Back pain is so common, it is thought to affect 8 out of 10 people. While the causes and symptoms can vary, no one wants to suffer for long. Your doctor or chiropractor is the best source for treatment, but you may also want to know what you can do in the way of non-traditional treatments in order to have a healthy back. If nutrition is your "thing" or if you just want to eat your way to a healthy back, here are three simple tips for adjusting your diet to reduce back pain.
Eat to Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is often thought of as swelling. And while that's true, it almost always coincides with pain. Your body's normal defense against infection is to release germ-fighting substances that can lead to swelling. But sometimes, the swelling becomes chronic. And for others, chronic inflammation can occur even when there aren't any foreign invaders present. If left untreated, inflammation can spread to any area of the body, particularly to the joints and back.
Since eliminating inflammation can help minimize pain, you should stay away from foods that can cause inflammation and eat more foods that can reduce it.
1) Stay away from foods that can cause inflammation. Anything high in saturated fat, trans fat, simple sugars, and white flour should be greatly reduced as well as red meat, processed foods (anything that's been altered from its original state), food or drinks with added sugar, white breads, pasta, and rice (as opposed to whole grain pasta, rice, and bread), fried food, and foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil.
2) Increase foods that can reduce inflammation. If you want to really amp up the inflammation reduction, eat foods that are high in antioxidants as well as lean protein, fat that's "heart healthy," and whole grain foods. To do this, follow these basic guidelines:
- Make sure your meals are mostly vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds and fruits, whole grains, and also contain olive oil.
- Be sure to partake in several servings per week of fish that are high in Omega-3, like tuna and salmon.
- Chicken and eggs are great sources of protein. Just be sure to remove the skin from poultry before eating.
- Moderate your consumption of red meat and sweets.
Enjoy one glass of red wine a day. Not only is it rich in antioxidants, but it's also associated with a reduction in inflammation. Be sure to get your doctor's okay if you don't regularly drink, particularly if you're taking medication.
Bump Up the Calcium
As you know, calcium is critical for maintaining healthy bones. Unlike certain vitamins, calcium cannot be synthesized by your body, so you have to rely on getting it solely through your diet. Once obtained, it is stored in your bones and contributes to their overall strength. So getting adequate calcium is vital to having a healthy back.
If you don't get enough calcium in your diet, your body will pull what it needs from your bones, causing them to become brittle and leaving you more susceptible to osteoporosis. Women under 51 need 1,000 mg per day, while those over 51 need 1,200 mg. Men should get the same amounts, but their needs change at 71 rather than 51.
You can get calcium from supplements, but your body tends to absorb it better from food sources. Foods that contain the highest levels of calcium include raw milk, kale, sardines, cheese, broccoli, yogurt/kefir, watercress, okra, bok choy, and almonds. One cup of raw milk alone has 300 mg of calcium, which is 30% of your daily value if you're under 51.
Most people have become so accustomed to hearing "drink plenty of water" that it almost loses its meaning. But even if you do know how important it is for your body to be adequately hydrated, you may not know that too little water in your system can lead to back pain, and here's why.
Between your vertebrae are disks made up of an outer ring of collagen fibers. Inside is a mucoprotein gel made up of mostly water. During the day, water gets squeezed out as you move about, and at night, while you rest, the disks refill with water. If there isn't enough water available, the outer part of the disks begin to bear the brunt of the shock that's absorbed. This can lead to pain, herniation, and disk degeneration.
The standard recommendation used to be 8 cups of water per day, but everyone's needs vary. Therefore, it's now advised to drink one cup for 20 lbs of body weight, drinking extra after working out to replace water lost through sweat.
To have a healthier back, use these tips, or contact local services that can create a personalized nutrition plan for you.