Back pain is one of the most common health complaints heard today. Many are seeking natural back pain home treatments that can take the place of pain medications. It has been confirmed that diet plays a role in back health, meaning you can help to alleviate your pain by eating helpful foods and avoiding harmful ones.
There are three areas that diet directly affects related to back pain: inflammation, bone health and muscle health. There are numerous causes of back pain; finding a one-size-fits-all solution is not possible because of this, but maintaining a diet that optimizes bone and muscle health while keeping inflammation down can help to manage any type of back pain.
Wherever an abnormality exists in the body – whether infection, injury, bacteria or toxins – inflammation is present. The body surrounds endangered areas with inflammatory fluids to block off the threat from the rest of the body and to flood the area with healing materials. While it serves a purpose, the immune system can overreact at times, causing inflammation to be excessive or to hang around past its utility. People with back pain – whether muscular, joint-related, bone-related or discogenic – tend to have inflammation that exacerbates their pain.
A diet high in refined sugars increases inflammation in the body. Consuming a lot of sugar causes an insulin spike in the body, which, as a perceived threat, sets off the inflammatory response.
An anti-inflammatory diet can be effective at minimizing your back pain. Certain foods work to modulate the immune system and reduce the inflammatory response. The most commonly known are antioxidants (found in blueberries, cherries, sweet potatoes and many other foods) and omega-3 fatty acids (contained in salmon, flax seeds, walnuts and fish oil supplements). A study published in 2006 found fish oil supplementation to be a viable alternative to NSAID use, which has been tied with liver and gastric risks. The study can be viewed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Another class of foods that fight inflammation is COX-2 inhibitors like ginger and turmeric; these inhibit the chemical pathway inflammatory chemicals must take.
Healthy bones are essential to avoiding chronic back pain, whether young or old. A 2003 study published in Spine measured vitamin D levels in 360 patients with lower back pain without a known cause. The participants were between ages 18 and 52. 83% were found to have vitamin D deficiencies. The study can be found at http://journals.lww.com.
Vitamin D receptors in the intestines allow calcium to be absorbed from the foods we eat through the intestinal wall to many parts of our bodies, especially bones. Calcium is what makes our bones hard and strong, and without vitamin D, we cannot adequately use it. The vitamin is usually absorbed through the skin from sunlight, but can be obtained through diet. Many types of fish, including mackerel, herring, salmon and tuna contain high amounts of vitamin D. Cod liver oil and shiitake mushrooms are also plentiful sources.
On the flip side of vitamin D is calcium. Dairy products are most known for their calcium content, but it can also be found in dried herbs like savory, thyme and celery seed, in sesame seeds, in almonds and in flax seeds.
Protein is needed regularly to provide muscles with energy and restore them after work. Cheese, beans, lean meats, pumpkin seeds, cottage cheese and fish (including tuna and salmon) are all high in protein.
When considering protein intake in relation to back pain, it is not only relevant what you eat; it matters how often you eat. If muscles are not provided with protein once they have run out of fuel, they will grow fatigued. Fatigued muscles are at higher risk of injury and also put the spine at risk as they fail to support it. Eating when your body tells you to is an important component of a back pain diet. Develop the habit of bringing protein-rich snacks with you to get you through the day, such as pumpkin seeds and cottage cheese cups.
From the above information you can see that there is overlap between the categories; salmon helps fight inflammation and provides both vitamin D and protein, for example. Flax seeds and fish oils also multitask to protect our backs. These overlappings help to simplify the development of a diet to reduce back pain.