Nearly 23% of all Americans (an estimated 54.4 million people) suffer from maladies that cause frequent joint pain, mainly arthritis (of which osteoarthritis is the most common form), rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia.
And these numbers don’t even account for those who haven’t seen a doctor about their pain or haven’t received an official diagnosis.
For many years, conventional arthritis experts and foundations insisted that joint pain is simply a part of aging, and that it cannot be reversed or cured. Furthermore, they held that dietary modifications could not be reliably used to treat the condition or to ease symptoms.
Thankfully, this way of thinking has now been largely overturned.
The science of “reversing” arthritis and other pain-inducing conditions is still hotly contested. One point about which everyone agrees, though, is that the experience of joint pain is a product of inflammation.
It stands to reason, then, that if you control inflammation, you control joint pain. And without a doubt, the safest, most powerful, and most consistent way to control inflammation in the body is through diet.
Foods, not pills
If you personally struggle with joint pain, you may have used pharmaceutical methods for controlling pain, such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, or even prescription painkillers. You may have been told that these drugs were your only real hope for finding relief.
Though lifestyle modifications are now considered acceptable treatments for arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, mainstream medicine still relies much too heavily on pain medications.
Even over-the-counter NSAIDs carry serious risks, including gastrointestinal damage, anemia, miscarriage, DNA damage, hearing loss, hypertension, and sudden cardiac arrest. Needless to say, prescription painkillers are even worse, and are responsible for an epidemic of debilitating opioid addiction.
An increasing number of both patients and physicians are discovering that the risks of painkillers don’t justify their results—and that consuming an anti-inflammatory diet is a far wiser path.
This truth is a rather inconvenient one, however—after all, it seems much easier to take a pill than to carry out an entire lifestyle overhaul. This is especially true when it comes to food, since eating an anti-inflammatory diet requires saying goodbye to a number of foods beloved to Americans.
For example, dairy products are a big no-no.
Got joint pain? Try cutting out milk and cheese…
The thought of tossing out milk and cheese might sound pretty challenging. Dairy products (especially cheese) can actually have addictive properties, so if it’s been on your personal menu for long, you’re probably hesitant to let it go.
This finding comes from a research team at the University of Michigan, who found that the casein in cheese binds to opioid receptors in the brain. The data was overblown by many news outlets, who reported that “cheese is just like crack,” but researchers did find that cheese and addictive drugs trigger similar changes in brain circuitry.
A wealth of research suggests that these foods just aren’t worth their deliciousness, though. We discussed in past articles how milk is linked with a wide array of health problems, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that joint pain tops the list.
The fact of the matter is that pasteurized and processed dairy products are very difficult for your body to process—the massive inflammation they trigger is a clear sign that your body treats them like it would a harmful foreign agent.
But what about the widely believed notion that milk builds strong bones? New research has discovered that quite the opposite is true. While milk technically contains calcium, dairy consumption nevertheless has been correlated with bone weakness and fractures. Over the course of this study, researchers also correlated milk consumption with an overall increased risk of mortality.
Furthermore, dairy consumption has been linked with leaky gut syndrome, during which toxins leak into the bloodstream and trigger systemic inflammation response. Joint pain is therefore commonly associated with this condition. A dairy-free (and gluten-free) diet has been shown to significantly improve both leaky gut syndrome and joint pain.
How to quit dairy
Here’s the good news: it’s not as difficult as it seems. If you can make it just a week or so, your brain circuitry will begin to reset, and you won’t crave milk and cheese nearly as acutely.
And besides, there’s a wealth of vegan milk and cheese substitutes available, plenty of which are incredibly delicious (vegan products have come a long way). For example, learn how to make your own almond milk, and check out this new book about how to make vegan cheeses that are indistinguishable from their inflammatory counterparts.
Many people experience dramatically reduced joint pain (as well as many other benefits) after cutting out dairy products—try it for a few weeks and see if it works for you.