... • Fruits and vegetables • Fish such as salmon that are rich in Omega-3 fats – Omega-3s have been shown to turn off inflammatory messengers • Whole, unprocessed grains such as steel-cut oats • Nuts and seeds such as walnuts and almonds • Spices like ginger, turmeric and curries. These have strong anti-inflammatory properties. These foods are all rich sources of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. They nourish your body with real nutrients, whereas the heavy, sugary, refined foods are so devoid of nutrition that they actually draw nutrients out of your body as they are digested. So eat the foods that your body recognizes as real food, and not an invader. In short, consume food that is in its natural state and has not been refined of otherwise modified by our food industry.