Okay, so here is the deal about diet affecting back pain and inflammation. Firstly, I would just like to make it known that I am not a dietician by trade, but this is some knowledge that I have picked up over my years of chiropractic study.
By now, you should have come across the term, “you are what you eat”, and I cannot stress how true this term is. We live in a world where highly processed foods with high sugar and fat contents are easily accessible and are preferred over healthy alternatives. Do not get me wrong, eating these foods occasionally will not cause much harm but overindulgence is where the problem lies, so if too much of a good thing is bad for you, then too much of a bad thing is worse. These types of foods contain high levels of inflammatory products and these products affect the body’s ability to heal adequately when dealing with injury. This is compounded with weight gain which contributes to back and neck pain making it even harder for the body to function optimally.Inflammation in itself is actually not bad for the body; in fact, it is a necessary first step of healing. The problem is when that inflammatory process occurs for longer than it should, when it goes from being an acute and manageable issue to a chronic issue. Chronic inflammation causes damage to tissues which increases pain and disability. Chronic inflammation around spinal joints in particular is more detrimental as the inflammation has a high potential to affect the nerves that emerge from the spine. Nerves and inflammation DO NOT mix as this affects the integrity and function of the nerve in a negative manor. Decreased nerve function means decreased bodily functions and increased pain and disability.
How to deal with inflammation
To help deal with chronic inflammation, modern/western medication in the form of anti-inflammatories are not the be all and all. In my opinion, all it takes is a balanced diet with adequate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats while ensuring that your water intake is optimized for your body type. A dietary lifestyle change is a better long-term solution than medication. The research is out there, it is known that foods with high saturated fats, trans fats, sugar and white flour trigger a complex series of inflammatory processes by affecting biochemical and hormonal pathways. Therefore, people with pre-existing chronic back and/or neck pain, or any other musculoskeletal pain at that, could benefit immensely just from changing their dietary lifestyle.
Examples of foods that cause inflammation are:
- Highly processed foods
- Foods with added sugars
- Red meat
- White bread, pasta and rice
- Whole-fat dairy
- Fried foods
- Sugary snacks
- Sugary and/or acidic drinks
Foods that help decrease back pain and inflammation
Again, I am not a dietician by trade so consulting with a dietician is the best solution for dealing with the problem. Nonetheless, until you see your dietician, reducing pro-inflammatory foods in your current diet is the first step to take. I mean these are health tips that will be good for improving your general health.
So, what you need is foods with high levels of unsaturated fats, lean proteins and antioxidants.
Examples of such foods are:
- Omega-3 rich foods (fish such as tuna and salmon)
- Raw vegetables and fruits
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Beans, seeds and nuts
- Poultry and eggs
- Red wine (one glass a day – great for both increasing antioxidant levels and winding down at the end of the day, STRESS!)
You can also include a healthy dose of natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric, honey and/or ginger into your daily diet. Like I said earlier, inflammation is not bad, so these products are great when controlling inflammation and preventing it from becoming a chronic issue. Turmeric in particular, is a viable treatment option for back pain.
For more information about the health benefits of turmeric, click here.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us using the details below.
Dr. Lebogang Khesa
Chiropractor in Centurion