Back pain is largely a result of stress that builds in the body bringing physical imbalances into play and causing irritation to nerves, joints, muscles or ligaments. Stress has three main origins, physical, chemical and emotional so a poor diet which upsets the chemical balance has the potential to cause or heighten a person’s back pain.
A healthy, balanced diet will help release stress because it provides all the necessary ingredients for a body to recover and regenerate and most importantly relax. When good nutrition is combined with a balanced physical body a person will feel and perform at their best, have good energy levels and be in the best condition to fight off or recover from injury or illness.
When your body is well balanced, chemically, nutritionally and physically, your nervous system benefits so you mostly feel relaxed and calm, with very little aggression, anxiety or pain. A balanced, healthy diet will also ensure you don't suffer from cravings because your nutritional needs are being met and more importantly you will be in the low risk group for suffering back pain in the first place.
The reality is that the large majority of people eat a typical diet, high in processed and packaged foods giving them much less potential to cope with a stressful, active lifestyle and therefore more likelihood they will suffer from chronic pain.
It’s a fact of life that food manufacturers are very good at making products that are bad for you, look and taste really good. Also, marketing people are very skilled at making you believe it's ok to eat them. But the reality is more often than not, the information we are being given is false and we are often, sometimes unwittingly eating food that is detrimental to our future health. It's been left up to us to work out the difference between what is fact and what's just marketing and most people are not trained to do that.
Barring a law being put in place to ban the sale of foods that don't contribute positively to our health, it's up to everyone as individuals to take the responsibility for looking after themselves. Don't be tempted by foods that do little but make huge profits for the manufacturer at the expense of our health. Foods that are pre-cooked, packaged, processed or fast foods serve only to take up space in your stomach and give you high doses of fats, salt, chemicals and additives. They do very little towards satisfying your nutritional needs, fuel your muscles or assist in your growth and recovery after exercise. They may take away your hunger temporarily but do not satisfy the needs of your body so your hunger will return before you burn up the high number of calories they contain.
Fresh, raw, healthy foods won't make you fat, give you bad skin or any number of the diseases that are becoming all too common in today's world so that must tell you something. Eating these foods sometimes, won't counter the harm the wrong foods are doing to your body either. It’s not about the balance of good food to bad food that you eat, all the bad food you eat will be detrimental to your long term health.
Think of your body as your temple and treat it with the respect it deserves. Look after it by not eating processed, pre packaged or pre cooked foods and it will look after you by making you feel good and energised. Refined foods not only rob you of your energy but they don’t properly metabolise and will therefore create metabolic waste and toxins that will be left in your system. This compromises bodily functions and creates additional burdens that add to existing problems and eventually may manifest as new health problems. Refined foods include all the foods that contain “white” flour, salt or sugar. Avoid all refined carbohydrates including cold breakfast cereals and white breads and pastries. Also avoid stimulants and chemicals in your food and water supply and in your environment. From my experience probably the worst irritants for pain are foods high in sugar like chocolate, lollies and alcohol.
Use only unrefined oils. Because saturated and hydrogenated fats are transformed into a hormone-like compound, prostaglandin, which promotes inflammation and pain you may need to reduce your meat consumption. But first and foremost, eliminate margarine, shortening and any food containing hydrogenated fat.
There probably has never been a truer saying than 'you are what you eat'. Over about a twelve month period every one of the billions of cells that make up every part of your body die off and are discarded then regenerated from the foods you eat. It's only logical that if you eat second rate foods you will end up with a second rate body and second rate health, not overnight, slowly but surely. As a consequence, your body will become weak and you will feel your back pain more intensely, sooner and take longer to recover than someone who eats a healthy balanced diet.
If you want to minimise your potential to feel back pain it’s obvious that you should try to eat a good variety of mostly fresh foods with an emphasis on fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains with lots of fish and some lean meats. As a guide the acid/ alkaline food list in The Bad Back Book* will assist you with your choices. You should aim to eat 75 to 80% of your foods from the alkaline list for the best results. If the ph level of your blood is right your physical body will feel much more supple and relaxed and you will have more energy.
When eating foods to help your pain level it is important to realise that not all healthy foods are good for you and conversely some are extra good for you and should be increased in your diet. For example chlorophyll reduces inflammation and so adding a generous serving of leafy green vegetables with each meal is helpful. You may wish to supplement with the superior chlorophyll sources like spirulina, chlorella, blue green algae, sprouts, wheat-grass and barley grass juice which are also excellent chlorophyll sources. Or you might want to simplify things somewhat such as by taking a natural daily supplement like Vitagest.
Both cherries and pineapple reduce inflammation. Pineapple contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme, bromelain. This protein-digesting enzyme literally consumes foreign microbes and diseased cells in your system. So next time you're fruit and vegetable shopping and smell a sweet ripe pineapple buy it. Don’t get green pineapples, they have no aroma (especially at their base) and will never ripen.
The spice, turmeric, increases ligament flexibility and so is especially useful in the case of stiffness. Additional foods and culinary herbs that reduce inflammation and support healing of muscles, ligaments and tendons include the onion family, flax oil, burdock, ginger, yam, winter squash, sweet rice, millet and chamomile.
In terms of your overall diet, favor easy to digest, whole foods that are freshly prepared, organic if you can get them. They have the necessary nutrients to cleanse, build and maintain your whole body. Not only will your body function at its best but you will have extra energy to repair the inflamed and damaged muscles and ligaments.
Not only can some food help you fight your pain, other perfectly healthy food (and those not so healthy) can make it worse. A first step is to determine if you've any food sensitivities through allergy testing and, should you do so, then avoid those foods. A common group of foods that intensify pain, even in people who otherwise do not have food sensitivities, are the nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and egg plant).
If you find it difficult to discipline yourself to eat well, try breaking it down by working on one meal at a time. Start with breakfast by limiting your selection to fruit, oats, grains and some tea and toast. Don't skip breakfast. Wait until you are happy and used to eating a good breakfast before working on your lunch time meal and the same before you attempt to change your dinner menu. Make sure your day is busy enough that you don't think about, or have time to, eat between meals and if you suffer from cravings for sweets or chocolate and the like, look toward vitamin and mineral supplements to take the cravings away rather than give into them.
The important thing is, don't beat yourself up or give up if you don't find the changes easy to implement straight away, be patient and take the necessary time to adjust slowly to the changes and before you know it you will be there.
The condition of your physical body can also affect your diet. Over the years I've seen people with a tight and twisted spine, due to a mechanical imbalance in the body, get cravings for sweets or sugar during active times because of the low energy caused by the condition of their back. These cravings then disappear when the twist is removed and the suppleness is restored.
You are probably aware there has been much debate about whether you can obtain all your nutritional requirements from diet alone, or whether you should take vitamin, mineral and protein supplements. Many so called experts differ in their opinion. To me the answer is simple, it depends on the amount of stress or physical pressure you are putting on your body. I would say that most people today, especially those who are physically active, would need supplements as a way of supporting their high stress levels. Very rarely do I see a patient come into my clinic who doesn't have tissue stress in their body and usually the more exercise they do the more stress they have.
After introducing them to a good diet/ supplement program I've noticed a steady improvement in their stress level and a lessening of their pain. To me this is a sure indication that no matter what the 'experts' are saying, good supplements are of benefit for many people. After all I can't think of a better indication of a body's needs than how it feels to the touch, especially when you can feel the difference between muscle tissue that is stressed and unhealthy and tissue that isn't.
Another consideration is that the food people are eating is becoming more 'manufactured' rather than in their 'natural' form and so many of the natural forms of vitamins, minerals and proteins are missing. Even fruits and vegetables are subjected to chemicals and pesticides and are picked and stored before they ripen, not to mention the soils they are grown in can be lacking essential minerals.
The average person doesn't eat huge amounts of food in a day so it's important that when you do eat, it is quality nutrition. Also when you do take supplements it is better to take ones that are in their natural form as organic whole foods, so they will assimilate into and work with the body better.
* For your FREE e copy go to www.backpain.com.au/start
Steve Lockhart has worked as an SLM practitioner since 1988 specialising in the treatment of chronic pain and injury. His new patients are usually referred to him by other satisfied patients and this has sustained his busy practice for the past 22 years.
He has worked closely with many of Australia’s elite athletes from a variety of sports including, athletics, aerobics, boxing, netball, golf, rugby, swimming, surfing, surf lifesaving, soccer, tennis and triathlon. This has given Steve an excellent understanding of the body and how it responds to a variety of conditions and lifestyles. It has also been an invaluable teaching tool as he has confronted some of the most complex injury problems presented by athletes who are constantly putting their body under intense physical and mental pressure. It has also helped him become an expert with diagnosing and treating chronic pain suffered by thousands of people all over the world. www.backpain.com.au