We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, and as a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey, I’m often asked whether there are any dietary changes my patients can make to help to alleviate the spine problems they’re experiencing. The answer goes beyond a simple yes or no, as the foods that you eat can’t change structural damage: if you’ve injured yourself or have experienced some kind of degenerative process, eating certain foods is not going to fix it. That being said, there are some ways that foods can impact your back pain experience.
Back pain can be caused by many different things, including herniated discs, muscle strains and tight hamstrings, poor posture, injury, arthritis, and obesity. Other things can exacerbate these conditions. Your mattress may be playing a role, and so can any emotional stress that you’re feeling. Your pain can also be complicated by constipation, or wearing the wrong shoes, or exercising too much or not enough.
Though your diet can’t change the physical damage or injury that you’re experiencing, there are certain ways that it can impact your pain experience. Here’s how:
o Drinking plenty of water can make sure that you’re not dehydrated. Proper hydration is very important to the healing process, and helps to lower pain sensations.
o Eating foods that are high in fiber can help to protect against or alleviate constipation, which can make the pain experience more severe.
o Eating foods that are rich in potassium, including bananas, green leafy vegetables and cultured dairy can help to ease swelling.
o Eating foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as wild-caught fish and flaxseeds help to ease inflammation, reducing pain.
o Eating high quality lean protein such as chicken breast or lean meats can provide your body with the protein it needs to repair damaged muscles and contribute to bone health.
At the same time, there are certain foods that you should stay away from in order to avoid making pain worse. These include inflammatory foods such as sugars and trans fats, and alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen inflammation and contribute to dehydration.
Generally speaking, the healthier your diet, the more quickly you are likely to heal. It is also important to note that being overweight only makes your back pain worse: if you can lose excess weight, do so.
If you are looking for additional ways to ease inflammation and ease your pain, there are several natural supplements that have been shown to help. These include Omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil; turmeric, a spice that has been shown to reduce pain and ease inflammation; bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple that has been shown to ease inflammation and reduce swelling; and magnesium, a mineral known to relax muscles and relieve stress.
Beyond nutrition, the most important thing you can do to help yourself ease back pain is to seek treatment with an experienced specialist. Contact our office today to set up a consultation with a highly qualified spine specialist in New Jersey.