When people consider ways to overcome or prevent back pain, it makes more sense to think about exercising or maintaining a good posture than eating properly. But what you eat impacts your back health just like it affects all other structures in the body. According to experts, a diet supplemented with certain nutrients will not only relieve pain and inflammation, but also help maintain neurological functioning and repair damaged cells.
5 Components of a Healthy Back Diet
By nourishing muscles, bones, and spinal discs, vitamins are a major component of your healthy spine diet, and deficiencies may lead to muscle pain and injury in healthy individuals. The following vitamins are especially beneficial for helping with back pain:
- Vitamin B3: Helps maintain a healthy nervous system and improves the pain-relieving effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. It’s typically found in fish and nuts.
- Vitamin C: Repairs tissues, reduces inflammation, strengthens the immune system and speeds up injury recovery; it also slows down the progression of diseases such as osteoarthritis. It’s typically found in citrus fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin D: Essential in calcium absorption, it boosts the immune system, decreases inflammation, and alleviates pain. It’s typically found in fish and fortified foods.
Along with fats and carbohydrates, proteins are included in the ‘macronutrients’ category and are referred to as the body’s building blocks, as they support the health of bones, muscles, cartilages, skin, and blood. Consuming a balanced diet that includes healthy sources of protein will allow you to relieve pressure on your spinal discs by controlling your weight. Protein-rich foods require more calories to be digested compared to carbs and fats, which means you will feel full longer and keep your blood sugar under control. Aside from their benefits for spine health, proteins have an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer.
The human body is constantly using calcium to support the activity of the heart, blood, muscles, and nerves, and a significant quantity is lost through bodily processes such as sweat, shedding of skin, etc. If an individual doesn’t supplement his diet with sufficient calcium to replace what’s being used, the body will start taking it away from bones, thus weakening skeletal structures and increasing the risk of fracture.
For spine health, the most important function of calcium is the ability to build and repair tissue and muscle, but equally important are its roles in decreasing swelling, muscle contraction, and nutrient transport. Calcium-rich foods are essential for the prevention of osteoporosis and the maintaining of healthy bone mass, which starts to decrease after the age of 20. According to specialists, men need 800-1,000 mg of calcium per day, while women should get between 1,200 and 1,500 mg/day. Calcium-fortified foods, whole-grain bread, and soy milk are some of the healthiest sources of calcium.
#4. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
A study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine revealed that a standard diet supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and curcumin, an ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric, can “help repair nerve cells and maintain neurological function after degenerative damage to the neck.” Scientists believe that, while surgery can relieve the pressure aging puts on the spinal cord and prevent further tissue injury, diet supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids can support the spinal cord heal its damaged cells and nerve fibers. Healthy sources include fish, walnuts, plant and fish oils, and edible seeds.
Fiber is essential for digestion, ensuring all digestive processes run smooth and relieving pressure in the abdomen that might place strain on the spinal discs. According to Mayo Clinic, a high-fiber diet normalizes bowel movements, helps maintain bowel health, helps control glucose and cholesterol levels, and aids in achieving healthy weight. Healthy fiber sources include shellfish, green vegetables, soy, edible seeds, beans, olive oils, fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
When Diet Is Not Enough
A healthy diet will do wonders for your problematic back, but most of its benefits will be visible in the long-run. If you are dealing with excruciating back pain, whether acute or chronic, relying on diet alone will not relieve your pain and discomfort. No matter what the source of your low-back pain is, consider seeing a licensed chiropractor for an effective nonsurgical treatment to decrease nerve irritability and increase function.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.