The Link Between Back Pain & Diet – Systemic Inflammation
Let’s talk about one of the most common physical ailments – back pain!
As the single leading cause of disability worldwide, back pain interrupts the work schedules and daily activities of all age populations. It’s significant link to lower quality of life cannot be ignored and so I’m here to share a solution from a dietary standpoint.
When thinking about back pain, most people recognize that sitting too long, being sedentary, and physical stress on muscles and bones are to blame - but that’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Back Pain is Common But Not Normal!
Here are some eye opening statistics:
- 264 million work days are lost every year due to back pain alone (according to the American Chiropractic Association)
- It’s the 3rd most common reason people visit the doctor
- Back pain accounts for $50 billion in health care costs each year
- Published research shows that years lived with disability caused by back pain have increased by 54% from 1990 to 2015
- Back pain is often paired with other conditions and diseases that affect overall health
Inflammation, Pain and Disease are Directly Related
A lot of people including doctors, may not realize or understand the significant role that diet and nutrition play in both the prevention and management of back pain.
NOTE: Any discomfort, anywhere in your body, can be linked to diet -
and the sneaky cause is known as systemic inflammation.
There are different types of inflammation to know about. We’ve all experienced acute or short-term inflammation resulting from some level of injury. For example, when you twist your ankle and it swells and gets hot or a bug bite makes your skin red and puffy. Increased blood flow to the injured area creates the redness and heat while the sudden increased movement of fluid and white blood cells causes swelling. The feeling of pain is caused by the release of neurochemicals (endorphins) and compression of nerves. These reactions are a natural response to injury and a way to promote healing.
Now, the kind of inflammation that you don’t want to deal with is called systemic inflammation. This occurs when your immune system is chronically activated which causes the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines - proteins that cause pain, destroy tissues, and create disease.
➤ Local inflammation resulting from injury is a positive reaction toward healing.
➤ Systemic inflammation is a serious condition and a major contributor to chronic health conditions and modern-day diseases.
The Link Between Back Pain and Diet
Every time you eat something, you’re either increasing or decreasing inflammation in your body. With inflammation directly linked to disease, this means that your dietary decisions affect your quality of life – and ultimately the length of it.
Here’s how to eat to decrease inflammation….
1. Avoid inflammatory foods:
X Grains (especially wheat and gluten containing grains)
X Hydrogenated oils
X Dairy products
These culprits are in fried foods, pasta, chips, corn, cereals, bread, baked goods
yogurt, sauces, snack bars, dried fruit and processed meat. Definitely avoid anything corn based and be very cautious with anything that comes in a bag, wrapper or box.
2. Eat foods that fight inflammation
✓ Eggs – preferably pasture raised
✓ Healthy fatty foods – avocados, olives, nuts
✓ Fatty fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines
✓ Healthy oils - olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, red palm
✓ Vegetables - Just how much should you be eating? Find out here
✓ Focus on eating veggies that are deeply colored and green. They contain the powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, polyphenols and chlorophyll.
3. Consider what you drink
Most drinks have the equivalent sugar content of several candy bars and contain other harmful ingredients!
X Fruit juice
X Energy drinks
X Bottled teas and coffees
X Caffeine – often paired with sugar, especially coffee can increase inflammation
Sugar and excess caffeine trigger the release of cortisol. Chronic elevated cortisol levels put your health in serious danger. Let’s take a look at why that is such a problem…
Reduce Back Pain by Reducing Cortisol
I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your cortisol levels in check. This “stress” hormone is excreted from your adrenal glands that sit on top of your kidneys.
It regulates many processes in your body including:
- Management of carbohydrates, fats and proteins
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
When your cortisol levels get out of whack it can create a cascade of health problems including back pain!
Chronic high cortisol encourages fat accumulation and weight gain that stress your skeletal system. Sustained high cortisol levels destroy muscle and reduce bone density, making you more prone to pain and injury. And there’s more…cortisol increases another hormone, prolactin, which heightens sensitivity to aches and pains.
You can create and maintain healthy cortisol levels through proper diet, stress management, exercise, and adequate sleep.
Nutrients That Help Reduce Pain
You’ve got a much greater chance of being pain free when your diet consists of these key supporting nutrients:
Unfortunately, most people are deficient in more than one of the above. Taking appropriate supplements (along with proper diet) has become necessary for almost everyone who needs to improve their vitamin and nutrient status.
Make a Pain Plan
Remember systemic inflammation drives pain, discomfort, chronic health conditions and disease. Make it a goal to reduce inflammation by altering your diet. Crowd out inflammatory foods with more vegetables and healthy fats.
Next, manage your cortisol levels which will help you keep a healthy weight and body. This requires a big cutback on sugar, then work on eliminating it the best you can. Give your body enough rest and manage stress with movement and hobbies. Go adopt a pet and tell them Dr. Huntington sent you! Numerous studies have proven that interacting with animals tends to decrease cortisol levels.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of nutrition. Get to know the key pain reducing nutrients and work on getting more of them through food and supplementation.
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