Nutrition & Health   > "Foods That Fight Pain"


Revolutionary New Strategies for Maximum Pain Relief
by Neal Barnard, M.D., 1998, Harmony Books, ISBN 0-609-60098-2.


As mentioned above, Foods That Fight Pain provides sometimes surprising connections between pain and particular foods. The book is "based on the premise that foods have medicinal value" [p.xi]. It suggests, for example, that back pain can be alleviated by a low-fat vegetarian diet with minimum salt, Vitamin B6, exercise, and simple painkillers; oat products, because of their soluble fibers, lower cholesterol; and that vitamins B6 and B12, along with folic acid can help prevent heart attacks (beans, vegetables, and fruits are rich in folic acid and vitamin B6).


Foods that Fight Pain has short chapters, each easy to read in a single sitting, that cover back and chest pains, migraines and other headaches, joint pain, digestive problems, fibromyalgia, menstrual and breast pains, cancer pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes, herpes and shingles, sickle-cell anemia, and kidney stones. Short final chapters discuss exercise, rest, and a set of foods that most often trigger problems. This set surprised me -- meat, eggs, dairy products, caffeine; but also wheat, citrus, corn, nuts, and tomatoes. None of these potentially troublesome foods was part of the diet when humans first appeared millions of years ago, it is posited, and "there is little evolutionary pressure to adapt to anything unless our ability to reproduce hangs in the balance" [p.212]. However (thankfully!), if any of these foods don't cause problems for a person, then there is no reason for that person to avoid them.


The book concludes with menus and recipes by Jennifer Raymond, all of which are low-fat, no-cholesterol, and vegan. And that is the unifying thread behind to book -- eat a low-fat diet based entirely on non-animal products.


I carefully read a bit more than the first 100 pages before I got to a chapter on fibromyalgia, which had no relevance to me. I then picked the remaining chapters that might have some pertinence. That is probably the best way to read this book -- read the very short introductory material then read the chapters of specific interest to potential or real health problems you may have.


I would have enjoyed a longer introductory section focusing on the benefits of a good vegan diet, and possibly discussing topics such as eating what's in season (and the macrobiotic approach), cooking foods (in line with the anthropological discussion, fire was discovered relatively recently in human existence; should we be cooking foods?), organic produce, and cross cultural food discussion. It would have been good to have strongly made the point for low-fat vegan diets, and then suggested that another advantage is their consistent appearance in all of the chapters as the base for pain fighting. The book would also profit from longer discussions of exercise (its chapter is 2 pages long) and rest (5 pages).


Why is it that "people are fed by the food industry which pays no attention to health, and are healed by the health industry which pays no attention to food"? Maybe this book will help bridge the communities. Foods that Fight Pain is worth referencing as preventive medicine, and is definitely a good resource for people suffering from one of the many kinds of pain covered