Tired of painkillers that wreak havoc on your stomach, or worse, can be addictive? Try one your whole body will love: chocolate.
Chocolate – the word alone is enough to make our eyes light up and our brain cells dance. And not just because it tastes delicious.
Cocoa, the active ingredient in chocolate, provides a host of benefits, from mood lifting to antioxidant power. But for pain sufferers, the best news is proof of chocolate for pain relief.
Food as Medicine
People often use food as medicine, eating superfoods like tomatoes for heart health, fish for a healthier brain or spinach to fight cancer. And most pain sufferers know that cutting dairy, wheat, sugar or alcohol can decrease allergies, acid reflux and inflammation, and improve overall well-being.
In fact, there are a host of foods that doctors recommend as natural painkillers, like coffee, cherries and olive oil, primarily because of their anti-inflammatory properties.
Like those, chocolate is a known anti-inflammatory. But this study showed that, in addition to reducing swelling, chocolate also improves blood flow, which can decrease pain, especially in people with circulatory conditions (in this case Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD).
To learn more about which foods may benefit you, check out our article on foods for pain relief.
A Love Letter to Your Body
As if improved circulation and reduced inflammation weren’t enough, chocolate also has been proven to reduce heart disease, help you sleep and improve your mood. How does it do all this wonderful stuff?
The main active ingredient, of course, is cacao, which creates something like a party in your brain. It makes you feel better by:
– Increasing the body’s natural opiates (endorphins)
– Hitting the brain’s cannabis receptors
– Increasing serotonin levels
– Releasing the body’s natural amphetamine, phenylethylamine, better known as the “love drug”
It’s also the only known food source of anandamide (aka the “bliss molecule”) and it contains tryptophan, the same chemical found in turkey, which makes you sleepy.
And since exercise can be difficult when you’re in pain, you want to boost its effects when you can do it. Chocolate can help. Participants in this study who ate a small amount of dark chocolate two-to-three times a week and exercised 3.5 times a week had a lower BMI than the participants who didn’t.
And of course, unlike naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin, chocolate doesn’t cause the “gastric erosions” that can lead to ulcers and even hemorrhage.
PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.