Interested in natural treatments for fibromyalgia or chronic pain?Learn about how tart cherries, one of the top antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods, can reduce pain and alleviate insomnia.
Many people with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions are interested in effective natural treatments to relieve their pain. I am always on the lookout for promising supplements to try. Pharmaceutical drugs can absolutely provide pain relief and I don’t think there should be any stigma about taking prescription medications. I take pain killers and they improve my quality of life. However, drugs are often only partially effective and they can cause unwanted side effects. To me, it only makes sense to integrate helpful natural treatments with mainstream medical approaches. Supplements can reduce pain and often have fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.
One promising natural treatment for relieving pain is tart cherry juice. Tart cherries are incredibly rich in in antioxidants – greater even than dark chocolate or red wine – and tart cherries can significantly reduce inflammation. Antioxidants are important for overall health, and specifically benefit people with chronic conditions associated with high rates of oxidation (damage caused to cells by oxidants). Antioxidants neutralize oxidants (also called free radicals), preventing tissue damage and providing a host of other benefits including reduced inflammation.
Research shows that tart cherry juice is particularly effective for reducing muscle pain caused by overexertion. Tart cherry juice works to “protect muscles, lower pain, and accelerate muscle repair” (Life Extension). Not surprisingly, post-exercise pain is caused in part by oxidation and inflammation, which is where tart cherries come in. Studies on the impact of tart cherry juice on post-exercise recovery found that it accelerated muscle repair, reduced inflammation, and reduced pain compared to control groups (Life Extension). Tart cherry juice might therefore be helpful for people with illnesses that cause muscle pain like fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome. I have found that it help to drink it on days that I go for longer walks or do my physical therapy strengthening exercise, to reduce the soreness and ward off a flare.
The anti-inflammatory effect of tart cherry juice has potentially widespread benefits for many chronic conditions. I get pain relief from my endometriosis symptoms and fibromyalgia symptoms using pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, but I often worry about taking too much, because of the damage non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can cause to your stomach lining. There is dispute about the extent of inflammation in fibromyalgia, but one study found inflammation of the fascia (the connective tissue sheath that covers muscles). “In 2012, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that…among those patients consuming tart cherry juice, there was a statistically significant decrease in inflammation, indicated by reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP)” (Life Extension). Tart cherries also inhibit the same inflammatory compounds, called COX enzymes, that NSAIDs do: “Tart cherries contain high levels of flavonoids and anthocyanins that have anti-inflammatory properties that also work through the inhibition of COX enzymes” (Runners Connect).
Amazingly, that’s not all tart cherries can do for us. Insomnia is a significant problem for people with fibromyalgia. Tart cherries contain melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it’s time to go to sleep. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that drinking tart cherry juice in the morning and before bed helps improve sleep time and overall time in bed. Maybe tart cherry juice will help with your insomnia too!
So how much should you drink? Studies of effective tart cherry juice action had participants drink 8-12 oz (236-354 mL) of juice twice daily (remember one cup is 8 oz or 236 mL). I’m going to head out and get me some more tart cherry juice. Bottoms up!