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Natural Diet Tips to Reduce Pain and Inflammation

Have you ever wondered if there is a secret connection between how you fuel your body and your chronic back pain? When you are young, it is often said that ‘you are what you eat’. And, actually, there is some real truth to this saying. Here’s what I share with many of my patients when we discuss the impact diet can have on your pain.

First, it is important to realize that everything put into your body has a direct impact on many facets of your health. Your diet can affect your weight, mentality, and almost every aspect of your bodily health. While I’ve always known that exercise is an important aspect of my well-being I have often neglected the input. Food is the fuel you power your body with. If you have a car, you need to give it gasoline to power. It doesn’t matter how awesome that car is — without the proper fuel, it’s not going to perform well.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense mechanism, helping to fight off infections and heal injuries. For example, inflammation would occur if you scrape your knee in order for your body to properly heal. However, chronic inflammation is a different story. When inflammation persists over a long period, it can exacerbate conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other degenerative spine diseases, leading to increased pain and reduced mobility. People with such spine conditions or with chronic back pain must try to reduce any increase in inflammation so not to increase their existing pain.

Foods Full of Inflammation

Certain foods may increase your inflammation levels and make your existing pain levels even worse. One common mistake is relying too heavily on processed and convenience foods, which are often high in sugars and unhealthy fats. Another is neglecting to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients. People also overlook the importance of portion control, leading to overeating, which can cause weight gain and increased pressure on the spine. If you have chronic back pain or an existing spine condition, these are a list of foods to avoid an inflammatory response:

  1. Processed Foods: These include fast food and foods high in refined sugars and unhealthy fats. These foods are not completely natural and your body is not supposed to be constantly consuming them. It makes it very hard on the GI tract to physically absorb it, which can cause some inflammation. 
  2. Sugary Foods: Including sodas, sweets, and baked goods. Much like processed foods, an excessive amount of sugar in your bloodstream can cause the body to overwork and fight itself.
  3. Trans Fats: Similar to processed foods, trans fats are often found in fried foods and commercially baked products. Trans fats also overwork your digestive system.
  4. Refined Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates such as white bread and pastries also cause inflammation. Instead, try to incorporate complex carbohydrates in your diet, which take longer for the body to digest and don’t result in a quick hit of sugar to the bloodstream. 
  5. Red and Processed Meats: These can contain high levels of saturated fats and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) that promote inflammation.

These foods can also increase your risk of type two diabetes and arthritis, which increase back pain. Over time, a diet high in inflammatory foods can lead to chronic inflammation, which can worsen spine conditions and contribute to ongoing pain and discomfort. 

Fight the Inflammation

While there are plenty of foods that can increase back pain, there are also plenty of foods and healthy habits that can decrease inflammation in your body. These are a list of foods that have anti-inflammatory properties which could also help your body fight your existing chronic pain:

  1. Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These healthy fats would include salmon, walnuts, avocados, and flaxseeds. While people can be weary of foods that contain any fats, these foods have a multitude of benefits for your overall health.
  2. Fruits and Vegetables: Remember to eat the natural rainbow from dark green leafy greens to bright red strawberries and tomatoes. In particular, berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have fantastic anti-inflammatory properties.
  3. Spices and Supplements: Certain spices such as turmeric and ginger also have anti-inflammatory properties and can be easily incorporated into your diet. There are even turmeric capsules and omega-3 supplements that many people take for their bodily health.
  4. Water, Water, & More Water: Our bodies require proper hydration – including our back. Being dehydrated can impact the discs in your spine which are made up of about 80% water. Staying hydrated will cushion the discs in your spine and absorb shock. In contrast, excessive consumption of drinks that naturally dehydrate you, such as caffeine and alcohol, could increase your inflammation.

Everything in Moderation

While avoiding inflammatory foods and incorporating these natural bodily helpers is extremely necessary, balance is the most important thing when it comes to your diet. In moderation, small amounts of inflammatory foods aren’t going to wreak havoc on your body. It all starts with knowing your body as an individual and finding what works for you. There are some cases when intermittent fasting is a wonderful way to lose weight, but not everyone needs to do intermittent fasting because that may not be the strategy for you. Regardless of what your diet looks like, by sticking to a holistic approach, incorporating techniques like exercise and good posture will greatly benefit the health of your spine. Remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint. It has to be sustainable and it has to work for you in the long run.

Keep these takeaways in mind as you optimize your health journey:

  • While nutrition alone can’t cure spine conditions, it plays a vital role in managing symptoms and supporting overall health.
  • A healthy diet is important, but so is regular exercise, good posture, and other lifestyle changes can significantly improve quality of life for those dealing with back pain.
  • Everything in moderation – Whether it’s dessert or a fast food dinner, it is important to have balance in your diet without being too restrictive.

By integrating these principles into your daily routine, you can take proactive steps towards better spine health and an improved quality of life. I’ve even prevented pain flares in my own back in the past couple of years by sticking to these guidelines! Remember, small, consistent changes can make a big difference over time. Simply prioritizing your well-being is often the first step to making impactful changes that will lead to long term improvements in your spine health journey.

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