You've heard the wisdom a thousand times: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

There's a lot of truth in that saying. Fuel your body with a balanced, nutritious diet, and you're likely to avoid many a painful, inconvenient health concern. So it may come as no surprise that, like so many other conditions, back pain--whether acute or chronic--responds well to healthful changes in diet. Eat your way to pain control!

At its most basic, a diet that's good for fighting back pain looks a lot like a good nutrition primer. So start with a good foundation. Make sure your menu is chock full of essential good-health foods.

- Fresh whole foods such as fruits and vegetables contain enzymes, fiber, nutrients, and bioflavonoids. Together, these components speed healing while eliminating inflammatory additives from your system.
- Omega 3's, those "good fats" found in such foods as walnuts, wild salmon, flax, and avocados, are natural pain and inflammation reducers in addition to the other essential health benefits they offer.
- Lean protein reduces inflammatory blood sugar spikes and provides amino acids needed for tissue repair.

Next, consider adding a few dietary supplements that are especially good for pain, inflammation, and the other symptoms that accompany them.

- Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, known for their bone-building effects, are especially important supplements for pain related to degenerative conditions.
- Anti-inflammatory herbs, including rosemary leaf extract, ginger and curcumin, and boswellia, can help to reduce pain.
- Proteolytic enzymes, natural compounds such as bromelain and papain, that aid the protein breakdown process can also help to ease the swelling and trauma that often accompany pain.
- Relaxing herbs don't just make for a good night's sleep, they also assist in releasing tight muscles. A few to look for include lemon balm leaf, passion flower, and valerian root.

Finally, remember that building the optimal diet--whether your goal is fighting pain or making any other wellness improvement--sometimes requires a little cutting also. Give your efforts an added boost by eliminating common culprits that may make pain symptoms worse:

- Caffeine in excess can add to stress and interfere with sleep. And as you probably know, stress and poor sleep often magnify our perception of pain.
- Sugars and simple carbohydrates in cookies and bread don't just derail weight loss efforts--they also raise blood sugar levels that can make pain worse.

So many of these nutritional changes are really not hard to make, and anyone who suffers back pain stands to gain relief. You have nothing to lose by trying--and now's a great time to start! Print out the list above and take it with you for easy reference the next time you plan a meal or shop for groceries. Your back will thank you for it.

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers. Ready to take that step? Call 212-686-0939, or visit online at